By now I think that everyone has probably read Brian Gunn's excellent article over at the hardball times. If you haven't, go read it! It's great. However, I don't agree with one of his assessments.
From the article:
This should have been a great Series. You had two classic franchises who had hooked up in October twice before, both teams a study in contrasts.
So this should have been a true Fall Classic, featuring teams with wildly clashing backgrounds and playing styles.
Can't argue with that ;)
Instead, the Series was kind of a dud. Not for me personally--I'm a huge Cardinals fan, so I had the time of my life--but objectively speaking, it wasn't exactly a repeat of '86 or '75 or '91. There was incredibly sloppy play, the depressing controversy surrounding Kenny Rogers' sticky hands, two teams who were perceived as mediocrities, dismal ratings, a rainout, mental errors galore, and it was all over in five games. After Game 4, Jim Rome declared it the worst World Series ever. Come to think of it, maybe most people were glad it was over in five games.
Acknowledged- those things did occur.
Think of it this way ... Pretty much every World Series can be distilled into one signature moment--2001: Gonzo's nubber floating past Jeter's outstretched glove; 1993: Joe Carter leaping around the bases; 1988: Kirk Gibson hobbling past a stunned Dennis Eckersley. So what was the signature moment of this World Series? Probably Curtis Granderson somersaulting out on the wet outfield grass, which set the stage for a Cardinals rally in the late innings of Game 4. Pretty it was not.
Here's where I dissent. I believe there WAS a single defining moment of the 2006 world series, and I don't think it had anything to do with errors made by pitchers or slime dripping from a cheater's hand. It happened early in the series, and it made all the difference to the teams confidence and to the outcome of the series.
Leading up to Game 1, all the wisdom in the world said that Detroit was obviously going to win; all they had to do was "keep a straight face" long enough to finish us off. No one believed we had a chance, and if Detroit had won game 1, I think that would have been true. The script was written; it was just a matter of playing it out. Half of the sportswriters in America had the story mailed in before the series began, anyway, and no matter what the players say in press conferences, they would have been fools to go into the series with high expectations.
Detroit jumping off to an early lead wasn't surprising to anyone.
Then Rolen homered to tie it up. That WAS a surprise, since according to the script, Rolen is the broken slugger who was taking this October off. It happens; shake it off; the Tigers will come back, right? With Verlander on the mound, all they have to do is score some runs and our poor inferior NL line-up won't stand a chance. But they didn't; the Tigers went down 1-2-3 in their half of the inning, and Reyes only needed 7 pitches to do it.
Yadi, worst hitter in the NL, a man whom conventional wisdom calls an automatic out, singled to lead off the third- giving hope. Then old man Tags swung a bunt, and mvp-in-the-making Eckstein struck out looking. The rookie 1B-turned-awful-OF, who looked terrible in his first at-bat, could easily have followed suit- stranding the big man in the on-deck circle once again, giving the momentum right back to the tigers.
Instead Duncan doubled, drilling the ball just inside the line at first base, driving in Molina from second to give us our first World Series lead in Forever. And then, to make sure the point was properly hammered home, Albert Pujols (who was humiliated in the first inning) crushed the very next pitch deep into the right field bleachers. 4-1 STL, and the script goes out the window.
It all happened so fast- that look of wild, maniacal joy on Duncan's mangy-beard face, that beautiful swing by pujols, the slumped shoulders of Justin Verlander- the suddenly silent stadium in Detroit- these things told the Cardinals and the world that the NL could, indeed, win this thing. At the very least, the 2006 Cardinals were going to play a hard nine and make Detroit beat them.
That is what I will always remember when I think of the 2006 WS.