"I don't know how to pick this one," NPR's Tom Goldman conceded on Morning Edition today.
But while the outcome may be difficult to predict because both teams can make compelling cases for why they should emerge victorious, Tom said the 2011 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers has some very compelling story lines. The Series is set to begin tonight in St. Louis (game time is 8:05 p.m. ET. Fox-TV is the broadcaster.)
-- There's the Cardinals' surge: The team was 10 1/2 games behind in the race for the National League playoffs' wildcard slot as recently as August.
-- There's the Rangers' relatively new rise to dominance in the American League — and the likelihood that they could be very good for a very long time thanks to a TV deal that will bring the team $80 million a year.
-- There's Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa's masterful use of his bullpen — and whether those pitchers will be able to carry the team through another series.
-- And there's the amazing run that the Rangers' Nelson Cruz has had in the playoffs. He hit 6 homeruns and had 13 runs-batted-in (a playoff record) in the Rangers' AL Championship Series win over the Detroit Tigers.
What else, besides LaRussa's managing of his pitchers and Cruz's red-hot hitting, should you know about this matchup?
In a "5 things to know" about the Series story, The Atlantic offers this nugget:
"If you simply looked at the fielding percentages of teams in the major leagues, you might think that St. Louis (ranked 23rd at .982) and Texas (ranked 26th at .981) were both bad fielding teams." But the Rangers ranked 6th in "Ultimate Zone Rating," which "measures how many runs a player or team saved or allowed on account of their fielding, as compared to the league average." So Texas may not be that bad in the field after all.
And The Washington Post's Dave Sheinin writes this morning that "in the postseason, each team has elevated the act of survival to an art form, routinely winning games in which their starting pitcher is knocked out — or, to be more precise, removed by trigger-happy managers who understand the enhanced value of every game, out and pitch in October — in the fourth or fifth inning." So we could be in for some nail-biters.