Blog Archives

Carpenter Down and Out Again

The only question is for how long…but it legitimately may be forever.

On Tuesday, the St. Louis Cardinals called a press conference to announce co-ace of the rotation Chris Carpenter will likely miss the 2013 season after a return of the shoulder and neck symptoms that kept him out of the vast majority of the 2012 season. With Carp due to be a free agent this fall and seriously questioning his ability to ever throw a ball again, the hurler maybe calling it a career once the Cards’ season is over.

Carpenter’s entire career was marred by injuries, but the years he spent with the Toronto Blue Jays were also markedly mediocre. The Cardinals took a chance on him while he was injured, signing him in 2002—but he would not pitch for the Redbirds until 2004. Then, under Dave Duncan, he flourished. Carp became the leader of the rotation, both in statistics and competitive fire. The playoff run in 2004 came to an abrupt halt partly because Carpenter got injured and didn’t throw a pitch in the postseason that year. In 2005 he rebounded to a 21-5 record with seven complete games (four of them shutouts), 241 innings pitched over 33 starts, 213 strikeouts, and a Cy Young award. In 2006 he again topped 200 innings, led the league with three shutouts, and propelled the Cardinals to their first World Series Championship since 1982. The injury bug bit Carpenter again in 2007-2008 when he only pitched in five games—combined. But his resilience would shine again for the next three years. In each season his strikeout totals increased, but so did his innings pitched. It all culminated with the 2011 championship run. For three of the four clinching games that year—Wild Card berth in Game 162, Division Series Game 5, World Series Game 7—Carpenter was the starting pitcher. And you’d better believe he was ready to go for Game 7 of the NLCS if it went that far. But the others were just works of art: a complete game shutout of the Houston Astros to put the Cards into the postseason; a 1-0 masterpiece in Game 5 of the NLDS to knock out Roy Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies; and starting Game 7 of the World Series on short rest, keeping his team grounded after the heroics of the previous night, and pitching six solid innings to give the Cardinals the chance to win their 11th World Championship. David Freese may have been the MVP of the NLCS and World Series, but if they gave that award for the best overall postseason performance Carpenter would have a serious claim to the trophy.

That October 2011 performance could more or less prove to be his swan song. Carpenter did pitch at the end of last year and helped the Cardinals get within a victory of a return trip to the World Series. But now he faces uncertainty like never before, and so does the team.

Carp is a leader like no other on the St. Louis Cardinals. His numbers speak volumes, and may be replaceable. His presence, however, is not. And it’s another key loss from the so-called “old guard” of the Tony La Russa era in St. Louis. In less than 18 months, the Cardinals have said goodbye to Duncan, La Russa, Albert Pujols, and now Carpenter. Certainly nothing lasts forever, especially in professional sports. But that’s quite a hit in a short span of time.

There’s always the glimmer of hope that Carpenter can make it back and take the mound once again for the Cardinals. After all, it’s not like it would be the first time. But for some reason, this time it feels different…more final…more finished. Maybe it’s a combination of his contract situation and age. Maybe it’s that I was always afraid this would be the way he finally hung it up—leaving the game because his body forced him to, not because he wanted to. Hopefully Carpenter remains that invaluable presence in the clubhouse, in the dugout, and around practice. We’ll always wonder what might have been if he’d pitched in the 2004 World Series, or if the Cardinals had him in ‘07 and ‘08, or if he had been healthy all last year. But even if he has in fact thrown his final pitch as a Cardinal, Chris Carpenter can close the book knowing he was one of the best starting pitchers the franchise ever had.

 

–Chris

The Trade

One year ago today, the St. Louis Cardinals made a trade that would have an enormous impact on the history of the franchise. General Manager John Mozeliak remade the bullpen and fortified the rotation and bench by acquiring relievers Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski, starter Edwin Jackson, and outfielder Corey Patterson from the Toronto Blue Jays. Shipped up to Canada were pitchers PJ Walters, Brian Tallet, and Trever Miller along with centerfielder and former organizational “untouchable” Colby Rasmus.

