In a baseball postseason including the Pirates, who’d gone two decades without playing October baseball, and the Tampa Bay Rays, who’ve never won a World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals are something of an outlier. During the 21st century, the Cards have made the postseason nine times and won the World Series twice. Rob Neyer of SBnation joined Bill to discuss the current Cardinals.
BL: The Cardinals looked primed to eliminate the Pirates quickly after Game 1 of their Division Championship Series, but on Friday afternoon the Pirates won Game 2 convincingly, 7-1. In 2012, the last time the Cards played in a Division Series, they needed five games to beat the Nationals, so perhaps they’re not too worried.
RN: I wouldn’t think so. Obviously you’d like to take the first two games at home, but the Cardinals, I suspect have the confidence of a winning organization that played as well as anyone in the league this season.
BL: Tell us a little bit about the Cardinal who most closely resembles Babe Ruth, at least in terms of his postseason accomplishments, specifically 15 postseason home runs. That would be Carlos Beltran. How important is his performance to the Cardinals’ postseason success this time around?
RN: You know, I think they’re actually the best team even if he’s playing, Carlos Beltran is playing just his normal game. If he’s playing like he always has before, that obviously gives him an advantage that nobody else has. I’m of the mind that as great as Beltran has been they can’t really count on him continuing to hit like Babe Ruth in every postseason that he ever hits in his life. Nobody is ever gonna take the place of Ruth in many ways, and that’s just one of them. I mean what he did in the World Series alone dwarfed what anybody else has done.
BL: St. Louis has had what’s been called “the most relentless offense” in the National League this season, but their pitching staff’s ERA during this season was 3.42 ,an impressive fifth in the Major Leagues, so that hasn’t hurt them any, especially when it’s Adam Wainwright’s turn.
RN: Adam Wainwright is outstanding and of course he is overshadowed by Clayton Kershaw the Dodgers ace who’s arguably been the best pitcher in the National League in each of the last three seasons, but Wainwright is right below him. They’ve also benefited from their young pitchers, and that’s something that very few teams are able to count on. Most teams are lucky if they are able to bring up one pitcher from the minors who’s able to thrive in the Major Leagues. That’s how difficult it is, and the Cardinals had four or five guys who came up last season and gave them a big boost.
BL: Over the last several years and perhaps more, the Cardinals have built a reputation for quietly going about their business and finishing at the top. They haven’t been spectacular like Cleveland this year, the Pirates getting there for the first time in 20 years, Tampa Bay winning all those games in a row at the end of the season. It almost seems like they are under the radar.
RN: They are under the radar. I think a lot of that comes from playing in the Midwest. A lot of it comes from, they don’t make a lot of big offseason news typically. This is arguably baseball’s model organization in terms of payroll, their ability to produce young talent that helps them year-in and year-out, their ability to draw great numbers of fans in a relatively small market: St. Louis. I mean they really do everything right.
BL: All right it’s prediction time. That’s the time we’ve reached. Does St. Louis get the opportunity to win a third World Series since 2006, this time around?
RN: I think I’ve got the Dodgers beating the Cardinals in the next round. Of course that depends on the Dodgers winning their first round, but the Cardinals are right there. There’s really very little separating those two teams.