There’s four teams left in baseball’s postseason, including the best franchise in baseball. That and the World Series winner may not be the same thing this year.
It’s not the Red Sox, who’ve won as many World Series in the last decade as any team in baseball.
It’s not the Dodgers, who have MLB’s second-highest payroll and a new ownership group which includes one of basketball’s greatest players.
It’s not the Tigers, who have made the last three American League Championship Series.
It’s not the Yankees, 27 World Series title or not, who aren’t in this postseason and won’t be in next year’s if they don’t re-sign Robinson Cano (which is a whole other conundrum),
It’s the Cardinals, whose franchise is second in World Series titles already won, and likely to add a few more in decade ahead. This is the Cardinals’ third straight NLCS appearance, sixth in 10 years and eighth in 14 years. Even the Yankees — who have had the best last two decades — can’t match that 21st-century record (four in 10 years, seven in last 14).
The Cardinals have the best farm system in baseball (anyone think Michael Wacha, 22, is not heading to big things?), solid decision-making (goodbye Albert Pujols) and a decent payroll.
The Cardinals are the best franchise in baseball, even if they don’t always act like it.
If you think the Cardinals are insufferable now — “with the Braves out of the playoffs, (the Cardinals) are the ranking active Fun Police,” wrote Craig Calcaterra at hardballtalk.nbcsports.com, wait till the next decade is up.
The present isn’t so bad either. The Cardinals, even after Monday’s loss, lead the NLCS 2-1, though they trail the Braves by the same score in umbrage taken at opponents’ celebration. Though they’re catching up.
The Cardinals are playing this NLCS with 40 percent of their roster comprised of players 25 years or younger. Only six are 30 or older.
Wacha, Joe Kelly (25) and Lance Lynn (26) are three of their playoff starters; Shelby Miller (23) was in the rotation during the season. Trevor Rosenthal (23) is the closer, Carlos Martinez (22) the set-up man, Kevin Siegrist (24) a lefty specialist. Kolten Wong (23), who has a career minor-league average of .301, is set to take over an infield spot next year, and Oscar Taveras (21) would be manning center field now in place of John Jay but for an ankle injury that ruined his season.
The funny thing is, most of the immaturity and sniping after Monday’s loss came from the veterans. Adam Wainwright called Adrian Gonzalez’s celebrating “Mickey Mouse.” Carlos Beltran said Yasiel Puig “doesn’t know (how to act),” and implied the Cardinals might draw inspiration from Puig’s antics. “You don’t want to wake up nobody,” said Beltran.
Really? The Cardinals were planning on napping in Game 4 of the NLCS?
But maybe, just maybe, what really upset Beltran is not that Puig admired his triple Monday, or flipped his bat, or celebrated again at third. Maybe what irked Beltran is that the rightfielder misplayed the ball off the wall so clumsily and made such an errant, loopy throw into third that Puig — who initially stood at home plate and watched the ball — made third standing and clapping.
The rightfielder, in question, was Carlos Beltran.
What a coincidence.
Forget about the Red Sox’s comeback on Sunday night. Let’s focus on Prince Fielder’s defense. Or lack thereof.
Twice in the ninth inning, Fielder could have made plays to lessen the Red Sox’s chance of scoring the winning run. First, he couldn’t block Jose Iglesias’ wild throw on Jonny Gomes’ infield hit. What’s the point of having 275 pounds of girth if you can’t get it in the way when you need to?
Then Fielder dropped Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s popup near the stands as fans reached out. Think the fans would have been so eager to reach for the pop if Fielder had gone over elbows first? This is a guy who’s been know to come out of situations like that with fans’ nacho chips, if not the ball.
The Red Sox, now even in the ALCS at 1-1, aren’t out of danger yet. Justin Verlander goes against John Lackey in Game 3, as favorable a matchup as the Tigers will get in the series.
If the Tigers lose this one, it will be time to cue up David Bowie’s Panic in Detroit.