Personality and hustle issues aside, Rasmus was a young and talented cost-controlled player and three of the four players the Cards received from Toronto would be free agents at the end of 2011. This was a win-now move by Mozeliak, and win the Cardinals did. But both franchises involved in this deal felt immediate impact. In case you need reminding, this trade largely led directly to the following for the Cardinals:

 

And, not to be outdone, this trade led directly to the following for the Blue Jays:

 

Well played, Mo…well played.

–Chris

Great World Series Video Compilation

If this video doesn’t make you smile, you’re either dead inside or a Cubs fan. Which, I suppose, is redundant. Kudos to the producer of this gem:

Some nights you win the World Series… from Matt Shead on Vimeo.

The Nooner #23: Albert Pujols is No Longer a Cardinal

Surreal.

Albert Pujols leaving the Cardinals via free agency was always a possibility, however unlikely it seemed. I thought the Cards would be in on the dollars side, but would balk at the years. Turns out the opposite was true. But before 2011 I was hoping for 7 years guaranteed +2 or 3 option years. In the NL, it is really, really hard to justify paying a 40+ player $20 million or more when he has to play in the field every day. But there are so many unknown details here, starting with AAV. If the Cards said they’d signed him for 10 years, $250 million starting with $30 million next year, a declining AAV, and the last two were $15 million options, I think I’d be on board. He’d still get the same amount of money; they wouldn’t be paying him as much in his last few years. Apparently the Marlins had the highest bid, which means that no trade clause was a really big deal. I can get behind that, too. Security is important. But that’s not all it was.

I think what really stings is the smoke he blew up all our asses: “I have money; it’s not about the money”…“Why would I want to play anywhere else?”…“I want to be like Stan Musial and be a Cardinal for life.” When you invoke the name of Stan Musial and phrases like “it’s not about the money” and “Cardinal for life” you’d better mean it. Clearly he didn’t. Today does not erase the last 11 seasons, either for his individual accomplishments or the team’s success. But some of that integrity and persona has been diminished with this news. He really was about the money. That in itself isn’t terrible; just be honest about it. Maybe the Marlins offered the most zeroes in front of the decimal, but if we’re comparing apples to apples, the Angels and Cards offered the same contract terms. The Angels’ trump card was more cash. The Cardinals’ trump card was baseball legacy/immortality. He took the bread.

I’m not really sure how to describe my feelings beyond the above. Maybe it will set in once I see Pujols 5 on the back of a LA Angels jersey. Maybe it will set in during the Winter Warm up or Spring Training when, for the first time in over a decade, Albert Pujols is nowhere to be found. But I didn’t really go into convulsions when Tony LaRussa retired, either. At the time I chalked it up to World Series Hangover. But that was over a month ago. An era has truly ended in St. Louis. Let’s hope the Cardinals don’t lapse into another odd-decade Dark Age. Looking at the rest of the roster, though, I really think they’re going to be OK. We all are.

–Chris

REVIEW: The 2011 World Series Film DVD

Less than a month ago, the St. Louis Cardinals capped off one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history by defeating the Texas Rangers in an epic World Series. In this day and age, finding video and audio replays of any baseball game is as easy as pulling up an internet browser on the nearest online device. But for an expertly assembled package of storytelling, highlights, interviews and emotion, the only true option is Major League Baseball Productions’ presentation of The 2011 World Series Film, which is now available in a two-DVD set (the Blu-Ray version is available December 6).

Disc one features the official film, narrated by actor and St. Louisan John Hamm. The film starts on the St. Louis Riverfront, with the iconic Gateway Arch making an immediate appearance as the stage is set for the telling of the ups and downs of the Cardinals’ 2011 season. Obviously, early in the year, there were more downs than ups as Hamm guides the viewer through the Adam Wainwright injury and Albert Pujols contract drama that overshadowed the team from the beginning of Spring Training. Next is footage of Ryan Franklin giving up a late-game home run and Colby Rasmus bobbling a fly ball that turns out to be the game-winning hit for the opposition. Seems like eons ago, doesn’t it?

