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Monday, October 31, 2011

One for the Ages

The 2011 World Series was a treat to baseball fans, which have been in need of more treats and fewer tricks. The Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals took their series to seven games, the first time in nine years the World Series was extended to seven games, with more dramatic twists and turns than any viewer could have asked for. For a sport that has suffered from declining playoff television rating and declining interest in its regular season over the past decade, this series is just what the doctor ordered.


The St. Louis Cardinals path to their 11th World Series Championship looks like it came directly out of a movie script. The Cardinals trailed the Atlanta Braves by more than nine games in September for the final spot in the National League playoffs. They took the lead on the final night of the season on the same night that the Braves were one out away from beating the Philadelphia Phillies and forcing a one game playoff for the Wild Card berth. The Braves would lose in extra innings, sending the Redbirds to the playoffs.

What did the Cardinals get for their valiant effort? The booby prize: a trip to Philadelphia to face the team with baseball’s best record in a best of five series. What was the prize for matching blows with the Phillies to force a fifth game? A return trip to Philadelphia to face Roy Halladay, the best pitcher in the National League…. And how much success would the Cardinals have? They would only score one run. And what good would one run do on the road against baseball’s only hundred-plus win team? Send the Cardinals to the National League Championship Series on the strength of Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter’s complete game shutout.

After disposing the favored Milwaukee Brewers in six games in the NLCS, what is the Cards’ next prize? They get to face the two time American League Champion Texas Rangers, who were either in or near the top 5 in Major League Baseball in almost every major team statistical category for pitching and hitting. After being down to their final strike two times in Game 6, trailing the Rangers three games to two, the Cardinals came back to tie the score not once, but twice before David Freese’s walk-off home run in the 11th inning. The Cards capitalized on their second chance with a 6-2 series clinching victory in Game 7.

Freese-ing a moment in time 1

What of the Texas Rangers? The crushing defeat in Game 6 will be a bitter pill for Rangers manager Ron Washington and his team to swallow and digest over the offseason. However, the Rangers are one of the most talented teams in MLB, with a young core that is expected to remain intact for several years. The Rangers will have as good a chance as any team of winning the American League pennant and becoming three time league champions. They may be one ace pitcher, such as free agent C.C. Sabathia, from being a clear front runner to win the A.L. in 2012. They will have ample opportunities to win the World Series in the future.

Rangers catcher and would-be World Series MVP Mike Napoli's expression after Game 6 was an omen of things to come for the Rangers the following day. 2


Baseball has been in need of real, competitive, positive publicity. A dramatic, hyper-competitive seven game signature event, the World Series, provided just that. In the wake of the Cardinals victory on Friday, their manager, Tony LaRussa, announced his retirement from baseball after 33 years in the dugout. The Game 7 win was a fitting send off and a perfect way to mark “The End” of a spectacular World Series script.

Going out on top 3

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