AS MUCH AS IT PAINS ME TO ADMIT IT, I watched every minute of Major League Baseball’s All-Star festivities. This isn’t a reflection on the quality of the event so much as the absolute dearth of other sports options. Aside from the first few weeks after the Super Bowl, there is no worse time on the professional sports calendar than early July. The resurgent NBA just wrapped up a stellar championship series, leaving major sport diehards to sift through the athletic dregs. I would sooner watch a Mob Wives marathon than sit through another week of Wimbledon highlights, Dwight Howard trade analysis, and Bounty-Gate.
IT SEEMS LIKE EVERY December, we’re talking about who the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox are looking to sign or trade for. It was unusual, then, that during Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings last week we didn’t hear a peep out of either camp, giving credence to the theory that we had suddenly entered into an alternate universe.
For once, it wasn’t the traditional baseball titans who dominated the headlines during the four-day meetings. For the first three days, it was the freshly renamed Miami Marlins making big splashes in free agency.
The Marlins have been one of the most maddening franchises over the last couple of decades. They won the World Series in 1997 and 2003. They gutted the team after the ’97 championship and after ’03 plummeted back to mediocrity, prompting another fire sale. The fans didn’t take too kindly to this, as you would know if you’ve watched even one Marlins game over the past few seasons. I’ve seen more people at middle school football games than Marlins games recently.
The organization’s aggressive strategy had a lot to do with their stadium situation. With a snazzy new ballpark set to open up in 2012, the Marlins are now taking a “we need to sell these tickets or we’re screwed” approach, and they were doing so successfully. They made two big signings and were rumored to be making more.
Then the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim rained all over their parade. And it was raining straight cash, homey.
Let’s delve deeper into the transactions, shall we?
With their Game 6 victory over the Brewers on Sunday night, the St. Louis Cardinals cruised into a World Series showdown against the Texas Rangers. You can hear the grumbling already: “Ugh, another mid-Western matchup that’ll kill television ratings.”
Quit your bellyaching and grab your remote, because this is one of the most intriguing World Series clashes in years. In one corner, you’ve got the St. Louis Cardinals, a team that snuck into the playoffs on the last possible day only after the Atlanta Braves folded like a [fill in the blank]. On the other side are the Texas Rangers, who make a return trip to the World Series and are beginning to look like a dynasty in the making.
These two teams start with offenses that were among the best in the majors (Texas third in runs, St. Louis fifth), and support their run-scoring capabilities with pitching staffs that grade out somewhere between mediocre and solid. Hopefully the fireworks in this series will finally let us dispose of the tired “Pitching wins championships” mantra. Do you know what really wins championships? Being the better team. Let’s find out which team that is.