But these nasty memories are merely part of the set up. The film briefly covers the big trade with Toronto, the Rafael Furcal acquisition, and the sweep by the Dodgers—the last low point of the season. From there, the chasing down of the Atlanta Braves over the regular season’s final five weeks culminates in the Cards celebrating their NL Wild Card clincher after Chris Carpenter’s gem in Houston and the Braves’ loss in Philadelphia while the Cardinal players watched in the Minute Maid Park visitor’s clubhouse.

From there, the film summarizes the Cards’ NLDS win over the Philadelphia Phillies and NLCS win over the Milwaukee Brewers. Throughout the show, broadcasts from TV and radio are seamlessly merged with Hamm’s narration so the story feels like it’s told from multiple angles. When significant records were tied or broken throughout the year and the postseason, a graphic appears illustrating the feat. The editing and production on this film is nothing short of superb, and it adds an element of dramatic flair not found in straight highlights and replays from the games themselves.

imageBut the real story here is the World Series, and not surprisingly, that’s where the detail in the story explodes. Each of the series’ seven games gets a long segment, and each game’s story is built up with a relevant introduction. For instance, after the segment featuring the Cards’ Game 1 win, the footage shifts to Jason Motte enjoying some pre-Game 2 BBQ at Pappy’s in St. Louis with his family and, obviously, a room full of restaurant customers who happen to be Cardinals fans. Before Game 3 and Game 6, the footage shows the perspective of rolling into the home team’s city as the series shifted to a new ballpark.

This series had so many side stories and subtexts, and each was covered brilliantly in this film. The on-paper match-ups and how similar the Cardinals and Rangers were…the Allen Craig-Alexei Ogando battles…the offensive powerhouses and their pitchers duels in the first two games…The Albert Pujols Game…The Derek Holland Game…Game 5 shenanigans, including the Pujols-Craig hit and run fiascos and “Phonegate”…it’s all here. And it’s all great.

Then there’s Game 6, perhaps one of the greatest in World Series history. From the start, with the Rangers putting up early runs, to the errors and misplays on both sides, the game unfolds as one of the sloppiest anyone has ever seen. And then the Cardinals mount their comeback. David Freese’s game-tying triple in the 9th, Lance Berkman’s game-tying single in the 10th, and the game-winning homer by Freese in the 11th are all highlighted in their amazing baseball glory. “We will see you tomorrow night.” Smiles, chills, and tears are included free of charge.

And the Game 7 segment puts an exclamation point on a tale that wouldn’t be believed if it wasn’t captured on film. After the teams exchanged two run frames in the 1st inning, the Cards took charge of the game. But one of the most poignant moments of the film was when Motte came out of the bullpen in the 9th–in his interview, he said he took a couple of slow steps down the ramp to look around and take in the scene at Busch Stadium. It was yet another moment of profound reality, like David Freese becoming the hero for the team he grew up rooting for or Chris Carpenter re-assuming the role of Ace after Wainwright went down. The only thing missing from the film—curiously—is Joe Buck’s “What a team…what a ride” call as Craig caught the final out. The omission is probably only noticeable by those with the St. Louis bias, and it doesn’t ruin the film. But it is somewhat conspicuous.

The film also captures some of the parade through Downtown St. Louis as well as the announcement the next day of Tony La Russa’s retirement. This comprehensive look at the 2011 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals covers all the bases and does so beautifully. It should be enough to get even the most die-hard fan through the cold winter until the next Spring Training.

