Friday, October 20, 2006

Why the Cards will win the World Series

I didn't write this, but I wish I had. It's pretty good.

Why the Cards Will Win The World Series
By: Kevin Hench /

Yes, it's true the National League has not won a single World Series game in three years.

And, yes, it's also true that the Senior Circuit's representative in this year's World Series barely won half its games during the regular season.

And, yes, the National League champs went 5-10 in interleague play, losing eight straight at one point, including getting swept by the American League champion Tigers. All valid points.

So why are the St. Louis Cardinals going to win the World Series? Because nobody is giving them a chance. Talk about no pressure. (Seems like the last time I heard a team had absolutely no shot in a playoff series this October was when the Tigers squared off against the Yankees.)
When sports talk radio hosts start saying things like the NL champs couldn't beat the best team in Triple A, well, it's time to bring a little sanity back to the discussion.

Here are 10 reasons why the Cardinals will win their first World Series since 1982.

1. Fat Albert

Tweaked hammy or not, the Cardinals are led by the best player in baseball. The Tigers may have a deeper lineup, but Albert Pujols is capable of winning at least one game all by himself.

2. Diamond Jim
The Cardinals lost to the Tigers in the 1968 World Series, when Curt Flood misplayed a fly ball in Game 7. There have been very few center fielders in the history of baseball better than Curt Flood. One of them is Jim Edmonds. He will make one game-saving play in spacious Comerica Park.

3. The Big Red 3
Everyone assumes the Tigers have this insurmountable edge in pitching. But here's a news flash for all the haters: Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and David Wright of the vanquished Mets are more dangerous than their counterparts on the Tigers. Chris Carpenter is 51-18 the last three years with a 3.10 ERA. NLCS Most Valuable Player Jeff Suppan is 44-26 over the last three years, but more importantly he has a 2.05 ERA in his last nine starts in September and October. And as for Jeff Weaver, not only does he have a 2.16 ERA in these playoffs, but can you guess where his best start as an Angel was this season? Yup. At Comerica on May 3. Weaver went 7.1 innings, allowing five hits and two runs.

4. Designated Duncan
Usually the National League team gets crushed by the DH rule in AL parks. They have to trot out some bench player while the A.L. champ employs a slugger like David Ortiz. But this year the Cardinals will actually benefit from the designated hitter. Chris Duncan has been riding the pine in the NLCS — though he did deliver a pinch-hit home run — but now the Cards rookie slugger (.293, 22 HRs) and his .952 OPS will give the St. Louis lineup some extra pop in Detroit.

5. The Men in the Pen
While Joel Zumaya, Fernando Rodney, Jamie Walker and Todd Jones have rightly received mountains of praise for their critical role in the Tigers' success, the Cardinals' anonymous relievers have been every bit as good in the postseason. In fact, Adam Wainwright, Josh Kinney, Randy Flores and Tyler Johnson have yet to allow an earned run in their 23 appearances. That's pretty good, right? Anyone who doubts Wainwright's stones as a closer should take another look at that 0-2 curve that froze Beltran to end the NLCS.

6. Karma Cards
Bad luck can't last forever. The Cards got jobbed outright in 1985 by first base ump Don Denkinger. Then they lost Terry Pendleton and Jack Clark to injury before bowing out to the Twins in the 1987 Series. And while they got swept in 2004 by the Red Sox, they lost Game 1 on a home run off the fair pole. The Redbirds are due for a break.

7. Not-So-Jolly Rogers
Despite his incredible postseason run (15 scoreless innings), Kenny Rogers is not Sandy Koufax. The 41-year-old Gambler is due to crap out. And when the guy who entered this postseason with an 8.86 playoff ERA resurfaces, you might want to give him a wide berth.

8. Scott rollin'
The bad news for the Cardinals was that Endy Chavez made one of the greatest clutch defensive plays in baseball history off Scott Rolen, turning a home run into a double play. The bad news for the Tigers is that Rolen looks to have rediscovered his stroke.

9. The Ecks factor
David Eckstein is a gnat that will not stop bothering you. When he gets two strikes, the fun is just beginning. Eckstein will have at least one double-digit pitch at-bat that will end with him on base and a Tiger pitcher demoralized. And won't it be nice to know for sure that at least one player on the World Champions is not allegedly on Human Growth Hormone?

10. Call it runners in Spiezio position
In Scott Spiezio, the Cardinals have the only player in big league history to get 15 hits in his first 21 postseason at bats with runners in scoring position. I don't have to look this up. Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby or Babe Ruth. No one else could ever have possibly had 15 knocks in 21 ABs with RISP in the playoffs before. That's a .714 average if you're scoring at home. When the Angels were down 5-0 and facing elimination in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series, Spiezio lifted them off the map against the Giants with his three-run home run off Felix Rodriguez. His timely hitting delivered the Cardinals in Games 2 and 3 of the NLCS. Expect Mr. Clutch to deliver yet another game-winner in the Series. (Scott's dad, Ed Spiezio, hit 1.000 in the 1968 Series, rapping a pinch single in his only at-bat.)

Kevin Hench is a frequent contributor to


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