Archived Story

Cardinals can’t read

Published 12:06am Thursday, November 3, 2011

“Cardinal Charlie” Gill is happy.
I imagine Kenny Stroup is, too.
I can live with the Detroit Tigers winning the Central Division going away and being the third-best team in baseball, but in September it felt like one of those Magical Mystery Tours, like 1968 and 1984. Maybe even a 2006 rematch until the rains came. Instead, the champion “Tigers” are Gerald Laird and Edwin Jackson. Go figure.
Even sports are like reality series anymore, scripted to look unpredictable. They crafted a believable October baseball story line, but apparently the Cardinals can’t read.
Or, maybe their crafty attorney/manager, Tony La Russa, who exited at the top after 33 seasons, wrote the memos for the 11th title in 2011 in legalese with LegalZoom.
The Series ended a nine-year wait for a Game 7, longest since the format was permanently installed in 1922. This postseason went 38 games, matching 2003, and reinforcing the notion that this isn’t about being the best team all season, just in the moment that matters.
The wild Cards, after all, finished second, six games behind Steve Arseneau’s Milwaukee Brew Crew in the NL Central.
In beating the Tigers in six in the ALCS, the Texas Rangers, winners of back-to-back pennants, joined the ’97 Cleveland Indians as the only teams to win a best-of-seven series without getting a win from a starter.
Can you imagine the pitch meeting where the stacked deck story line first floated?
Let’s take the top nine spenders in baseball and have the Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox, Angels, White Sox, Cubs, Mets, Giants and Twins all fail to win a single playoff series.
Instead, we’ll substitute the No. 11 Redbirds ($105 million payroll) and the No. 13 Rangers ($92 million, up from No. 27 in 2010) for all the marbles.
Winless a half century, the Rangers made a logical hero. Only the Cubs and Indians have waited longer. Texas is the only repeat AL franchise winner besides the Yankees in 17 years of the wild-card format. And just the eighth team in either league in the free-agent era since 1976 to qualify for two straight World Series.
As a free agent last winter, Lance Berkman signed with the Cardinals rather than the Rangers because he saw them settling for average when Cliff Lee got away.
Sports Illustrated (Texas in six) read the memo: “These Rangers … may be replacing the Phillies as the next new elite franchise.”
Texas bats Whoa Nellie Cruz missiles seventh, but as recently as 2008 any team could have claimed him for $20,000.
The new Mr. October, minted in Game 3, is Albert Pujols. He joins Babe Ruth (1926) and Reggie Jackson (1977) with three home runs, five straight hits, six RBI and 14 total bases.
Things looked different in April, when SI extolled October for six pages as the “height of the Halladay season.”
SI’s cloudy crystal ball had the Yankees over the Twins, the Rays over the Angels, the Phillies over the Cardinals and the Rockies over the Braves leading to Philadelphia over Tampa in the Series.
Last spring, the Tigers’ player to watch was Johnny Damon.
The Cardinals winning is why we still play the games.
Here Comes Trouble: I’m reading Michael Moore’s autobiography of sorts. In the first chapter about the scary, security-risk downside of being a provocateur, the Michiganian drew consolation from the first Dowagiac Dogwood Fine Arts Festival visiting author, Kurt Vonnegut, and their four dinners in the last year of his life. Vonnegut complimented him that “the current reality now seems so unreal, it’s hard to make non-fiction seem believable. But you, my friend, are able to do that.”
Bill Clinton turns 65: The 42nd president packed the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles Oct. 15 with the Secretary of State and pals such as Lady Gaga (who reworked “Bad Romance” into “Bill Romance”), Bono and the Edge, Stevie Wonder and Barbra Streisand. Clinton commented, “Nobody climbs any ladder alone, and we are not ever gonna build this country back by telling people they are on their own.”
Quips, quotes and qulunkers: “I brought my granddaughters. We’re talking about a really massive phenomenon here. Finally, people are saying, ‘Something has to change.’ ”
— Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary on the fast-growing Occupy Wall Street movement
•••
“I think he’s wrong, by the way.”
— Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher on George Martin calling him the finest songwriter of his generation. He attended the London premiere of Martin Scorsese’s George Harrison documentary and actually met his “favorite guitar player” at a party.
•••
Rock photographers die: Barry Feinstein, 80, died Oct. 20 in New York. He shot album covers that included “All Things Must Pass” by George Harrison and “The Times They Are A-Changin’ ” by Bob Dylan.
British lensman Robert Whitaker, 71, who shot the original butcher cover for The Beatles’ “Yesterday and Today,” picturing the Fab Four with decapitated dolls and raw meat, also passed away.

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