2011 World Series Film DVD Bonus Features

This Week in Baseball: Lance Berkman

Prime 9: Tony La Russa

Cardinals Clinch Wild Card (team watching PHI beat ATL from visitor’s clubhouse in HOU)

NLDS Game 5: Last Out and Celebration

NLCS Game 6:  Last Out and Celebration

World Series Game 3: Albert Pujols 3 Home Runs

World Series Game 6: David Freese Triple to Tie

World Series Game 6: Lance Berkman Single to Tie

World Series Game 6: David Freese Walk-Off Home Run

World Series Game 6: Lance Berkman/David Freese Presser (funny exchange between the two as Freese recalls Jim Edmonds’ 2004 NLCS walk-off)

World Series Game 7: David Freese Double to Tie

World Series Game 7: Last Out and Celebration

WS Parade (brief ride-along with Freese)

Want More? (Nick Punto mic’ed for final play of World Series; MLB Productions Social Media links)

Disc Two contains the complete Game 5 of the NLDS between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies, with a menu to start the game from any half-inning or the pre-game show on TBS. Overall, both discs comprise about four hours of video. Order your copy here or check your local retailer.

–Chris

The St. Louis Cardinals 2011 World Series Film

If you’re like me, you find yourself constantly revisiting the Cardinals’ website for video highlights from this past season, or maybe you check the channel guide every day hoping MLB Network will air something from those magical days in October.

Well, soon you’ll have to go no further than your own DVD collection to get your 2011 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals fix. And Tuesday, you can get a sneak peak in downtown St. Louis.

Major League Baseball Productions’ presentation of the 2011 World Series Film is showing at the Peabody Opera House tonight. Details and instructions for ordering tickets or your very own copy of the DVD can be found here.

Additionally, I have secured a copy of the DVD to review on this site. As soon as it arrives–literally within minutes–I will crack that baby open and post a review of what I find inside. And even if you don’t necessarily want to know my particular thoughts about the film, you’ll still want to check back because I will also have a few copies to give away FREE!

More to come!

–Chris

PROGRAMMING UPDATE: Radio Interview Before World Series Game 1

So my Tuesday was interesting.

The illustrious Justin Boyd of InsideSTL forwarded me an e-mail that asked if I would be available for a short radio interview on The Balance/Gary Snyder Show to talk about the World Series! After lengthy negotiations and making sure all my demands were met, I agreed to do the interview Wednesday at 4:30 CDT. The show covers a little bit of everything and is based in Indiana. It can be heard on AM 1400 WBAT and 860 WMRI if you’re local in Indy; otherwise the best way to listen anywhere else in the world is their free internet streaming site http://www.blogtalkradio.com/the-balance. Tune in to hear me wax poetic about the Cardinals and the 2011 World Series!

Show sites:

www.thebalanceonline.com

http://www.garylsnyder.com/

Thanks for reading…and for listening!

 

–Chris

@birdbrained

Rooting Interest

The following comes from an email exchange I had with Scott the Cubs Fan yesterday. We were discussing baseball, of course, and the NLCS. He said he’s really trying to root for the Cardinals, but it’s tough (obviously). Here was my reply to him; maybe more Cubs fans living in Cardinal country can take something from it as well:

I would expect this is a tough spot for a lot of Cubs fans. Unless you don’t share most NL fans’ general disdain for the AL, you have to choose between rooting for your oldest rival or your newest. There is the novelty of rooting for a Brewers-Rangers World Series in order to guarantee a first-time winner, I suppose. Detroit is one of those places that really needs some good news, so they’re probably the heartstrings’ favorite. Admittedly, the Cardinals are the closest thing to an “Evil Empire”-type team left in this postseason. For all these reasons, I wouldn’t at all blame you for rooting against them.

But then again, you’re completely surrounded by Cardinal Red. It’s on TV, radio, in the newspaper, on the street, and in your home. 99% of the people you love and care about the most are hoping more than anything the Cardinals will win the World Series, and if they don’t you’ll be on an island with one or two others as the only people smiling on the day they’re eliminated. And, as a lover of the game itself, you know that historically the St. Louis Cardinals winning the World Series is never a bad thing. Even you can’t turn away when Stan Musial appears on the field in that bright red blazer, flanked by Red Schoendienst and Lou Brock (well, maybe not him) and Bob Gibson and Ozzie Smith.

