Sunday, October 22, 2006

Finally, the media gives us respect

Gregg Doyel at CBS Sportsline thinks the Cardinals might need the brooms ready for a celebration after Game 4 at Busch Stadium III.
This is big and bold and blunt, but so was what happened Saturday night at Comerica Park. There it was, so here it is: Detroit cannot beat this St. Louis team.

Now, look. I didn't say Detroit can't beat any St. Louis team. But Detroit cannot beat this one. Not the one that got all its offensive weaponry together in time to detonate against Tigers ace Justin Verlander.

The St. Louis team that showed up for Game 1 of the 2006 World Series got MVP-like production from the three MVP-caliber players in the middle of its batting order, and used that production -- and some surprisingly good pitching from rookie starter Anthony Reyes -- to hammer the Tigers 7-2.

San Diego didn't see this St. Louis team in the National League Division Series, but the Padres lost anyway. The New York Mets didn't see this St. Louis team in the NLCS, but they too were eliminated. There are reasons for that. Whether its offense is going or not, St. Louis is going to get Gold Glove defense from catcher, center field and third base -- and solid defense from everywhere else. Whether its offense is going or not, St. Louis is going to get decent starting pitching and a better bullpen.

But if St. Louis' offense is going like Saturday night? In that case, the experts will turn out to be correct: This could be a short series. Just not in the way the AL-loving seamheads have led us to believe.

On paper and on the back of a baseball card and, most importantly, in the batter's box, the heart of the St. Louis order is better than the heart of the Detroit order -- and it's not close. Don't give me that Placido Polanco nonsense. He had a great AL Championship Series, but he's still more likely to be confused for Third Tenor Placido Domingo than for great third batter Placido Polanco. Magglio Ordonez, a No. 5 or No. 6 hitter in a good lineup, hits cleanup. Carlos Guillen, a quality No. 6 hitter in a good lineup, bats fifth. Detroit didn't get here by bludgeoning anyone, is what I'm saying.

St. Louis, on the other hand, can bludgeon -- and did on Saturday night.
Anthony Reyes irons his bill and shows off the socks.
“I’m not a real stylemaster,” Reyes’s manager, Tony La Russa said, “but that style is not that attractive. I don’t think it’s going to be copied widely by the kids of America.”

Reyes also wears his uniform pants high, old style, so that his socks show.

“The socks I’ve had up since Little League,” said Reyes, a 25-year-old right-hander. “I saw no reason to change now.” And the cap? “It helps me see better; I see the signs a little better.”

One more fashion note: The bill of the cap is flat, unlike other players’ bills, which are stylishly curved. “It comes out of the box flat,” Reyes said. “I just don’t bend it.”

Reyes’s cap and socks became topics of discussion last night because he pitched brilliantly in the St. Louis Cardinals’ surprising 7-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers in the opening game of the World Series.[...]

The Tigers drafted Reyes in 2002, but he didn’t sign with them. The Cardinals drafted him a year later, and he signed with them.

“I came off an injury in college when they drafted me,” Reyes said of the Tigers, “so I just figured, take the summer off and just heal up and try to go back to my last year of college.”[...]

The Cardinals have experienced a constant turnover of starting pitchers, economically motivated moves.

Two of the four pitchers who started for the Cardinals the last time they were in the World Series, only two years ago, are gone. None of the nine pitchers who started the Cardinals’ 162 games in 2003 are on this year’s World Series roster either.

The turnover rate has been high, not only among pitchers but among position players as well. Only eight players who played in the 2004 World Series roster were on the roster last night. Yet the Cardinals continue to win division championships — they have won four in the last five seasons — and sometimes get to the World Series; they have gone twice in the last three years.

They do it with skillful signings in their orchestration of the annual turnover, which is prompted largely by economic necessity. But they also do it by retaining the core of their team. Both facets played prominent roles last night.

By comparison, Scott Rolen, Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds are long-time members of the team, and they provided the punch that produced the outcome.

Rolen and Pujols each slugged a home run, accounting for three of the Cardinals’ first four runs. Edmonds singled home the fifth run and Rolen added a double that led to two more runs.

•“We’ve managed to keep our core players, which are very important to our club,” General Manager Walt Jocketty said. “The key is our core players and finding the right guys to fit around them.”

Four starting pitchers can become free agents next week: Jeff Weaver, Jeff Suppan, Mark Mulder and Marquis.

“We decided in spring training we were going to go through the year, and at the end of the season we’d decide who we wanted to sign,” Jocketty said.

Whichever pitchers they sign, the Cardinals will have Reyes back.
Walt Jocketty is not keen on the idea of the All-Star game deciding the home-field advantage for the World Series.
"I don't think it's right. I'll probably get reprimanded for saying that, but I don't care," Jocketty said before Saturday's Game 1. "I didn't think there was anything wrong with the way it was (alternating each year). It was more fair."

No comments: