World Series 2011 (Preview): The Greatest Show on Earth
On Wednesday, October 19th, the2011 commences. This is sports’ most important event. Each year, the two best performing teams meet to determine the best of the MLB championships. There is the Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby, the Indy 500, even soccer’s World Cup, and many other superb sports championships. Still, there is nothing quite like baseball’s World Series.
It is the most important cultural icon we have in the United States. It is the only sport that when you study its history, you know America’s history. America may not be perfect but it is certainly the most successful culture yet produced.
The National League will be represented by the St. Louis Cardinals, the most storied postseason team in its league. They have won 18 pennants and 10 World Series, an accomplishment second only to the American League’s New York Yankees. And, they are managed by the future Hall Of Famer, Tony LaRussa. He may not win the 2011 NL Manager Of the Year, but a strong case could be made for his candidacy. After all, this is not the Cardinals of Rogers Hornsby, Dizzy Dean, Stan Musial or Bob Gibson, just to name a few of their All-Time greats. With all of LaRussa’s career success, 2011 may well be his best managing job yet.
The American League will have a superb representative in Nolan Ryan’s Texas Rangers, a team with very little postseason pedigree. Yet, The Ryan Express did put together a group that repeated as AL champs, the first team to do so since the 2001 Yankees. They are guided by manager Ron Washington (see end of this post for bonus material), a career baseball man with a versatile baseball IQ. He believes in a thorough preparation with a strong dose of “old school” fundamentals. He takes good care of his players and believes in a clubhouse of comfortable camaraderie and high character.
To that end, the Rangers are also led by the best on-the-field leader in the game today, Michael Young, a legitimate contender for 2011 AL MVP honors. Surrounded by very capable ballplayers, Young has been called the heart and soul of the Rangers.
The Texas club may be the most balanced team in the sport. They hit for average, hit for power, catch the ball and throw the ball. They possess the deepest pitching in baseball, though many are not too familiar with their starting rotation. C. J. Wilson is their ace, a lefty, as are Derek Holland and Matt Harrison, both young and improving. Then, there is the veteran, Colby Lewis, a pitcher forgotten by the Major Leagues who went to Japan to stay in the game, and learned to pitch while there. He has been an integral part of the Rangers’ rotation since his return to the Big Leagues.
Their bullpen is strong, headlined by Alexi Ogando (an All-Star and Ranger starting pitcher during the season), Mike Adams, lefties Mike Gonzalez and veteran Darren Oliver, and the amazing young closer, Neftali Feliz. He throws what they call a “comfortable” 100 mph.
Now, the Cardinals are a good hitting team, though not quite so deep as the Rangers. Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman can bang with anyone, and the emerging David Freese (MVP of the NLCS) is right in there with them. Also, others such as Yadier Molina and Ryan Theriot are viable offensive threats.
The Rangers counter with Ian Kinsler, the remarkable Josh Hamilton (2010 AL MVP), the indispensable Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, Mike Napoli, David Murphy, and the ALCS MVP, the amazing Nelson Cruz. Neither team has prototypical lead-off batters, but the Rangers have more base-running speed with Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Endy Chavez, Craig Gentry and others who have the know-how to use it.
Defensively, neither team is that good, though the Rangers are above average and the Cardinals somewhat below that mark.
Interestingly, the Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter is the best starting pitcher on either team, and Yadier Molina, Cards’ All-Star catcher, is the best defensive player in the series. The Rangers’ third baseman, Adrian Beltre, is on Molina’s level as a top defensive performer.
It would, therefore, appear that the Rangers have the edge in overall offense, base-running, pitching depth and defense, but don’t forget that the Cardinals’ situational hitting is excellent, and they also have home field advantage, an important equalizer.
Give an edge to the Rangers to win in 5 games.
Can’t wait ’til Wednesday!
BONUS MATERIAL: A series of interview soundbites from the great Ron Washington, courtesy of @TicketRadio and @BTreotch. Thanks gentlemen!