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2013 World Series Preview: Red Sox vs. Cardinals

Herewith a look at the matchup that no one outside of Boston or St. Louis wanted.

Alex Trautwig

For many years, the Boston Red Sox were like big brothers to the Chicago Cubs. We enjoyed each other's modest successes and understood each other's jaw-dropping failures.

Then came 2004, and Boston's miracle comeback against the Yankees, and their sweep of the Cardinals in the World Series (well, thanks for the latter, anyway). After that Red Sox fans became an echo of Yankees fans. A bit full of themselves, and then they won another World Series in 2007, and we wondered what we ever had in common with them, kind of like the childhood friend you had. You were both a bit schlubby and overweight, but you understood each other. Then the friend lost weight, became a star college athlete, founded a dot-com company and got too big to know you.

And those beards. Hey, Red Sox: those don't look good. On anyone. David Ross looks 65 years old with that gray fringe, and the people in the stands at Fenway with the fake beards look more realistic than Dustin Pedroia with his. (Are we sure Pedroia's isn't a fake?)

Finally, by taking advantage of some horrendous Tigers baserunning and fielding and winning in six, the Red Sox deprived us of baseball until Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Danny Rockett of BCB took care of summing up Cardinals hatred in this brilliant takedown last Friday. The Cardinals are just too perfect. They keep pouring out 95 mile-per-hour pitchers from their farm system, lose a franchise icon and don't miss a beat (and wind up with a pitcher who helped them win the NLCS as a compensation pick), and generally are annoying to anyone outside of Missouri and southern Illinois.

Beyond that, we now have to watch a World Series where both main broadcasters have longtime links to St. Louis. Oh, they'll say they're neutral, but... At least there's this: the maximum number of games remaining in Tim McCarver's baseball broadcasting career is seven. He's retiring after the World Series is over.

So it's the self-righteous playing the full-of-themselves, broadcast by the pompous. Blecch.

Oh, you want to know who might win this thing.

Well, the Red Sox bludgeoned their way through the American League season, leading the league in runs scored (and by a significant margin, 57 more than anyone else). Besides David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, both of whom had solid regular seasons and huge hits in the postseason, no one on their roster really impresses you at first glance. But they hit, and get key hits, like Shane Victorino's grand slam that got them here. The starting pitching is good enough -- because if that and the hitting can get you past the sixth inning with a lead, the Boston bullpen is outstanding, and has been pretty much lockdown unbelievable in the postseason.

The Cardinals also crushed all other teams offensively in the National League this year, scoring 77 more runs than anyone else. Their starting pitching doesn't look all that much beyond Adam Wainwright, but Michael Wacha has been otherworldly during the postseason, Joe Kelly has been fine, and Shelby Miller, who was very good during the regular season, was relegated to the bullpen for these playoffs. Miller has thrown one inning this postseason, not because he isn't good, but because the Cardinals simply haven't needed him. Like the Red Sox, St. Louis has shutdown relievers in the late innings, headed by Trevor Rosenthal, yet another of a seemingly endless stream of pitchers from the Cardinals farm system who can throw 95-plus.

As you likely know, these two teams have met before in the World Series, once in your recent memory (2004). That's a series that not only ended in a sweep but one that caused a Hollywood movie to rewrite its ending, and not everyone was happy about that:

The Boston Globe's Names section Friday asked Major League Baseball: "Have you no shame? Why, as the Red Sox deliriously celebrated their first World Series win in 86 years Wednesday, were Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore on the field?"

It continued: "Confused? Appalled? We were, too."

Other than their World Series matchups, the Red Sox and Cardinals have met in just three seasons since interleague play begain, and not since 2008. St. Louis has won six of the nine regular-season interleague games played between the two clubs. The five-year gap means that most of the players in this year's World Series won't have played in any meaningful games against their opponents while in their current uniforms.

This is just the third time in the wild-card era that the teams with the best regular-season record in both leagues have met in the World Series (1995, Indians/Braves and 1999, Yankees/Braves, were the others). So there's that. And thanks to RBI hits three months ago by Jason Kipnis, J.J. Hardy and Jose Bautista, all of whom are watching the World Series the same way the rest of us are, the Red Sox will have the home field. (Thanks again, Bud, for that "This Time It Counts" nonsense. Maybe your successor will change that.)

I don't think any self-respecting Cubs fan can root for the Cardinals in this series, even though they are a National League Central team. I was hoping the Tigers would get in -- now that would have been a series with great pitching, and a team for Cubs fans to really root for (Detroit, in case you missed the rest of the point here). This one? Meh. Maybe Boston and St. Louis will make it interesting, at least, unlike the last time they met. I'll settle for a week of close games with compelling storylines.

Red Sox in seven.