2004 MLB Playoffs
World Series Preview
October 22, 2004
It would have been nice to see Carlos Beltran and Roger Clemens on the grandest of stages, but it was a no lose situation for baseball fans with the hitting phenom Albert Pujols getting a chance to strut his stuff in the World Series. The cities of Boston and St. Louis are poised for a rocking series, and based on the previous rounds, the players are not likely to disappoint. Still bragging from last year's predictions, it's time for The Commish to reveal this year's fearless forecast:
St. Louis Cardinals
Lineup. With players like Rolen, Walker, and Edmonds surrounding the dangerous Albert Pujols, opposing teams have not been able to take a Barry Bonds approach to the slugger. The pop throughout the lineup gives each player a chance to see better pitches, and St. Louis has taken advantage all year long.
Consistency. While many players have come through for the Cardinals, their success does not depend on any one in particular. St. Louis is the one team that could afford an injury and not miss a beat. Their consistency makes them tough to beat because the focus is not just on one player. Even on the pitching side, while no one is dominant, each starter has proven to be a winnable pitcher on any given day.
Coaching. Love him or hate him, Tony LaRussa has been here before and knows how to pull the right strings when necessary. His players like him, which might seem like a small thing but can mean volumes when needing that extra bit of effort. At the very least, LaRussa won't get himself caught in a bind as a result of his actions like Garner did when he couldn't use Clemens or Oswalt early in the LCS. If anything, the Cardinals lack of a true ace makes it easier for LaRussa because no decision will be series altering until it comes to Isringhausen's usage late in the game.
No Ace on the Staff. Consistent, yes, but dominant, no. In the World Series, that missing piece can make all the difference in the world. St. Louis can not afford to slump with the bats, because 2-1 victories will be hard to come by against Boston.
Health. Tony Womack, a recent sparkplug for the team, is nursing a really bad back (spasms), and Rolen is slowly coming around from a late season injury. Of course, these two players were essential in St. Louis' Game 7 win over Houston, so they are obviously playing through the pain, but it does need to be acknowledged.
Boston Red Sox
Momentum. New Englanders are on a massive high right now, and the Red Sox appear to have the makeup to avoid a letdown. A four game winning streak against your most hated rival can do wonders for a team's confidence, especially when trailing. No matter the score, Boston will never feel out of it thanks to their ALCS comeback.
Dominant Pitching. This category isn't quite the mismatch that Boston anticipated, thanks to the recent mediocrity of Pedro Martinez and Schilling's dangling tendon. Schilling's outing in Game 6 of the ALCS proved that he can still win a game by himself, injury or not. This may prove to be the difference in a series of evenly matched teams.
Power. Like the Cardinals, the Red Sox are capable of producing runs from anywhere in the order. Manny and Ortiz are a tough combo, and don't expect Manny to be RBI-free in the World Series. His bat will come around eventually.
NL Rules. In Games 3 through 5, the Red Sox will have to move Ortiz to first, leaving Millar on the bench. With Mientkiewicz already on the bench as a defensive replacement, it will be difficult to get Millar in the game at all, leaving a bullet in the chamber (not to mention a downgrade defensively) while St. Louis is already designed for these rules.
Already Satisfied? While the Red Sox are riding some momentum, one of the main goals every year in Boston is to beat the Yankees. Having done that, will winning the World Series not be as important subconsciously to the Red Sox? Boston is a professional team and should disregard such minor mental details, but the relief from beating New York does exist.
Position by position, St. Louis appears to have the slight advantage, but the lack of a dominant pitcher cannot be understated. Unlike the NLCS, the road team will walk away with a couple wins this series. Unfortunately for St. Louis, though, Boston will be at home celebrating a Game 7 victory in Beantown. Cardinals fans have Roger Clemens and his poor All-Star performance to thank for that.
The Yankees outscored Boston in the ALCS, and don't be surprised if St. Louis does the same thing and suffers the same fate. The Cardinals will slug their way to a few victories, but when Schilling pitches, it will be a couple close contests won by Boston. Bronson Arroyo is in a position to be successful in the bullpen (giving Boston some hope if Wakefield fails in the opener) and Foulke has been the better closer as of late.
While the Cardinals stack up in terms of talent, home field and the other intangibles give Boston just the edge they need. Rest easy, New England, it will be a rough ride, but your Red Sox will get it done in the end.
Red Sox in Seven
Check out TCO's 2004 Season Preview for an April flashback to see how well The Commish predicted this season's outcomes.