First of all, let's cease with all the "rematch" nonsense. Not sure if you noticed, but none of the players on the Cardinals and Tigers' rosters were actively participating in 1934 or 1968. And if they were, they are dead, long-retired, or named Julio Franco.
The Detroit Tigers look to extend the National League's World Series losing streak to nine tomorrow night at Comerica Park against the team that kicked off the dubious stretch two years ago at Fenway Park, the St. Louis Cardinals. Most are expecting, by time all the things are said and done with, that it will be 12.
Still, three weeks ago we were all sitting here demoralizing the plights of the Tigers and Cardinals, who both entered October looking beaten down and lost. Detroit blew the AL Central to the Twins on the final game of the season. St. Louis very nearly gave the NL Central away to the Houston Astros in the final week of the season. Today, they're in the World Series. Go figure.
It's been a weird, if unspectacular, baseball postseason. The Yankees got embarrassed, which, really isn't so weird anymore. The A's fired Ken Macha for doing what the franchise couldn't do for more than a decade. The Tigers lost Game 1 to the Yankees, and then have simply dominated the next seven wins. Grady Little mismanaged his pitching staff, which…wait, forget that one.
Everybody expects the Tigers to roll, particularly since what we just watched in the seven-game NLCS basically amounted to the Triple-A World Series. The Cardinals are NL champs, which pretty much assures Detroit of a title within a few days. I mean, the American League's superiority over the senior circuit has gotten so that when the AL yet again receives home field advantage next season, the AL champ might want to defer to start Games 1 and 2 at the NL home field just so an AL team can finally celebrate in front of its home fans after a Game 4 win.
Of course, with everyone expecting a four-game sweep, we're probably in line for a seven-game classic.
Here's how everything stacks up:
Starting pitching: The Tigers' arms silenced the most explosive lineup in baseball and then limited Oakland to nine earned runs over four games. On the other side, Jeff Suppan just won the NLCS MVP. Jeff Suppan, people. And this was probably solely because the voters couldn't pick themselves off the floor from laughing when someone suggested Jeff Weaver.
Relief pitching: Joel Zumaya is well-rested from his sore wrist and ready to return to action for the Tigers. All things considered, this is probably the most even matchup on the docket, but Adam Wainwright might be pitching in the fifth by the time game 3 rolls around.
Offense: Remember a few weeks ago when Magglio Ordonez was being criticized for his lack of power? He hit two homers including the game-winner in Detroit's Game 4 win last weekend. Meanwhile, Albert Pujols has emerged from his playoff funk, but very rarely is a bat the difference in a playoff series. Know what that means? Expect "The little things" to be uttered by Tim McCarver 865 times.
Celebrity sightings: Why is it that in Boston we have to endure the suffocating, front-running, "Look at me" celebrity fans such as Mr. Affleck, while Detroit gets the likes of Magnum PI? Although, I guess when Elizabeth Berkley requests tickets, you have to hold your breath and hope her guest isn't Screech or else there's going to be some disinfecting going on between Games 1 and 2.
Manager: Both Jim Leyland and Tony La Russa have one World Series win to their credit. Leyland won his against the powerhouse Indians while with the 1997 Florida Marlins, who were dismantled the following season. La Russa won one with the Oakland A's in 1989, who were also dismantled by the inferior 1990 Reds and 1988 Dodgers.
Fan base: Detroit, once one of baseball's best towns, is hungry for a title. St. Louis, one of baseball's best towns, is hungry for a title. But if they lose, these Midwest hospitality wishers will do little more to show anger than snap their fingers.
NFL brethren: Detroit has the Lions.
Advantage, St. Louis
Pizza: I'm not even really sure what St. Louis has to offer, but I do know Detroit is home to "Little Caesars," quite possibly the worst pizza, if not overall sustenance known to humankind. Just wanted to get that out.
Advantage, St. Louis
Overall: While we can't predict how long Kenny Rogers can keep this dominance (or his cool) going, Detroit's starting pitching is far superior to what St. Louis trots out. And Zumaya being back won't help the Cardinals make any sort of late inning push whatsoever. Pujols escaped a funk over the second half of the NLCS, but Scott Rolen's shoulder is still a concern. And can Weaver and Suppan keep doing this? There are a lot of pumpkins going around right around now. One of them is going to end up being theirs.
This year's best story finishes with the proper ending, as the Tigers win their first title in 22 years, giving Cubs fans everywhere hope for 2007. Let's say seven games, which would be nice, even if it means listening to the Fox morons for far too many evenings. And how many shots do we really need of Cardinals fans with fake Scott Spezio fur taped to their chins? We. Get. It.
By the way, you know who was on that 1968 Cardinals squad? None other than everybody's favorite and insightful color man, Tim McCarver.
On second thought, let's pray the Tigers sweep this thing.