The St. Louis Cardinals, who were considered long shots by many heading into the playoffs, captured the 10th World Series title in their history on Friday with a five-game series victory over the Detroit Tigers.
While this series suffered in the TV ratings department, for the true baseball fan it was a sight for sore eyes. The fall classic has been a one-sided affair the past two years, with the American League teams sweeping away their National League colleagues in dominating fashion. This season, however, the series had many close games, as well as some controversy.
So why did it take the Cardinals only five games to upset a Tigers team that was favored by most heading into Game 1? Simple: the Cardinals made the routine plays and seemed comfortable, whereas the Tigers made so many errors and miscues it looked more like a beer league softball game than a World Series performance. The Tigers’ pitching staff set a World Series record with five errors by pitchers. Of the 22 runs scored by St. Louis in the series, eight came courtesy of Detroit errors.
What really killed the Tigers was the untimeliness of the mistakes. In games three, four and five, Detroit surrendered key runs on identical plays when pitchers failed to execute routine throws to either third or first base. Additionally, Curtis Granderson’s slip and fall in the seventh inning of game four began a two-run rally for the Cardinals, in a Tigers’ loss that eventually was decided by one run.
St. Louis came into this series with a great deal more playoff experience than its counterparts. In the past three years, the Cardinals have been in two World Series and all three League Championship Series. Also unlike the Tigers, their players stepped up in the clutch. David Eckstein was a sparkplug, Scott Rolen rebounded from a dismal postseason start, Jeff Weaver inexplicably turned into Sandy Koufax and Yadier Molina showed why he is the most underrated catcher in the game.
Still, the moment that stood out most in this series was undoubtedly the controversy surrounding Tigers pitcher Kenny Rogers’ left pitching hand and a dark spot on his palm that may or may not have been pine tar, which is an illegal substance outside of the batter’s box. The advantage of pine tar to a pitcher is immense. It vastly improves the pitcher’s grip and control on the ball. Rogers, who once made headlines for attacking a cameraman, received some payback from the guys behind the lens as they captured several shots of the dark substance on his pitching hand. After the game, Rogers claimed it was a “clump of dirt.” Later, ESPN reviewed his two other postseason starts, and found a similar mark on the same location on his hand.
This year’s match-up should encourage baseball fans of all teams. The Cardinals came out victorious underdogs and the Tigers emerged as the American League champs coming out of nowhere. In the past seven years, seven different teams have won the title. This demonstrates that any team (except the Cubs, of course) has the potential to go all the way in any given year.
This winter, the Yankees will outspend everyone short of the Department of Defense. General managers will weigh the value of Barry Bonds against his big head (literally and figuratively), and the Royals and Rockies will try to fill out their rotations by picking up players off the scrap heap. However, when Opening Day arrives, nobody can predict who will still be playing in October. After all, it’s unlikely anyone had St. Louis over Detroit penciled in as their World Series prediction back in April.