Four years ago today, I was going on about four hours of fitful sleep. The night before, I and the rest of the baseball world witnessed one of the greatest games in the history of the World Series. After that game, I was so wired, so geeked I couldn’t fall asleep at all. Finally, after pounding out a delirious blog post, I managed to nod off…only to sit bolt upright the instant my alarm went off a few hours later, feeling as awake and alive as I ever have in my life. I ran into the other room to look at the two most exciting pieces of paper I think I’ve ever held.
I’m sure I managed to be productive at work that Friday, but I couldn’t tell you how. All I wanted to do was go to Busch Stadium, even hours before the game was supposed to start. I wanted to sit in my bleacher seat with a beer and 45,000 or so of my closest friends to watch Game 7 of the World Series. Even just saying the phrase “Game 7 of the World Series” gives me chills as a baseball fan; as a Cardinals fan about to walk into Busch Stadium to watch it live I was almost unable to process the sights…the sounds…the feeling.
None of us knew it at the time, of course, but a fan favorite (certainly one of mine) from the Whiteyball Era made his final appearance before Cardinal Nation and passed less than a week later.
After the previous night’s heroics, Game 7 lacked much drama beyond the first inning. The Rangers took the lead in top half, and David Freese once again swatted them back. Allen Craig—robbed of a World Series MVP by the All-Universe campaign Freese had—hit a home run and took one away with his glove. Chris Carpenter gutted out another start that would essentially prove to be his professional swan song. Jason Motte blocked out his previous struggles in the series to mow through the ninth. And when Craig secured the fly ball near the track for the final out…
It all happened four years ago today—my greatest baseball day.
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 couple 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.