TIM: Well, John, another baseball season has come to an end and, as is custom, the ritualistic falling of snow in late October in the northeast has commenced the off-season. As we look back on the World Series, I believe you owe me several units of Cassandran kudos.
JOHN S: Yeah, I believe you are due several Cassandra units. After all, I recall a few conversations we had throughout the season:
March 27: “You know, John, I don’t think Lance Berkman is done. He’s going to have a big year in St. Louis.”
May 13: “The Red Sox may have rebounded from that slow start, but you have to question their ability to perform in months with 30 days…”
May 28: “Pay attention to Nelson Cruz”
Cardinals vs. Rangers
Well, just like Tim and John S always predicted (don’t bother looking it up), the 2011 season comes down to the Rangers and Cardinals. Will Tony La Russa prove his genius? Will a starting pitcher reach the seventh inning? Will Joe Buck emote? All that and predictions are discussed….
John S: Man, can you believe Jonathan Lucroy didn’t win NLCS MVP?! And can you believe someone almost as unlikely–David Freese–DID? You know, I usually hate the discussions that media outlets have every year that the Yankees/Phillies/Red Sox miss the World Series, where they make jokes about how angry FOX must be. But this World Series DOES seem conspicuously lacking in star power. At least last year the Rangers had Cliff Lee–the closest this year’s team has to such a star is Josh Hamilton, who had a disappointing season. The Cardinals, of course, have Albert Pujols, but after him their biggest star is Tony La Russa, who seems to wear out his welcome more and more every year. But while my instinct is to say that these two teams are mediocre, the evidence doesn’t really support me. The Rangers were better this year than they were in 2010, and even the Cards won 90 games, which is more the 2006 championship team won. Perhaps I should be more excited for this World Series… Am I off base about the lack of compelling personalities in this matchup?
TIM: No, I cannot believe Jonathan Lucroy didn’t win NLCS MVP. His .294 average in the six games was bested by only four Brewers, and like the four best Brewers in Randy Wolf, Jerry Hairston, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Ryan Braun. It was practically half of what Freese hit! I hate these traditionalist writers who always vote for the guy with the ..500+ average on the winning team. Continue reading
St. Louis Cardinals (91-71) at
Los Angeles Dodgers (95-67)
About four months ago, when LA held about a 15-game lead in the NL West, my only Dodgers’ fan friend asked me to assess their playoff chances. My response? “Who’s your Game 1 starter? Exactly. What you did to the Cubs last year will happen to you.” The Dodgers are built for the regular season with a deep lineup and egalitarian rotation. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have played tremendously since acquiring Matt Holliday in July, have the league’s two best pitchers in Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, and the best hitter of the last four decades in Albert Pujols. St. Louis has been better than Los Angeles for some time, and that will be borne out rather quickly, I think, in this series.
The Dodgers’ lineup, like their pitching staff, is deep but not highlighted by any one star. And that includes Manny Ramirez, who has hit .290 with a pedestrian 19 home runs. Guys like Andre Ethier, James Loney, and Matt Kemp are dangerous but unproven, and I wouldn’t feel particularly comfortable counting on them. Russell Martin has had, by all accounts, a horrendous season. There’s very little difference between the Dodgers’ fifth hitter and their eighth hitter, which is both a good and bad thing.
The Cardinals have Albert Pujols. (Fine, some more: Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa give the lineup more depth than it had when Ryan Ludwick, Rick Ankiel, and Colby Rasmus were protecting Pujols. Obvs. And Tony LaRussa stopped batting his pitcher eighth in late July. Sigh.)
Up until recently, the answer to this question would be quick: “Well, obviously.” The more relevant question had always been, “Is Billy Beane baseball’s best GM?”
Billy Beane runs the Oakland Athletics, a team in a small market with a low payroll (26th out of 30 in 2009), yet he managed to assemble a consistent contender, as the A’s made the playoffs four years running (2000-2003) and the ALCS in 2006. In that time, Beane became a mini-celebrity, thanks to being the subject of Michael Lewis’ 2003 best-seller Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. The book was so successful that a movie adaptation was slated to be made by Steven Soderbergh, with Brad Pitt playing Beane.
Recently, however, Beane’s reputation has started to suffer. The A’s have had two consecutive losing seasons since being swept in the ’06 ALCS, and in 2009 are on pace to have their worst season since Beane took over in 1998.
Now, it should be stated right away that this is not a polemical, anti-Moneyball tirade. The book, which detailed Beane’s use of so-called “sabermetrics” to identify undervalued players, garnered a lot of knee-jerk reaction and criticism, since Beane was seen as bucking tradition (which he was). Continue reading