I get it. Do what you feel you have to do. Go Cards.

I’m not sure what Scott the Cubs fan will choose to do. I know he’ll watch, because he loves baseball and completely geeks out on it during the playoffs regardless of who is playing. I do the same thing. No matter who you root for, that part is pretty universal. And I don’t expect him to walk around in the colors of either team. That would be a little much.

But I do know one thing: he really hates the Rally Squirrel.

–Chris

@birdbrained

UCB Roundtable: Still watching?

It’s time once again for the United Cardinal Bloggers to gather in the virtual meeting room and tackle a roundtable discussion. Here’s the question I posed to my UCB brethren, inspired in part by my InsideSTL column on Monday:

 

The 2010 Postseason is in full swing, and for the third year out of the last four Cardinal fans are watching someone else play baseball. Or are they? What are you doing with your Cardinal-free October? Are you still interested in the Postseason? Are you rooting for or against specific teams, and why? Are you protesting the playoffs but still staying glued to the rumor mills for hints about the Cards for 2011 and beyond? Or have you given up on baseball altogether and shifted your attention to football and hockey?

 

–I will pull for whoever wins tonight to beat the Yankees, and root for the NL to win the World Series. -Mike, Stan Musial’s Stance

 

A couple weeks ago, I guess I was being bitter and had very little interest in watching postseason baseball.  However, I convinced myself that at least I needed to root for the Reds to lose (of course); not necessarily rooting for the Phillies to win.  And, thanks the almighty powers of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt, that happened; the Reds were swept right out of the postseason.  So, I am happy.  I wanted the Braves to win, only for Bobby Cox.  Now that the Giants are in the NLCS, I guess I am being forced to root for the Phillies again.  Although I haven’t really followed the games closely, I can’t help but pay attention – sports will always run my life. 


As far as the Cardinals in October – I am doing my best to avoid listening to rumors regarding contracts and free agency, at least for right now.  I would like for us to get to November before we really start in on all that.  (Let’s face it; the rumors will be flying for this team this offseason.)  After this year, I think we all need some breathing room/re-grouping since we have all were crowded around the ledge for some time.

 

Rooting for two things: Giants lose, Yankees lose.  I guess I would be OK with the Phillies winning the World Series since they are in the NL.

 

P.S. yeah, I am in hockey season now – Go Blues! -Cadence, Cardinal Diamond Diaries

 

I try to watch as much postseason baseball as I can. It’s definitely not as high on my priority list as it would be if the Cardinals were in it. I went in cheering heavily against the Yankees and Reds but have also developed more and more of a dislike for the Giants. As far as the Cardinals off season is concerned, well it’s time for Mozeliak to have a productive one. He’s got a lot on his plate that’s for sure. I love hot stove time so I’ll be tuned in for that and everything surrounding the winter meetings. In the meantime I’ll have college and NFL football to pass the time along with Blues hockey. We only have 4 months or so until pitchers and catchers report. -Dustin, Welcome to Baseball Heaven

 

–I do not watch post season baseball if the Cardinals are not in it. I follow all the rumor mills and read all the blogs and suck up all the winter activities I can find. There are too many other sports to watch now with NHL, NFL and NCAA football for me to look in on the other teams. It just kinda makes me throw up a bit in my mouth to see some of those teams playing! -Tom, Cardinals GM

 

–I want the Cardinals to remain the last team to win 3 consecutive NL pennants (1942-44). So I’m rooting for the Giants. -Mark, RetroSimba

 

–I’m a sports fan, so I’m really into college and pro football. I always participate in way too many fantasy leagues. I’m psyched that the Rams are showing improvement and the Chiefs are doing so well. As a Mizzou alum, I try to attend as many home Mizzou games as possible. I’m also a Gator. I love watching the big games of the week. I’m a huge hockey fan as well, so go Blues!

