Friday, October 20, 2006

World Series Preview:
Cards: Worst W.S. Team Ever?

*Click here for Friday A.M. Quickie.
*Click here for NFL Week 7 Preview.

The worst World Series team ever: Is that really the Cardinals? That's a bold claim (made by, among others, Thomas Boswell), but you all know I'm a sucker for the superlative. And that would certainly qualify.

I'll leave it to the experts, analysts and historians to battle that out -- it bolsters the case that the Cards have the second-worst record ever for a World Series team (just a game ahead of the '73 Mets).

Though I was extremely sympathetic to the Mets' cause, there's something appealing about the fact that, less than a month ago, the Cards were on the brink of the worst miss-the-playoffs collapse in MLB history. And yet here they are.

The Cards' run confirms the playoff-success-as-random theory (most recently explained by a certain Cards fan-slash-sports blogger who must be plenty happy today).

How fitting that the signature moment of an NLCS won by the Cards is a did-you-see-that play by the OTHER team -- Endy Chavez's HR-saving catch over the wall.

Or that the second-biggest signature moment came from the light-hitting catcher, when Yadier Molina provided the winning margin in the top of the 9th.

Or that the NLCS MVP was an otherwise forgettable pitcher, Jeff Suppan, who went 7 IP allowing only 2 hits and 1 run -- his second straight clutch performance in an NLCS Game 7. Speaking of superlatives:

That arguably crowns him the NL's top big-game playoff pitcher of our era. Try to find a player who tops "won 2 NLCS Game 7s in 3 years."

(I'd say the only pitcher who could top him is Randy Johnson in 2001, but that was just for Unit's work in one series; Suppan did it in two different series over three years -- in the first, beating Roger Clemens and in the second, stifling his league's top offense.)

What about the Mets? As will be pointed out today, it was their offense that failed them, not their pitching, as originally predicted. (Shows what the "experts" know.)

Between the payroll and the talent, I have no doubt they'll be back in the playoffs a year from now – the NL East's equivalent of the metronomic Cardinals?

I'm sure the Mets' offseason focus will be on pitching -- whose won't? -- but it's worth noting that these final two games were anchored by lightly regarded cast-offs, not pricey imports.

Now, about that World Series: I'm not buying that the week off will slow the Tigers' momentum; as has been pointed out, the White Sox had five days off between last year's ALCS and the World Series.

As I point out below, this is a hugely intriguing series: The winner will either be a team completing the greatest turnaround in MLB history (Tigers) or a team that is arguably the worst champ in MLB history. (Cards) Either way, superlative-lovers rejoice!

Much like the Cards' fate in 2004, I predict another hard-fought 7-game NLCS title yields a World Series sweep to a Team of Destiny.

The Tigers have too much pitching, too much hitting, too much Leyland and too much mojo on their side.

Tigers in 4.

So, for the Comments section, a few suggested topics (though by all means, say whatever you want):

(1) Are these Cards the worst World Series team ever? If not, then who?

(2) Where does Suppan's performance and history put him among all-time NL clutch pitchers?

(3) What's your outlook for the World Series and why? Who are the biggest X-factors?

I'm traveling this morning, so I might not be able to post until later. See below for the usual Friday A.M. Quickie and the NFL Week 7 picks.

-- D.S.


Paul L Carter said...

Worst champ ever belongs to the 1987 Twins. Yes, they had Kirby Puckett (HOFer) and Bert Blyleven (should be HOFer) and a few solid players, but they could not win on the road, and only home-field throughout the playoffs allowed them to win.

Thus, we had Al Michaels continuously pointing out "they won when they had to."

Brian in Oxford said...

See, here's the problem with interleague play. Detroit has ALREADY swept St. Louis this year.

(Part of Det-Chi-Min-Bos's who-can-sweep-the-NL competition earlier this year.)

I liken Endy Chavez's catch with Dwight Evans's from 1975 (which ALSO led to a double play). It wouldn't surprise me if ESPN's mentioning other catches instead, as to downplay that it was their own beloved Joe Morgan hitting into it.

I'm not old enough to remember '73, so for my lifetime it's the '87 Twins. Now THERE'S a reason not to just alternate home-field advantage.

Unknown said...

One part of me thinks it would be awesome if the Cards won...

but i hate the Cards...
if they win, LaRussa will have his own channel on geniuses...

Though perhaps it would stop the 'AAAA' comments.

Tigers in 5

Big D said...

Just a quick thought here...

Can they really be the "Worst WS Team Ever" if they have the presumptive favorite for NL Cy Young and the guy who will either be #1 or #2 for League MVP (and the guys who won the award last year as well)?

Sure all the talk is about Detroit smoking the Cards in four (or five, if we're "lucky"). But if Chris Carpenter can return to form, and FAST, they wil at least put up a fight.

If Carpenter can be a solid Game 2 starter (and Game 6, if necessary) the Cards have a shot.

If not, well, I still have 11 more Patriots' games to look forward to.

Big D said...

And apologies to nyc-steelers fan - didn't see that you had made some of the same points above.

