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And onward to the World Series
So the Cardinals are in, and we've got ourselves the first Cardinals-Rangers World Series in baseball history.
Sure, Major League Baseball and Fox will secretly weep that it isn't Phillies-Yankees. The challenge, as always, is to get the series to a sixth and seventh game to lure the more casual fan. In recent years, that has proven a surprisingly difficult challenge.
1. In 2011, we're less inclined to heap either strong blame or great credit on the manager, but how can you not tip your cap to Tony La Russa? I did, in the linked column. La Russa's tremendous work of the last month - the comeback to make the playoffs, the win over the highly favored Phillies and now the toppling of MIlwaukee, which easily topped the Cardinals in the NL Central during the regular season - should be heralded. Another masterpiece in a Hall of Fame career.
I'm sure all of the Cardinals relievers will be, well, relieved, to get two days of rest.
2. One of Bud Selig's favorite lines to cite is the run baseball has been on since 2001, when the Diamondbacks stopped the Yankees' dynasty. Starting in that season, MLB has rewarded nine different franchises in 10 years with the World Series trophy, with only the Red Sox winning twice in 2004 and 2007.
(Of course, they used to start that run in 2000. Then they pushed it back to '01 when the Yankees won it all again in '09. See how you can mainpulate statistics to accomodate your point?)
St. Louis, having won it all in 2006, would throw a wrench into that narrative. "Only two two-time champions in 11 years" doesn't sound as good as "Ten champions in 11 years."
The Cardinals serve as a very interesting subject in the perennial baseball debate of going for it vs. thinking big picture. Let's say they beat the Rangers this year. That would give them, in an eight-year period, five playoff appearances, three pennants and two titles - and three trips home at the end of September.
St. Louis, managed by the 67-year-old La Russa, largely is a go for it organization. The Cardinals made high-profile trades for Mark DeRosa and Matt Holliday two years ago and pulled off a highly controversial trade with Toronto this year, giving up on young centerfielder Colby Rasmus.
So for Cardinals fans, is it worth qualifying for the playoffs essentially every other year and risk seeing your young players (like Chris Perez in Cleveland) perform well elsewhere? Or would you rather see a steady flow of developed players stay in the organization and perhaps win a very winnable division even more often than you do now?
I would think the former. Three pennants in eight years is pretty awesome. Three trips home in eight years isn't much fun, but you have plenty of good memories to get you through.
But I remember how many Yankees fans - definitely not all, but many - absolutely freaked out in 2008 when their team missed the playoffs, a necessary step to taking a breath and reloading for what turned out to be that '09 title. So I don't know.
Anyway, my extremely drawn-out point is: If the Cardinals win their second World Series title in six years, does that make them the best-run organization in baseball during that period? I don't think so. They deserve plenty of credit, but there also should be some understanding of their division, their league and the down years they experienced between '06 and '11.
3. As for that Rasmus trade: I ripped the Cardinals when they made it. So of course, Rasmus went onto perform brutally for Toronto (.201 OBP/.316 SLG in 140 plate appearances) while Edwin Jackson, Mark Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel all helped the Cardinals get here.
Rasmus should turn out to be pretty good. Should isn't "Definitely will," though. And while Jackson will be a free agent and Dotel can be one (the Cardinals have a $3.5 million team option for 2012), there's no doubt the Cardinals can puff their chest to the industry and boast, "We told you so!"
If Rasmus winds up pretty good and the Cardinals get nothing more out of these guys? Well, that goes back to the extremely drawn-out point I made in number two. Would you rather have the instant gratification or the steady production?
4. Getting back to the extremely drawn-out point I made in #2, the Brewers very much went for it this year, and they should feel good about their decision. Winning a postseason round and getting six postseason home games is pretty good for a franchise that had done so little since its 1982 postseason appearance.
Prince Fielder almost certainly won't be back - some team will give him a gargantuan deal that will look bad in about two years, and no, I really don't see the Yankees going there - and Francisco Rodriguez will look elsewhere for a closing job.
In another division, the Brewers would be in real trouble. Yet maybe they can pull off this act for a while longer in the NL Central. Assuming Zack Greinke's and Shaun Marcum's postseason malaises were nothing more than faituge/jitters, Milwaukee should have a good starting rotation again. Ryan Braun will be around.
And owner Mark Attanasio has made clear that he isn't going to sit back and reload. He likes being in the middle of it every season. Sometimes, like in 2009 and 2010, that approach backfires. But when it works, it's a great deal of fun for the team and its loud fans.
5. So who's gonna win the Series? Let's give it a day or two.
--Have a great day.