Monday, January 10, 2011

How to Win the World Series

The best team doesn’t always win. You could win 100 games, have an all-star at every position and a Cy Young winner on the mound and still, in Major League Baseball, that does not guarantee you a ring. Strange, but true. Just to prove my point, let’s look at three of the last 5 World Series winners, and who I considered the best team not to win that particular year.

The Champs
: The San Francisco Cowards…I mean, Giants.
The Best Team: The Philadelphia Phillies

Why the Giants won it: Pitching, pitching, pitching, and some timely hitting. Lincecum was absolutely dominant, and Cain, Sanchez and Bumgarner were just a step below that. Their bullpen shutdown everyone who came to the plate. But their line-up featured Edgar Renteria (played in less than a third of the regular season), Cody Ross (put on waivers by the Marlins), Pat Burrell (put on waivers by the Rays), Andres Torres (cut from 5 teams in 6 years) and some fat guy who used to be Pablo Sandoval. Despite being the worst World Series offense since the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers, they got enough guy on base and the timely hits to back them up.

Why the Phillies should have won: Roy Halladay threw a no-hitter against the best offensive team in the NL in 2010, the Reds. Roy Oswalt had the best second half in the league….next to fellow Phillie Cole Hamels. They had former MVPs Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins, not to mention former all-stars at almost every position - Shane Victorino, Raul Ibanez, Placido Polanco, Chase Utley and Jayson Werth. Brad Lidge had a bounce-back year. It still blows my mind that this team did not win the National League, let alone the whole thing.

2008The Champs: The Philadelphia Phillies
The Best Team: The Chicago Cubs

Why the Phillies Won It: Cole Hamels did his best Orel Hersheiser impression, the Dodgers choked away 2 very winnable games, Matt Stairs hit a home run that still hasn’t landed in Chavez Ravine and the Rays featured a front three that were all 24 years old.

Why the Cubs should have won: That is a tough sentence to write because the Cubs are never going to win it, ever. BUT, they should have won because they had an above average OPS for every hitter in the lineup, a great pen and Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster, Rich Harden and Carlos Zambrano at all their individual bests. They won 97 games. But they’re the Cubs. So they lost.

2006The Champs: The St. Louis Cardinals
The Best Team: Any other team in the playoffs except for the Padres.

Why did Cardinals won it: The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals were the team that gave me the idea for this article. This team won because despite having their worst record in 7 seasons (at 83-78), a 12-17 September, nearly blowing an 8 ½ game lead to the Astros in the final month, two guys with ERAs over 5.00 starting 6 (!) playoff games, a rookie closer, Jeff Suppan as their NLCS MVP and David Eckstein as their World Series MVP - they got incredibly hot right as the playoffs started, and went 13-5 en route to a title.

Why should have anyone else won: Um, everything just mentioned. We can also thank the following people for blowing it for their respective teams:
  • JD Drew and Jeff Kent for trying a double-steal at home against the Mets, resulting in a double play at home plate.
  • Carlos Beltran for not even swinging at the final pitch in the NLCS.
  • The Detroit Tigers offense for scoring a combined 11 RUNS IN 5 WORLD SERIES GAMES (this after scoring 22 in a 4 game ALCS sweep over Oakland).
  • Dave Duncan having either superior coaching, steroids or methamphetamines to everyone else in the league by single-handedly reviving the corpses of the following pitchers: Jeff Weaver, Jeff Suppan, Anthony Reyes, Braden Looper and Jason Isringhausen. By the way, as of January 10th, 2011, none of those guys have major league jobs.
I always thought that you needed at least two true ace, dominant pitchers, a pretty good offense, and a confident, shut down bullpen. All those rules went out the window when I saw those Cardinals win it in ’06. You might have had a MISERABLE regular season, or in the Cardinals’ case, a historically bad season for a playoff team. But you can still win a championship if these three things happen: you hit the switch at the right second and get hot, one dependable pitcher and one hitter you can build around.. The Cardinals had a terrible rotation with one true dominant pitcher, an awful offense (despite having Albert Pujols) and a beleaguered pen that installed a rookie closer with 3 career saves to his name (which all occurred that season).

I still can’t believe the Cardinals won that series though.

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