So I decided to take a brief hiatus from the series I began last week on the division previews in light of the fact that it's Super Bowl Sunday. Since it is the 3rd most gluttonous day of the year, I'm not at all certain that there's going to be a lot of traffic today so I'll pick up the series next Sunday with a preview of the AL Central. For the same reason, LB won't be posting any results for the Tournament of Champions today; that'll resume tomorrow.
What does the Super Bowl have to do with baseball and the Cardinals? I don't really know but I thought I'd try to look into my crystal ball and see if we could predict anything about the Cardinals season this year based on the outcome of today's game.
Today's game pits two teams who've played in 4 of the last 7 Super Bowls and we are, by now, all too aware that the Patriots can claim their 4th title in the last 7 years with a win tonight. Both teams have winning records in Super Bowls - the Pats are 3-2 and the Giants are 2-1. Of course, one team will fall to .500 after tonight's game but winning as many championships as you finish 2nd is not too bad a record to have. The Cards, too, have a winning record in their Super Bowl - with a 10-7 record in World Series.
Interestingly, the Cards have had a winning record every year that the Giants have played in the Super Bowl. Mind you, I'm using the year the team has played in the Super Bowl and not the year in which that season is played. (The 2008 Super Bowl is for the 2007 season.) In each of the 3 years the Giants have played in the Super Bowl (1987, 1991, and 2001), the Cards have had a winning record, going to the World Series in 1987 and tying for the NL Central title and earning the Wild Card spot in the 2001 playoffs. In 1991, the Cards finished 84-78 and second to the Pittsburgh Pirates (it seems like forever ago when they had a decent team!). The Giants won the 1987 and 1991 Super Bowls, while getting trounced in 2001.
There seems to be a lot of correlation between the Patriots' Super Bowl fortunes and the Cards' regular season fortunes, however. (I know that correlation is not the same thing as causation, but I thought this would be a fun experiment nonetheless.) See below:
|Year||Super Bowl W/L||Cards' record||Cards' finish|
Wow! Go Pats!
Even in the year the Giants lost their Super Bowl, 2001, the Cards won 93 games. Maybe the secret to a successful season isn't a resurgent Mark Mulder or Troy Glaus, or a Rookie of the Year award for Colby Rasmus. Maybe all we need to contend for the division title is for the Patriots to close out their perfect season with a victory.
In thinking about how I was going to deal w/ my Super Bowl Sunday thread, it occurred to me that the Patriots strike me as a team that is, in a lot of ways, very similar to the 2004 Cardinals. How dominant were the Cardinals that year? It seems so long ago but that was a damned good team. Let me first say that I don't know all that much about the NFL as I don't follow it that closely but the Patriots, first and foremost, are a tremendous offensive team. Tom Brady is their Pujols - the cornerstone of the offense. But like the Cards' offense of 2004, he's not the focal point of the offense (as Pujols was last year).
Just as Pujols had a lot of help from MVP top-10 finishers Rolen and Edmonds, Randy Moss has had a record-setting year at WR and were it not for the spectacular season Brady has had, Moss might've been the league MVP. Wes Welker tied for the NFL lead in receptions with 112. Are Brady, Moss, and Welker the Patriots' Pujols, Rolen, and Edmonds?
They have other offensive weapons as well from Maroney to Faulk to Gaffney to Ben Watson. Teams can't defend all of their weapons and it was very difficult to pitch through the Cards potent lineup that also included Renteria, Walker, Sanders. Hell, even Tony Womack had a career-high .349 OBP. The Cards led the league by scoring 5.28 runs per game. The Patriots' offense is the best in the NFL, averaging 36.8 pts. per game.
In 2004, the Cards' yielded only 4.07 runs per game, best in the NL. This team had very good pitching, with an ERA+ of 114, and very good defense, with a fielding efficiency of .710. The Pats' defense isn't quite as good as the Cards' as it finished 4th in the NFL, giving up only 17.1 pts. per game. Still, a team that scores 589 and gives up 274 is going to have a pretty good Pythagorean record!
The Pats' 16-0 regular season record, and 18-0 overall record is, as we all know by now, the NFL's best since the 1972 Miami Dolphins. The Cards' 105 wins in 2004 were MLB's best since the 1998 Yankees. There's little doubt that the Patriots are, to this point, the NFL's team of the decade and there's a pretty good argument to be made that the Cardinals are, to this point, at least the National League's team of the decade.
As I said, I don't know a ton about the NFL but I do know that the Giants aren't really supposed to be here. They've played well down the stretch and beat the NFC's two best teams in the playoffs but I think that most "experts" believed the Giants to be a year or two away. In a sense, they remind me a little of the 1996 Cardinals team that seemed to come out of nowhere to get to 1 win away from the World Series. That Cardinals team, of course, had the then-juggernaut Atlanta Braves on the ropes before succumbing to the Braves' pitching. The Giants have to be hoping that Todd Stottlemyre and Donovan Osborne aren't suiting up for them tonight or the 4th quarter could get ugly.
I felt in 2004, as I do now, that the Cards had a magical season and it just slipped away - into the right-field seats off the bat of Mark Bellhorn, of all people. I'm going to hope today that Patriots can do what the Cards couldn't in '04 - finish off their magical season. I know that's going to piss off a lot of you Rams' fans. Sorry about that but the Cards were, it seems to me, so close to a season that goes down in folklore as one of the best ever. The '06 postseason was magical but the regular season was largely forgettable. I still have an empty feeling from 2004, despite the championship in '06. So I'm going to pull for the Pats to shake off the Cards' 2004 demons and give their magical season the magical ending it deserves.
Plus, a Pats' win tonight guarantees a 90+ win season for the Cards in '08, right?