Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis will be offering his analysis throughout the World Series. Ellis, 32, recently completed his second full season as a starter for the Dodgers by batting .333 in a National League division series against the Atlanta Braves and .316 in the NL Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Ellis is familiar with the Boston Red Sox, a team the Dodgers faced during the regular season.
For most competitive people, the best part of winning is not losing. I asked someone once who was part of a team that won multiple World Series titles, what was the greatest part of winning the final game. It wasn't the ring. It wasn't the sense of accomplishment. It wasn't the parades and celebrating with your team and fan base.
"The best part of winning the World Series is you don't have to experience the devastation of losing," he said.
Sitting with my head in my hands Friday night in the quiet of the visitors' clubhouse in St. Louis, I felt that devastation. Baseball clubhouses are not usually places of silence, and the lack of sound was deafening as we all contemplated the end of our season.
In that moment, there is no feeling of accomplishment for making it to the National League Championship Series. There is no feeling of satisfaction for any personal successes. There is no feeling of "We'll get them next year," because you know how long and hard of a road it is to that point.
Numbness is the only feeling you have. Every ounce of the adrenaline stored up from the 170-plus-game season immediately evaporates from your body. Moving on is tough, but move on you must. In the next week or so, one of these World Series teams will feel the numbness while the other will experience the euphoria of not losing.
Looking back at our season, I can say these two final teams were the best we faced all year. The St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox boasted the two most gritty and professional lineups I had to call pitches against.
When you add those two characteristics to talent, you get teams that score a lot of runs and teams that never quit. Sprinkle in some excellent starting pitching and solid back-of-the-bullpen arms and you've got two evenly matched league representatives. It is going to be a great series. Let's take a closer look:
The Cardinals set baseball records with their ability to hit with runners in scoring position. They are led by major league hits leader Matt Carpenter, postseason hitting star — yet World Series rookie — Carlos Beltran, and my choice as baseball's most valuable player, Yadier Molina. These guys never give away at-bats, and they hit to the situation as well as anyone. Getting Allen Craig back to be the designated hitter in Fenway Park only lengthens their lineup.
The Red Sox are patient, and they drain starting pitchers unlike any team in baseball. They combine speed (Jacoby Ellsbury) with grit (Dustin Pedroia) with power (David Ortiz, Mike Napoli). Outside of Ellsbury, they extend innings with walks and sit back and wait for big swings as they did in the American League Championship Series, when they got grand slams by Ortiz and Shane Victorino. However, playing possibly three games in St. Louis where they lose a middle-of-the-lineup threat at DH will be a big blow. Edge: St Louis.
The combination of velocity, athleticism and poise in the young Cardinals arms was very impressive this year. Michael Wacha was better than advertised, and he dominated the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Dodgers in the first two rounds. Partner him with the ace and heart and soul of the Cardinals, Adam Wainwright, and that combination will prove to be a big challenge for the Red Sox. The Cardinals bullpen is full of powerful, yet inexperienced, power arms who have yet to crack under stress of October.
The Red Sox have big-game pitchers in all four of their starters. They may lack the power and velocity the young Cardinals have, but they more than make up for it with execution, game management and guile. The Red Sox bullpen has a nice combination of arms and matches up in the late innings well with right-hander Junichi Tazawa and left-hander Craig Breslow. Get the ball with a lead to the AL's best closer, Koji Uehara, and the game is over. Edge: Boston.
Confession: My favorite player growing up was Mike Matheny. Getting to know him these last few years has only confirmed not only was he a great catcher and leader behind the plate, but I was also able to happily find out what a great man and man of faith he is as well. John Farrell returned to Boston and turned the team around from last season's meltdown while enduring the Boston fishbowl in amazing fashion. How he handles the games in St. Louis and decides who plays and who sits without the benefit of a DH will be some of the most intriguing decisions of Series. Edge: Cardinals (biased).
It feels as if the Cardinals have it all clicking with the emergence of Wacha, the leadership of Molina and the clutch playoff hitting of Beltran. I'll take the Cardinals in six.