In a few short hours, the Red Sox and Cardinals will face off in Game 1 of the 2013 World Series. Like any Fall Classic, this series is chock-full of storylines and possible headlines. Players will fight for their first title, while others will fight for that next ring. Both teams are going after a very significant distinction when it comes to excellence in the 21st century, while the managers look to join exclusive company. One Fall Classic, hundreds of stories. Which are the biggest?
- Rematch of the 2004 World Series. The Red Sox and Cardinals played each other in the 2004 Series, with the Red Sox breaking their 86-year “curse” and finally winning it all in a historic sweep over St. Louis. David Ortiz and Yadier Molina are the only players left from the 2004 rosters, so the other 48 players are fresh to the Sox-Cardinals Fall Classic rivalry.
- First to three in the 21st. Whoever wins this World Series will be the first franchise to win three championships in the 21st century. Though this may not enter the player’s minds as they step between the lines on Wednesday night, there are significant bragging rights up for grabs, mostly between the two fan bases. While the Yankees will have the most championships overall for a long time, the winner of this Series will have the most since 2000.
- Carlos Beltran looks for first ring. Carlos Beltran is considered one of the best postseason hitters of all time and for good reason: he has the best OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) in playoff history, and is tied for the best home run rate in postseason history with Babe Ruth. He has also never been caught stealing in October, going 11 for 11, which is the playoff record for attempts without being caught. Many are calling Beltran a borderline Hall of Famer based on regular season stats, are his playoff stats enough to put him in? Possibly, but right now the Hall is probably the last thing on his mind. Despite being legendary in the playoffs, Beltran has yet to win a World Series championship. this is his first trip to the Fall Classic. The ultimate prize has eluded him so long that “Senor Octubre” has to be extremely motivated to have the chance to finally win it all.
- Both managers look for first ring in first Series trip as manager. Mike Matheny and John Farrell are both managing in the World Series for the first time. Both are quality skippers looking to make history. Matheny knows the 2004 World Series well, he lost to the Red Sox in his last season playing for the Cardinals. He had a tough task taking over for Tony LaRussa, but leading the Cardinals to the best record in the National League shows he’s done an effective job. Farrell inherited a club that lost 93 games last season and led them to the best record in Major League baseball this year. The best two managers in the game right now will try to do the best job they can to give their city a championship parade.
- The rookies will be counted on to make an impact. Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha will be counted on by Cardinals fans to have a strong start in Game 2, while Red Sox rookie Xander Bogaerts (who has only been in the United States for three years after being discovered in Aruba) will be in the starting lineup at third base. Both Yadier Molina and John Lackey know what it’s like to be thrown into the fire and expected to produce as rookies, so they’re definitely giving the young players some advice coming into the big stage.
- Will there be more grand slam heroics? Without the grand slams from David Ortiz and Shane Victorino in the ALCS victory over Detroit, Boston might be watching at home right now. If the Sox are trailing in the late innings with the bases juiced again, will we see another series-saving four-bagger? Could the Cardinals have some magic of their own?
- The bullpens try to keep it going. The Red Sox have some great pitching going in relief, with the Breslow-Tazawa-Uehara combination helping them close out Tampa and Detroit. The Cardinals’ pen is mainly rookies, but they have done a great job this October; with Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Kevin Siegrest, Seth Maness and Shelby Miller all playing key roles. Rookie closers in October have not imploded- look at Bobby Jenks in 2005 and Adam Wainwright in 2006.
- Extra innings anyone? The last two World Series have had games go into extra innings. There have been many games decided by three runs or less in this postseason; will there be more in the Fall Classic? Which team has a better shot if the game goes into extra frames?
This World Series has a multitude of storylines, the Red Sox and Cardinals will play in what should be a historic six or seven-game series. Who will win it all?