Great points. Very well thought out and articulated.


FreKy J said...

Tigers in 5, because the Cards offense will wake up for one game. Pujols has to get his smack in somewhere.

Mega said...

Tigers in 4 or 5, I haven't decided yet. Detroit is positioned to be build like last year's White Sox team, good pitching, solid defense, timely hitting. They will get guys on base and frustrate the Cardinals.

jhawkjjm said...

I'm not sure the Cardinals are the worst WS team ever. Yes they were on the brink of the greatest collapse ever, but you have to think what put them into that position? This team was awful down the stretch and won 83 games, almost blowing that 10 game lead. If they had gone .500 over that stretch, they win the division easily by 6 or 7 games and finish with close to 90 wins.

The only reason people are saying the worst WS team ever is because of the final two weeks of the season. The Tigers blew their division in the final weekend by getting swept by the ROYALS!...AT HOME!!!

And the arguement that the Tigers had already clinched a playoff spot doesn't really stand up because for all intensive purposes, so hadn't the Cardinals. They made it more interesting at the end by playing like crap, but this is a team that still could have won 90 games. And don't forget, the MVP of the team (if not the NL) Pujoles missed 3-4 weeks as well.

This Cardinals team is not as bad as everyone says they were. They are more experienced when it comes to the WS than the Tigers are as well. This will be more of a series than people think. Tigers in 7.

RevScottDeMangeMD said...

2001: Diamondbacks (heavy underdog)
2002: Angels (50-50)
2003: Marlins (semi-heavy underdog)
2004: Red Sox (underdog, Cards had a lot of wins last year)
2005: White Sox (50-50, think about that pitching that the Astros had)

What I'm trying to say is that everyone thinks that this series is going to be a beat down. I implore you to check out the 1990 World Series. No one thought the Reds had a chance against the heavily favored A's and it turned out to be one of the biggest upsets ever (even though the Reds went wire-to-wire). So don't be surprised if the Cardinals win.

That being said...Tigers in 5. Ha!

Big D said...

Just thought of something...

If the Tigers manage to sweep the Cards, it will be twelve straight World Series games won by AL teams, going back to the Marlins winning the Series in '03.

Pretty impressive. Probably some type of a record. Anybody got the Elias Sports Bureau on speed dial?

Jingoist said...

Are the Mets the MOST. OVERRATED. TEAM. EVER.? Quite possibly. Though there has to be at least 1 Atlanta Braves division winner since their string of titles starting in 1991 that can top the Metropolitans' playoff dud of '06.

At any rate, all you need to know about the World Series is what most prognasticators (including our boy Dan Shanoff) are predicting. Tigers in 4. Which means I'll put money on the Cards in a 7-game classic. Seriously, you know it's Murphy's Law at work when every "expert" (and novice) pick a team to absolutely destroy their opponent that the exact opposite will become reality.

But looking at reality, I too am taking the Tigers, but I have to give a little consideration to St. Louis. Afterall, they do have 2005 Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter and 2x NLCS hero/ace Jeff Suppan pitching for them. Figure they get 3 starts between them in the WS and they should at least get 1 win out of it. Too bad the Tigers can match them pitcher for pitcher with Rogers, Verlander, Bonderman, and Robertson lined up in the rotation (and a deadly bullpen), the Tigers can certainly make the case for the sweep.

But give the Cards some credit for: a) getting here and 2) having WS experience to toughen them to the critics calling for the brooms.

I say: Tigers in 5. (Hey, call me a rebel.)

rob (warwick)

ToddTheJackass said...

First of all, any team with Albert Pujols on it cannot be the worst World Series team ever.

Anyway, not that it really matters, but did anyone else noticed that Waintwright MISSED on his last pitch to Beltran?

Molina called for it to be low (on the ground) by tapping the plate a couple times below, which is generally the sign for calling for one low and out of the zone.

It obviously worked out fine, but I thought it was interesting all the same.

Did anyone else pick up on that?

john (east lansing, mi) said...

intents and purposes.

john (east lansing, mi) said...

keithsrk -

Geeeez, give the Tigers a little credit! The '06 Cards and '84 Padres are on your Top 4 Worst WS Teams of All Time list? Rough.

Christian Thoma said...

Are the Mets the MOST. OVERRATED. TEAM. EVER.?

Um, considering the Yankees had a higher payroll and were heavy favorites to win it all and yet lost in the first round, the Mets weren't even the most overrated team of these playoffs.

jhawkjjm said...

john (ann arbor), if the "intents and purposes" is for me then thanks, I couldn't remember what the correct saying was.

And I believe the record is 8 games in a row, shared the the 04 Red Sox and one other team. Though I'm not completely sure.

Jingoist said...

Lance, I think the argument for a regular season pitcher as MVP has merit (in extreme cases), but at the same time, I think there is a distinctly different tone to being dominant for 1 or 2 starts in an LCS or WS that warrants higher MVP consideration to pitchers due to thrusting your team into the WS (from the LCS) or becoming champion.

