Friday, October 28, 2011

11-For-11 World Series Wrap-Up.

After the high-wire pyrotechnics of Game 6, tonight's World Series denouement felt a little staid, a little anticlimactic. It seemed like their ought to have been one last act of courage and madness, one more improbable rally to cap this wild ride off. Then again, given the path the Cardinals took to reach this moment from September 5th, maybe the "improbable occurrences" quotient had been filled and then some.

When that last fly to deep left came to rest in the mitt of Allen Craig, the Cardinals clinched their 11th World Series victory in franchise history. In honor of those 11 titles, here are 11 (mostly) Cards-centric post-game thoughts and observations from an impartial observer.

1. Congrats to the Cards and their fans, who in my opinion are the most unwaveringly devout and pure anywhere. They don't carry Cubs fans' fascination with pathos, Yankees fans' sense of entitlement, or Red Sox fans' bizarre alchemy of those two elements. They simply love their team and the game with everything they have, 24/7/365. I would obviously prefer to see my beloved Braves hoisting that trophy right now, but it's always nice to see the Cards win. Classy team, classy fans. Cheers, y'all.

2. I just turned off Albert Pujols' post-game presser in utter disgust. Every other question was essentially some from of "are you going to be playing baseball in Saint Louis next season or not?" If you pulled any reporter out of that room to chide them for this idiocy, they'd respond with something like this: "Come on, it's what everyone wants to know. I have to ask! It's my job!" False. First, you could exhibit a modicum of class and decorum and recognize that the man just won a freaking World Series and probably wants to enjoy this moment with his teammates without you interjecting that into the mix. Second, if you're incapable of class and decorum, at least show a little common sense. The man has been steadfastly refusing to entertain this issue all season. Did you think you could surprise him into revealing something of his thoughts because he's currently buzzing on a cocktail of adrenaline, emotion, and champagne? Did you think he'd suddenly lift his embargo and speak freely because he said he'd deal with it when the season ended and it ended a whopping 30 minutes ago? Sheesh.

3. One more Machine-related item: Overall, this World Series was not exactly Pujols' finest hour. Granted, much of his semi-anemic (for him) production at the plate can be chalked up to the fact that Texas simply refused to pitch to the man for a goodly portion of his at-bats, but there's a better-than-outside chance that in 50 years some analyst is going to look over his 2011 World Series stat line and conclude that he "couldn't have been that great because he didn't come through in the clutch," or some such nonsense. Two things on that. 1: Pujols' staggering Game 3 explosion (5/6, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 4 R) was probably the single greatest offensive performance in postseason history, one of those pure events that transcends the circumstances such that everyone who watched it will remember exactly where they were when it happened. And 2: No, his World Series was not all that impressive, but I'll emphasize again that he got walked a bunch because the Rangers were terrified to actually pitch to him, and he'd have scored a lot more runs if St. Louis had any competence at all with runners in scoring position. Also, seven games is a very, very small sample size. Look at his summed 2011 postseason stats: .353/.463/.691, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 15 R. That's absurd. He really is a machine.

4. Even if Albert Pujols has played his final game in a Cardinals uniform (and I don't think he has), David Freese could very nearly step into those rather daunting shoes, at least where the fans are concerned. The hometown kid just banked back-to-back NLCS and World Series MVP's, and drove in more key runs over a 22-day stretch than just about anyone else in the history of the game. That walk-off in Game 6 was one of the most goosebump-inducing moments I've ever seen in a baseball game, or any sporting event for that matter. Freese won the game and simultaneously exonerated himself from his earlier pop-up catastrophe, and that dinger became the cornerstone of his budding mythology. As if to emphasize the point, after he'd knocked in two more runs in Game 7, the Rangers granted him the ultimate sign of respect by issuing the "even if we're loading the bases and putting a potentially burying run on base, there is no way we're pitching to this guy" intentional walk. As of right now, Freese is a bona fide star. I can't wait to watch his career unfold. If he can refine his defense at the hot corner, we may have something special on our hands.

5. What the hell is Chris Berman doing on a baseball telecast? Was there absolutely no one else they could have brought in for this? It's the World Series! What, Dave Winfield was busy? They couldn't have called in Terry Francona to reprise his fantastic booth debut earlier in the postseason? No disrespect meant to The Swami, but he's out of his element, Donnie!

6. It's really nice to see Lance Berkman and Arthur Rhodes, two players who have been around the league for... ev... er ... foooorrr... evvv... er ... , and have always been good guys who played their tails off, get rings. Well deserved, gents.

7. Jason Motte looks like he should be playing banjo for an indie-folk band based in Portland, Oregon. As a matter of fact, when he retires, he should take up the banjo, move to Portland, and go do that. Berkman could go with him and play glockenspiel and harmonica. (Lance Lynn could play tambourine.)

8. If ever anyone needed a handy, abridged guide to the managerial stylings of Tony La Russa, the 2011 World Series answered that need. These seven games were a perfect compression of the man whose obsessive micromanaging ranges from eccentric to utterly perplexing to occasionally brilliant. We'll probably never get the real truth behind The Case of The Bullpen Phone or The Case(s) of The Base-Running Idiocy, but the man who pioneered and perfected hyper-involved (and possibly needless) tinkering made just enough right moves that the wrong ones ultimately didn't matter. Contrary to what many baseball people would have you believe, La Russa doesn't "play chess", he plays an obscure version of solitaire. Tonight, the Cards came down just right. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

9. Everyone was worried about Chris Carpenter taking the mound in Game 7 on short rest. The rap was that he does not fair well when he's pitching out of his normal routine. Consensus had him pulled early at the first sign of trouble, especially given the aforementioned proclivities of the man calling the shots in the dugout. Carp got shaken up early, and didn't have his best stuff all night, but he settled in and managed to plow through 6 1/3 innings of 2-run ball. It wasn't pretty, but it was gritty as hell. Yeoman's job. Applause.

10. Allen Craig. Is. A. Beast.

11. I had the Cardinals in seven games. Who has two thumbs and is a prognosticating genius? This guy!!! (Points thumbs at self.)

Since it's now after midnight, this post marks Arena Apothecary's 7-Month Anniversary!!! Thanks for reading!!!

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