 

But all that doesn’t preclude me from staying up to date on all the Cardinal scoop. I want to know everything that’s going on. I enjoy watching the baseball postseason. I don’t watch all the games as much as I do when the Cards are involved. I despise the Yankees, so I always want to see them get beat. I watch the NL games more because the AL is not real baseball. The DH is an abomination. I like the Giants and the Phillies so as long as one of them win the Series, I’ll be a happy camper. Now sign Albert and all will be right with the world. -Jacqueline, Cardinal Diamond Diaries

 

–I still watch the playoffs. Every year. Of course I’m without a doubt upset that the Cardinals aren’t competing, but at the end of the day, I’m still a baseball fan. There’s no better baseball than playoff baseball. I have a deep appreciation for the game of baseball and I love seeing magical moments happen. That’s sure to happen during the post season.

 

I usually find a team to root for – one with a good story, or one that has assumed the “underdog” role. This year, I found myself rooting for the Braves for the Bobby Cox story. Now that they’re out, I root for anyone who isn’t the Yankees or Phillies (except when the Phillies played the Reds). If it comes down to Yankees vs. Phillies (like last year) I tend to side with the Phillies (lesser of two evils). It’s not an ideal situation like it would be if the Cardinals were playing, but it’s still fun to watch. For those of you who chose not to watch, you missed history in Game 1 of the Phillies/Reds series. I’d hate for you to miss more by simply not watching. -Cole, Redbird Report

 

–While there is always disappointment and frustration when your team doesn’t make it, I can never get enough of the baseball playoffs. Whether my team is playing or not, nothing tops October baseball. I guess I just love baseball enough that I can find a reason to be excited. It doesn’t take much when the World Series is on the line. The point is every year is making history. Another team gets etched in history and the moments that led to that pinnacle are all a part of the game’s history and I don’t want to miss out on that because I was sulking about my team’s failures. How can you not get chills watching Roy Halladay throw a no-hitter in the playoffs? And then be excited to talk about it all day until the rest of the games start at night. I know I am and I can always feel it every October. How can’t you at least get a little emotional watching Bobby Cox talk at a post-game press conference for the last time? There has to be something to grab you in the postseason. Your favorite team is what brings out the passion in the game. But the game alone is why you have that favorite team and that passion. It’s still baseball and it’s the best baseball of the year, so I’ll be watching year in and year out regardless of the competition. And when my team’s in it, I’ll be even more interested and I’ll be rooting like crazy to see them win it. When they’re not, the interest will still be there. -Ryne, Redbird Rants

 

–I think great minds think alike. Here is my Monday post for a website called “More Hardball”.

 

To elaborate:

 

I am enjoying a great post-season despite by birds being on the sideline.  I always keep my eyes peeled for Cardinal news throughout the year, that is a 365 day addiction for sure. As for Football and Hockey, I am not a Hockey fan at all and, while I watch football, it will not get my full attention until Baseball crowns it’s world champions.

 

I hope that helps, great questions, let’s just not start saying “Wait until next year”, there are a group of fans that phrase belongs to. -Bill, I-70 Baseball

 

–There are other sports?  Really?

 

I’ll kinda keep up with how the Razorbacks are doing, but that’s the extent of my following of other sports.  Don’t get me started on how football is over-hyped and overrated. As for the playoffs, I’ve not been able to see as much of them as I’d like.  I’ll catch moments here and there, but not as much as if the Cards were still in it.

 

Basically, I just spend my time with my various baseball related projects–this roundtable, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, the blog, the UCB Radio Hour–and keep whiling away the time until the Hot Stove League really kicks off. -Daniel, C70 At The Bat

 

I am watching and following the post-season. My only favorite team I am rooting for are the Rangers. I am hoping the Rangers are able to make it through the Yanks and meet the Phillies in the World Series! -Joe, The McBrayer-Baseball Blog

 

I’m watching every possible game of the playoffs, and my interest has nothing to do with placing a pre-season wager on the playoffs.  Nope, it has nothing to do with any such hypothetical wager that never, ever took place.  I never even considered picking the Cardinals, Phillies, Giants, and Reds (WC) in the NL.  (Maybe the AL picks would’ve been more accurate, but this conversation never took place.)

