All die-hard baseball fans -- especially ones who have seen every baseball movie -- know the scene.
At the end of “Fever Pitch,” Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon celebrate in Busch Stadium in St. Louis as Red Sox closer Keith Foulke tosses the final out to Doug Mientkiewicz, ending the 2004 World Series.
Of course, that was just a movie, but that final scene was based on the Red Sox sweeping the Cardinals in the World Series that year.
Both teams have not been strangers to World Series play over the past decade. In addition to winning in 2004, the Red Sox also won the 2007 series over the Colorado Rockies. The Cardinals meanwhile won in 2006 and in 2011.
The Cardinals were as strong a team in 2004 as they are now, but they just happened to run into the team that had fate on its side. The 2004 Red Sox were of course the first team to ever overcome a 3-0 playoff deficit in a series to wind up winning four straight.
Basically, the Cardinals had no shot against that sort of momentum, as the Red Sox turned four straight playoff wins into eight straight.
The only remaining trace left on the Sox from the 2004 team is David Ortiz. He might have only hit .091 in the ALCS, but we all know the magnitude of his clutch Game 2 game-tying grand slam. He’s capable of those sorts of heroics at any time.
But really, the only similarity between that team and this year’s team is the long, scraggly, playoff beards.
For the Cardinals, Yadier Molina was the rookie backup catcher on the ’04 squad. Chris Carpenter was a main contributor on the starting staff, but injuries have relegated him to a cheerleading role for this series.
Mike Matheny was the Cards’ starting catcher, but now his role will be different as manager. Current hitting coach John Mabry appeared in two World Series games that year, and third base coach Jose Oquendo was also with the team.
For the first time since 1999, the teams that each led their respective league in wins -- 97 each -- will be squaring off in the World Series. And both teams have relied on similar rosters to reach to Promised Land.
On both teams, a collection of role players -- rather than big-time superstar players -- has led to success. It was a different player, or group of players, every night that rose to the occasion.
I cannot sit here and say that a four-game Red Sox sweep is fully out of the question, since the baseball gods are solely in charge of that. But based on how evenly matched these teams appear to be, I can say that a four-game sweep by either side is highly unlikely.
In the World Series, great starting pitching, a top-notch bullpen, strong defense and timely hitting win championships, and the previous two playoff series for both teams proved that the Red Sox and Cardinals have all of these.
It will just be a matter of which team shows up more consistently on the big stage.
This is a very difficult series to predict, but I’m going with the Cardinals in six games, as I expect the Red Sox will put up a valiant fight.
St. Louis just plays consistent baseball every season. No matter who they run out there, they get the job done. From veterans like Carlos Beltran to rookies like Michael Wacha, they’ve all bought into the Cardinals’ tradition.
Either way, it should be a great series to cap off another great baseball season.
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