The contestants for the 2013 World Series are set, and for the first time this century we will have a rematch, as the National League champion St. Louis and American League champion Boston Red Sox reprise their 2004 showdown, won by the Red Sox in a 4-0 sweep. The Cardinals that year played the role of opponents, as the Team of Destiny Red Sox sought to break The Curse of the Bambino. Of the participants in that series from 10 years ago, David “Big Papi” Ortiz is the only Red Sox player extant from that roster, while the Cardinals have a bit more continuity, as current manager Mike Matheny was the catcher on that team, his backup Yadier Molina was a rookie, and pitcher Chris Carpenter, now on the disabled list, was a starter.
While the 2004 Series was a competitive wash-out, the other meetings of these two teams, in 1946 and 1967, produced memorable outcomes and Cardinals’ victories. This year the teams seem very evenly matched, with the Cardinals featuring mostly home-grown talent and the Red Sox showcasing some of the best on-the-fly restructuring seen in recent times. These are worthy adversaries.
Alas, for the Detroit Tigers and the Los Angeles Dodgers the season ends too soon. For the Tigers, victims of a 4-0 sweep by the San Francisco Giants in 2012, the questions are sure to arise regarding a shaky bullpen that led to their undoing in Games 2 and 6. The game-tying grand slam by Ortiz in Game 2, with Torii Hunter cart-wheeling over the bullpen fence, is truly iconic, and Shane Victorino’s game-changing Grand Slam in Game 6 adds to his post-season heroics resume, and, not incidentally, warmed the hearts of Phillies’ fans everywhere. The Tigers were slowed by injuries to Miguel Cabrera, baseball’s best hitter, and a disappointing run by their other mega-star, Prince Fielder. For Tigers fans, the Fielder contract will be a source of irritation far into the future.
A Red Sox-Dodgers World Series would have been welcomed by the Fox Sports suits and would have been fraught with intriguing story lines about the intertwined fates of these two clubs, but alas, ‘twas not to be. The Red Sox and Tigers alone among the Original 8 AL teams that the Dodgers have yet to face in the World Series, but it won’t be this season. For the Tigers and Cardinals, they also have a rich tradition, having met in 1934, 1968, and 2006 when the Cardinals swept Jim Leyland’s club. Their fourth match-up will have to wait.
The Cardinals and Red Sox both feature deep lineups that grind out at-bats, capable starting pitching and stout bullpens. I like the Cardinals’ bench better. I like Mike Matheny in the dugout over John Farrell. It will be a good World Series. Cardinals in six.