TBender said...

'06 Cards the worst? No. I agree with the '87 Twins. How many road games did Kelly's Heroes win in the playoffs that year?

Honest Card fan point: Moral Victory for St. Louis is pushing it to six games. But this team is the oddest bunch to get a read on I've ever seen.

X-Factor: Pujols. He can't not show in two consecutive series.

X-Factor the sequel: Cardinal starters not named Weaver or Suppan.

And someone needs to decide this once and for all, was Buck and McCarver STL-homers or NYM-homers? There was plenty of complaining from both sides and both sides can't be right.

Trayton Otto said...

World Series Streaks:
NYY - 9 games - '98 G1-'00 G1
NYY - 9 games - '37 G5-'39 G4
NYY/NYY/PHI - 10 games - '27 G1-'29 G2

What about '98 Padres as worst WS team?

jhawkjjm said...

The common arguement against a pitcher for MVP in the regular season is because of the Cy Young award, which is basically the MVP award for pitchers. In the LCS's and the WS there is only one award, the MVP. Two completely different situations. So you can't argue that because a pitcher can win the MVP of an LCS one can win the MVP for the regular season.

That being said, I think that excluding pitchers from MVP debates because they can win the CY Young is crap.

john (east lansing, mi) said...

Maybe pitchers can be Series MVPs because they can singlehandedly win 2 out of 4, i.e., 50% of the games their teams need to advance/win (literally singlehandedly, in NL parks).

On the other hand, no playoff-bound team will feature a pitcher who was responsible for even 30% of their regular-season wins (let's say 27-out-of-90?), ever again.

Is my math unassailably brilliantly correct, or is anyone going to continue to ignore this obvious fact?

JimS said...

Was anyone else upset that this see-saw battle of a series ended on an anti-climatic note? Taking a called third strike with the bases loaded in the 9th inning of the seventh game is a mortal sin! I could see (possibly), if he was looking for a curveball, and got the heat instead; then he would have no time to react. Obviously he was looking for a fast ball, so he should have had time to react to the curve. Looking at the slow motion reply, he didn't even consider swinging at that pitch. I hate to use the "C" word, but why else would he do NOTHING in that situation?

Paul L Carter said...

KirkMack said... "And to all you '87 Twins-haters- Frankie Viola, Bert Blyleven, Jeff Reardon, Kent Hrbek, Kirby Puckett, Don Baylor, Gary Gaetti, and Tom Brunansky in their primes and Tommy Kelly before he got cranky. Give these guys an unbalanced schedule and all, and they have a much better record..."

I agree. If they played every game at home, the record would have been much better. But that's not the way it works, is it?

RevScottDeMangeMD said... "I implore you to check out the 1990 World Series. No one thought the Reds had a chance against the heavily favored A's and it turned out to be one of the biggest upsets ever (even though the Reds went wire-to-wire)."

Don't forget, the ex-Cub factor was at work, tripping up the A's.

This probably carried over to the this year's Mets, because guess who played second for those A's?

Willie Randolph.

Worldwide Reader said...

From Simmons' NFL column today: "The whole 'whatever happened five minutes ago was teh biggest thing that ever happened' school of making sports arguments has to be one of the most annoying sports media trends of this decade."

Umm, Dan - I think he was talking about you. Tough to disagree with him, either.

Christian Thoma said...

I hate to use the "C" word, but why else would he do NOTHING in that situation?

It's the core problem for a batter with breaking balls. If the ball breaks, you're going to swing too high and either miss entirely or ground out weakly. If it doesn't break, well, in this situation it's Ball 2. Then, of course, there's the 1 in 20 chance of guessing where the ball is going to be and doing something besides popping up.

MP said...

I'd put the Padres of '84 as the worst World Series team ever.

And I'd just like to point out that the 1-12 highest payrolls in the MLB are not playing right now.

Please, won't somebody notice?

MP said...

And will people PLEASE stop praising Bill Simmons?

"Look at me, I'm cracking on people and that makes me famous!"

Talk about a lame-ass trend...people like Simmons getting promoted. THAT'S a lame-ass trend.

Christian Thoma said...

Two things:

One, the specific comment Bill was referencing was not made by Dan. Therefore, the idea that Simmons was specifically attacking Shanoff over the Cardinals is wrong.

Two, last I checked, everyone's entitled to their opinion.

Steve said...

I like both Simmons and Shanoff, can't we please focus on the real evil in this world? Brent Musberger.

TJ said...

I'd put the Padres of '84 as the worst World Series team ever.

And Cubs fans everywhere curse loudly and punch their monitors.

TJ said...

Biggest question: can the Cards steal a game? I can't believe anyone is picking the Cards to actually win the series.

I think it'll be a carbon copy of the 2001 NBA Finals--Cards win game one, everyone thinks 'Holy shit maybe we were wrong,' and then the Tigers throw a beat down in games 2-5.

TJ said...

Luckily I'm a Cubs fan born in 83, so I'm immune to that. Start chanting Bernie Mac's name, however, and... yeah.