quarterfinals begin today with 2 games; the other two series will start tomorrow. summaries after the jump:
For this quarterfinal series, the 16th-seeded 2006 World Series Champions will take on the 1946 World Series Champions, The Greatest Generation. (Copyright Tom Brokow, all rights reserved.) The vast majority of readers will be rooting for the 2006 team, and who can blame them? For all of us, the 2006 team erased the painful exits of the previous two years. In addition, that team wasn't supposed to win, so it added an unreal element to the first Cardinal World Series in 24 years.
Now, in this tournament, they managed to do what no 16 seed has ever done in NCAA basketball. They won! Even the simulation version of the 2006 World Series team bucks the odds, the naysayers, and the experts. How can you not root for this team?
I'm going to try and give you some reasons to root for the Greatest Generation. First, they were equally big underdogs in their Series against the Boston Red Sox. In his excellent biography of Ted Williams, Leigh Montville notes that the Red Sox were 12 to 1 favorites over the Cards. At the time, many of the baseball pundits considered the Series to be one of the more glaring mismatches in recent Series history. So, before we hang the underdog label on our recent Champs, we should pause and give consideration to the 1946 team.
Second, this team was created the way most of us advocate for building sustained success: through scouting and player development. This would be the last championship that Branch Rickey would deliver to St. Louis, but in his tenure he took a struggling franchise and turned it into the powerhouse of the National League and a regional presence. Before Rickey, the Cards played second fiddle to the Browns. By the time he left in the mid-forties, the Cardinals had the largest farm system in baseball.
Rickey's methods were simple and also draconian, at least by today's standards. It was a different time, granted --- no free agency --- but even with one-sided contracts and control, one still had to get the player in order to retain them. To that end, Rickey developed an extensive network of scouts throughout the midwest, south, and west, all areas without a major-league baseball presence. He aggressively hired scouts with baseball knowledge, and staffed them throughout these territories. He developed the 20-80 scale that is used by scouts to this day. By some accounts, he was a pontificator, a blowhard, a skinflint, and a moralist. But you cannot argue with his results.
|David Eckstein, ss||Red Schoendienst, 2b|
|Preston Wilson, lf||Terry Moore, cf|
|Albert Pujols, 1b||Stan Musial, 1b|
|Scott Rolen, 3b||Enos Slaughter, rf|
|Juan Encarnacion, rf||Whitey Kurowski, 3b|
|Ronnie Belliard, 2b||Joe Garagiola, c|
|So Taguchi, cf||Harry Walker, lf|
|Yadier Molina, c||Marty Marion, ss|
|Chris Carpenter, p||Howie Pollet, p|
Howie Pollet takes the hill for the 1946s and immediately gives up singles to Eck and Preston Wilson. Two on, none out, and Albert Pujols strolls to the plate --- but he gets under one and pops out to shallow right field. One away. Rolen smacks a single to center, and Oquendo waves Eck home, but Terry Moore comes up throwing. The throw is a perfect strike to Garagiola, who tags Eck out. Runners at second (Rolen advanced on the throw) and third for Encarnacion. He hits a ball hard to center, and Moore will have no play on this one. Scotty scores. Preston scores. Pollet gets Belliard to ground out to second, but the 16th seed gets off to a 2-0 lead. It could have been much worse.
Carpenter gives up a leadoff single too, this one to Red; at least he can say his was surrendered to a Hall of Famer. Moore drops a perfect bunt, moving Red to second with one out. And there he stays. After Moore, Carp retires eight straight batters, including Musial and Slaughter with a runner in scoring position. The key to the 1946 squad's first-round win over the 1967 champs was their timely hitting. I know the existence of clutch hitting is widely debated among the SABR community, but not making outs when runners are in scoring position is a formula for victory. It just might not be a skill.
Pollet gets himself into another jam in the second, but an Eckstein DP gets him out of it. He settles in after that and, like Carp, starts reeling off outs. From the 3rd through 5th he only allows one baserunner, and none in scoring position. But Pujols leads off the 6th by poking one through the hole for a leadoff single. Pollet compounds the mistake by walking Rolen. Two aboard, no outs for Juan Enc., who grounds a single to center. Oquendo waves around Pujols. Moore comes up firing . . . . . OUT!! Another runner nailed at the plate by Terry "The Cannon" Moore. Juan goes to second on the throw and there are two runners in scoring position for Belliard. He takes a called third strike, and there are two away. Pollet gives up another walk (to So) to load the bases for Yadi. But he gets out of the bases-loaded jam by inducing Yadi to ground out to Marion. The 2006 Cards should lead by at least four runs, probably more. Instead the '46 team still trails by just two and has a great chance to come back.