 

I’m done rooting against the Reds, because they were dropped like a wingman at midnight.  I’m still hoping for a Rangers/Yankees ALCS, because that match-up intrigues me more than Yankees/Rays (they play each other enough as it is).  If there is a Yankees/Phillies WS rematch, I’ll probably spend my time focusing on something compelling like starting a chain letter to John Mozeliak and Mr. Dewitt about coughing up the money for Cliff Lee. Oh, there will be plenty of college football, hockey, and professional football. Multitasking at its finest. -Dennis, Pitchers Hit Eighth

 

Wow! As usual, various viewpoints and great answers. If you are unaware of the UCB and the individual member blogs (most of which are linked above), make yourself aware pronto! All it will cost you is some fantastic fan journalism if you don’t…

 

As for me, I have to side with the watchers. While I’m excited about the St. Louis Blues and encouraged by the St. Louis Rams, I can’t seem to turn away from baseball while it’s being played. That’s especially true about playoff games. Maybe I don’t sit down and devote undivided attention to every inning, but I’m into it. Now that the NLCS and ALCS teams are set, I’m in full underdog mode. The Texas Rangers may technically be seeded higher, but almost any team playing the New York Yankees in the playoffs can’t be an overwhelming favorite. And the Philadelphia Phillies will be tough to beat, but I’d really like to see the San Francisco Giants get a chance to erase 50+ years of World Championship drought.

 

But even if it’s a Phillies-Yankees World Series rematch, I’ll be watching.

 

–Chris

2009 Guessology: The National League Championship Series

Well, I was 3 for 4 on my Guessology picks in the Division Series. Unfortunately, the one I guessed wrong is the one that hurts the most…my Cardinals got swept by the LA Dodgers. If you’d like to read my take on that series (or lack thereof), check out my column from last Sunday. 

OK, moving on…

Philadelphia Phillies vs. Los Angeles Dodgers Ladies and gentlemen, we have a rematch! These two teams battled it out last year, with the Phillies taking the series in five games to earn a trip to the World Series. The teams obviously haven’t changed much, so short memories could play a role in the demeanor of this NLCS. And the secondary stories are intriguing as well.

Dodger manager Joe Torre is trying to get back to the World Series for the first time since 2003 with the New York Yankees, and if he does he has a shot at facing his former club in
 the Fall Classic. The Dodgers have also reunited Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome, who enjoyed a lot of success as teammates in Cleveland. Even though the Indians made a couple of World Series appearances in the 90’s, they never could win it all. Ramirez eventually won a 2009_NLCS.jpgcouple of rings with the Boston Red Sox, of course, and Thome just missed his chance by joining the Chicago White Sox in 2006. When they look across the diamond, they’ll see former Dodger Pedro Martinez, scourge of both the Indians and Yankees a decade or so ago and Ramirez’s teammate on the 2004 World Champion Red Sox.

The Phillies are up against a lot of history. They are trying to become the first NL team to win back-to-back World Series since the Cincinnati Reds did it over three decades ago in 1975-76. The Dodgers are hoping for a shot at their seventh world championship, and if they make it they’ll have to battle some history as well…they will either be a part of the first ever all-Los Angeles World Series against the Angels, or they will re-kindle one of the longest and deepest World Series rivalries of all time against the Yankees.

These teams match up pretty well top to bottom. Both have big bats in the middle of their lineups. Both have deep benches. Both can play defense, steal a base or two, and scratch out a run with smallball. Overall, the Phillies have the better rotation and the Dodgers have the better bullpen. It’s like a pick’em, really.

Pitching does win championships. The Phillies’ rotation isn’t vastly superior to the Dodgers’, but it is better. The Dodgers’ bullpen, however, is vastly superior to the Phillies’. When it comes down to it, a good starter can get you far…but a solid bullpen is essential to winning the four games it takes to finish off a seven game series. Dodgers in six.

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