The World Series is upon us. St. Louis vs. Texas, squirrels vs. antlers, Tony LaRussa vs. Ron Washington, Albert Pujols vs. the World. As anyone who read my progressively more desperate dispatches from the NLCS last week can tell you, this was not the matchup I was rooting for. If things had gone my way, the Brewers would be hosting the Series beginning tonight and my Thursday night – with a pair of Game 2 World Series tickets – would already be planned.
Sadly, the Brewers lost to the Cardinals in Game 6 Sunday night in an ugly fashion. I was travelling all weekend, so I didn't have a chance to write about the game, but that's probably for the best. It would not have been a happy piece. Instead, I've allowed myself to move past the loss and remember the Brewers' 2011 season for the joyous thrillride that it was. I hope all other Brewers fans have been able to do the same.
That said, I will most certainly be watching the World Series this week. Yes, the Brewers' loss to the Cardinals in the NLCS is still an unpleasant thing to be constantly reminded of, but that doesn't take anything away from the Fall Classic. There is no better sport than baseball and there is no better championship than the World Series. It would take a lot more than a loss to a rival to keep me from tuning in. If, however, you are having a hard time deciding if you want to watch Nick Punto come to bat roughly 25 times over the next week – or if you're just looking for some points of interest in this no-coast battle ("The Battle of the Gulf of Mexico and its Contributaries (and Cities Within Their Bordering States)"?) – here are a few thoughts and observations on tonight's matchup:
- Albert Pujols is still the best player of my generation not named Barry Bonds and, despite the division rival-colored glasses I see him through, he is a ton of fun to watch. I may not want the Cardinals (or Tony LaRussa) to win another World Series, but I wouldn't be upset knowing that Pujols had earned himself anothe ring.
- With Nolan Ryan, Jon Daniels, and Ron Washington at the helm, the Rangers have a very likable and smart management team. And, lest we forget, Ron Washington nearly beat out the heavy favorite Ron Gardenhire in the "Who Is Baseball's Ron Swanson" debate.
- The "Rally Squirrel" is an abomination of rally mascots everywhere, and I don't just say that as someone who was traumatized by an early-morning squirrel attack in my youth.
- David Freese and Nelson Cruz are having quite the coming out party this October. The World Series is, more often than not, a place for fluke heroics – lucky weeks that "gritty" players like Scott Brosius or David Eckstein ride to series MVP awards and overly-optimistic predictions the next year. Sometimes, though, All-Star caliber players take over the stage and show the rest of America how good they really are (think Francisco Rodriguez in the 2002 World Series). Nelson Cruz, after his play in the ALCS, is poised to do just that against St. Louis. David Freese is younger than Cruz and with many fewer years in the league, but his talent gives us every reason to believe that this October is for real. They could put on quite the show this week.
- Does anyone remember when C.J. Wilson and his teammates were investigated for performance-enhancing neckware?
- The Rangers are the first team since the 1998-2001 Yankees to make it to the World Series in consecutive years. They are also one of eight teams to have never won a World Series. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have been to the Series 17 times before, winning 10 of them. Only the Yankees have more World Series victories than St. Louis.
- A key part of the Cardinals' victory over the Brewers in the NLCS was Tony LaRussa's use of the bullpen. Cardinals starters, for example, averaged only four innings pitched per start in the series. LaRussa has been known for his liberal use of the bullpen for going on three decades now, so it shouldn't exactly come as a surprise. But the stunning success he had against a potent Brewers lineup featuring Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder may just lead to an even bigger use of relievers in LaRussa's future. This scares me.
- Come on, really? The Commissioner's Office isn't going to let Dirk Nowitzki throw out the first pitch? Really? For some reason, I don't think they would bat an eye if the Brewers had asked Aaron Rodgers to throw out a first pitch if they had made the World Series.
Most of all, though, is that this is the World Series. These are two very, very good teams playing their best baseball of the year duking it out in a seven-game series to take home the ultimate prize. There shouldn't be any other reason than that needed to watch the World Series. So watch it – it's going to be a good one! I'm taking Texas in six.
Thank you for reading
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