They won't do it in the bottom of the 6th, though --- Carp doesn't allow a ball out of in the infield. When he retires Slaughter on a weak pop out to Rolen leading off the 7th, the Hall of Fame core of the 1946 squad is a combined two for nine --- and both hits are singles by Schoendienst. (Remember, while the 1946 and 1967 squads both put up lackluster numbers in their first-round matchups, the combination of Red, Stan, and Country were responsible for a large part of the offense and got on base at a .400-plus clip. ) But after getting the first out of the 7th, Carp gives up two hard-hit doubles: the first a smoker by Whitey K., and the second by Joe Garagiola. That one plates Whitey and cuts the Bracket Busters' lead down to one, with the tying run in scoring position. But Walker chases a pitch for strike three and Marion pops out to Belliard to end the inning.
For the eighth, Sim Dyer goes to the pen for Ted "Cork" Wilks. Those of you keeping score at home will remember that in the last series, Wilks was a stable force out of the pen for the 1946 squad. In real life, his '46 season was quite good; he sported a 1.32 WHIP in forty games of work. Not that it means anything to Pujols --- he tags a pitch to straightaway center, 422 feet, for a solo shot that restores the 2006 lead to two. In the bottom half, Erv Dusak, the home-run-hitting hero of the last series, pinch-hits for Wilks. No dramatics here as he grounds out to Rolen. Red improves his day to three for four with a single to right. Moore flies out to left for the second out, bringing Stan to the plate representing the tying run. Musial, 0-3 to this point, drives a ball to left for a single. Red rounds third but stops there; no point getting thrown out at home. Runners at the corners for Slaughter, who is looking to break his own 0-3. Slaughter puts a charge into a ball and hits it deep to center, but it falls short of the wall. If this were a more hitter-friendly park, we would have had a lead change. Instead, we go to the ninth with the 2006 squad up by two.
The new pitcher for the 1946 champs is Ken Burkhart. Burkhart had a relatively short career as player, amassing only 519 innings in five seasons. He would have a longer and more storied career as an umpire: he worked eight no-hitters and was involved in a controversial play at the 1970 World Series when he collided with Baltimore catcher Elrod Hendricks. No controversy here as Ump gets So and Yadi to fly out. Carp's spot is up; he's at 104 pitches, and Tony's got Izzy ready to go in the pen. So Chris Duncan pinch-hits and slaps a single back through to box. Eck pops out to Marion, and we go to the bottom on the ninth with 2006 ahead 3-1.
Izzy Save (n): a save opportunity in which the pitcher puts on the tying and or go-ahead run, thereby increasing the stress level of every fan watching. Origin: U.S. Midwest, circa 2004. Ex.: "Huston Street gets a lot of saves for my fantasy team, but he is killing my WHIP because he gets so many Izzy Saves."
I will say something about this simulator: it has Izzy down pat. He comes in with a two-run lead. He gets the leadoff batter, Kurowski, to pop out to Rolen. Then, all Izzy breaks out. Garagiola homers to left, and the lead is reduced to one run. Walker grounds out weakly to Pujols, who steps on the bag for the second out. The drama doesn't end, though, as Marion singles to right, bringing the winning run to the plate, pinch hitter Del Rice. Izzy gets Rice to pop out, and the game is over.
The sixteen seed jumps out to a 1-0 nothing lead in the series, mostly thanks to a masterful performance by Carp, who goes eight innings and allows just one run, seven hits, no walks, and four Ks. All told, Carp holds them to a .257 OBP. On the offense side of the ledger, the 2006 Champs put the lead runner on in five of the nine innings. The 3-4-5 hitters (Pujols, Rolen, and Juan Enc.) get on base 7 times in 12 plate appearances. The praise should be spread around, as the entire team got on base at a .481 clip. If not for the two runners nailed at the plate, it would have been a blowout.
Game 2 tomorrow.
* * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * *1982 CARDINALS v. 1985 CARDINALS
summary by cardsfanunion
It's every Gen Xer's dream matchup: the team that gave us our first championship vs. the team that was
probably surely better than the team that gave us our first championship. It's Sutter vs. Worrell. Hernandez vs. Clark. Lonnie vs. Vince. It's some nameless guy vs. Denkinger. And the matchup we all wish Harry Caray could have tried to mispronounce, Oberkfell vs. Pendleton. Hide the plumber's tape and pass the Budweiser....it's go time.
Despite the fact that the '82 team won its World Series and the '85 squad didn't, the '85s open at home due to their better regular-season record (101-61 versus 92-70). Was the 1985 team really that much better? Undoubtedly. Since World War II, only one Cardinal team won more games than the 1985 edition --- the 2004 team. The 1985 Cards led the league in runs scored and finished 2d in runs allowed; the only postwar St. Louis team that did better was, again, the 2004 edition (which finished 1st in both categories). But let's not sell the '82 Cardinals short. They allowed the fewest runs in the NL that year, as much because of their defense (1st in fielding percentage, 2nd in double plays, 2nd in defensive efficiency ratio) as their pitching. But the offense was pretty ordinary, finishing 5th in a 12-team league in runs scored. Which of the two teams better exemplified Whiteyball? The '82 club stole 200 bases at a 69 percent success rate; the 1985 team stole 314 bags at a 77 percent rate. The trophy goes to the '85 team.
Both teams come into the series riding winning streaks. In the last round, the 1982 team went down 0-3 against the mighty 1942 Cardinals before eking out four close victories in a row to pull off a stunning upset. The 1985 team, meanwhile, has won 8 games in a row. After falling behind 0-2 to the 1996 team in the play-in round, they took the last four games of that series and then swept the 1931 Cardinals in four straight in the most recent round. Both teams send out their best pitchers: Joaquin Andujar for the 1982 team versus '85 ace John Tudor.
|Lonnie Smith, lf||Vince Coleman, lf|
|Tom Herr, 2b||Willie McGee, cf|
|Keith Hernandez, 1b||Tom Herr, 2b|
|George Hendrick, rf||Jack Clark, 1b|
|Gene Tenace, c||Andy Van Slyke, rf|
|David Green, cf||Terry Pendleton, 3b|
|Ken Oberkfell, 3b||Darrell Porter, c|
|Ozzie Smith, ss||Ozzie Smith, ss|
|Joaquin Andujar, p||John Tudor, p|
Both teams go 1-2-3 in the first to start Game 1. In the top of the 2nd, Hendrick reaches on a Pendleton error, and advances to second on a Gene Tenace walk. You never thought Gene Tenace would factor into this tournament, but here he is. I really have no point here, so I'll just move on . . . . .David Green grounds to short, moving Hendrick to third, and Oberkfell grounds to first to score Hendrick, giving the 82ers a 1-0 lead. They make it 2-0 in the top of the third when Lonnie walks with one out, steals second, moves up on a groundout, and scores on a Tudor wild pich. Tudor still has a no-hitter after 3 innings, but he trails 2-0. Amazing how Whitey can manufacture runs against ... Whitey.
The 85ers strike back in the 3rd when Porter and Ozzie single to start the inning. Tudor tries to sacrifice, but Smith is out at second, leaving runners at first and third with one out. Coleman comes up and hits it in the air, just deep enough to get the lead-footed Porter home from third. Yes, Vince Coleman hits a sacrifice fly; it's 2-1.
The 1982s finally get a hit with 2 outs in the 5th, a harmless single by Lonnie. In the top of the 6th, Hernandez walks, and Hendrick follows with a single. Tenace hits into a fielder's choice to make it first and third with one out. Green walks to load the bases, and Oberkfell clears them with a double to center. At the end of 6 innings, both teams have 3 hits --- but the 1982 team leads the game, 5-1.
The 82ers add two more in the 7th, on just one hit --- a double, two walks, a force out and a sac fly. Tudor walks seven and throws a wild pitch in his 7-inning stint; very uncharacteristic. The '82 squad will score once more against the pen, and the '85ers will plate three late runs to cut the lead in half, but they never really challenge the lead. At the end of the game the '85 team has nearly twice as many hits as the `82s, 9 to 5 --- but the '82 team still wins handily, 8 to 4. That's right ---- 8 runs on 5 hits for the winning team. The 1982 Birds take a 1-0 lead in this matchup that will settle many an argument between younger and older brothers in Cardinal Nation.