A casual Cardinals fan’s guide to the 2011 World Series
The 107th World Series in baseball history began last night here in St. Louis, as you might have heard already. And we know that some of you have been following the Cardinals since spring training began in Jupiter, Fla., back in February. But for you out-of-towners who haven’t been paying much attention before now, and watched last night’s 3-2 Cards’ victory without really knowing what was going on, fear not. We’re here to answer some of your burning questions about this year’s team and postseason run. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll look like you’ve been a diehard fan since the days of Mark McGwire. (Not that we expect you to know who that is.)
Well, I know Albert Pujols. But who else on the Cardinals is good?
Pujols is indeed the face of the franchise, but the Cardinals are loaded with talent. They are, after all, playing in a World Series. Their ace pitcher, Chris Carpenter, is one of the better pitchers in baseball, having out-dueled Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies in a 1-0 game in Game 5 of the NLDS. Offensively, they’re stacked. Matt Holliday participated in the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby this year. Lance Berkman, the NL Comeback Player of the Year, is always a serious threat. Yadier Molina is one of the best catchers in the game, and third baseman David Freese is on fire in the postseason, as he just won NLCS MVP in the last series against the Milwaukee Brewers. They had the most runs in the NL and are very, very dangerous.
Why is it such a big deal that they’re here? Everyone’s talking about it like it was a miracle.
Well, to some extent, it was. With little over a month left in the season, the Cardinals trailed the Atlanta Braves for the final National League playoff spot by 10.5 games. On Aug. 27, probability simulators predicted that St. Louis had about a one percent chance of reaching the postseason. The 90-win Cardinals not only made it on the strength of an excellent September and a Braves collapse, but have continued to beat the odds since, dispatching the 102-win Phillies and the 96-win Brewers in consecutive series.
Why do the announcers keep saying it may be Pujols’ last series with the Cardinals? He was the only player I knew before I read this article!
2011 is the last year of Pujols’ eight-year contract with the Redbirds, and he’s going to cost a king’s ransom and a half on the free agent market. The Cardinals will certainly try to retain him, and no one knows where he’ll end up. But can you imagine how great of a story it would be if his second World Series title here in St. Louis leads him to resign here and stay a Cardinal for life? Because FOX can, and our old pal Joe Buck probably will never stop bringing up that possibility.
I see. So who are the Rangers, anyways?
Well, they’re from Arlington, Texas. They’re in the World Series for the second year in a row, looking to win their first ever championship. Other than that, they’re actually eerily similar to the Cardinals. They’ve got an absolutely killer lineup, with a lethal heart-of-the-order group (Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Mike Napoli, Michael Young) and a guy at the bottom of the lineup who is red-hot and just won ALCS MVP (Nelson Cruz). They have a real ace at the top of the rotation in CJ Wilson. And their bullpen, strengthened by some mid-season trades, has been excellent in the postseason, and is led by young, hard-throwing closer Neftali Feliz.
And who is that old Rangers fan the television cameras keep showing?
That bald man in a dress shirt and tie is not just your everyday team executive; he’s Nolan Ryan, baseball’s record-holder in strikeouts and no-hitters. The game’s most intimidating pitcher in his 26-year career, Ryan once put a player in a headlock and punched him in the face…when he was 46 years old. Today, Ryan is the principal owner and president of the ballclub. During Games 3-5 in Texas, Ryan will be competing with former Rangers’ owner (oh, and U.S. President) George W. Bush for most random camera pans to him standing up and clapping, staring intently or possibly eating a hot dog.
So now that I know the teams, here’s my last question. What the heck is a Rally Squirrel?
During Games 3 and 4 of the Division Series against Philadelphia, a squirrel infamously ran across the field, providing comic relief at the time. As the Cardinals advanced, the squirrel turned into a full-blown symbol of the team’s playoff run, with shirts, towels, commercials and even Twitter accounts made in honor of this now-famous squirrel. Who knows what may happen if he makes an encore during the Series.
I’m now an expert on the Cardinals and the World Series. Yay!