MLB champions are not usually built in one season, as the LA Dodgers would have us believe. While the Dodgers have risen from the NL West ashes, to one series away from their first World Series appearance since 1988, St. Louis has been as consistent with playoff appearance as Rihanna is with making hits.
The Cards have made the playoffs nine times in the past 13 years and made three World Series in that span (2004, 2006, and 2011), winning two of them.
The Dodgers have made the playoffs just four times in the past 13 years and haven’t won a World Series since Tommy Lasorda and Kirk Gibson’s magic carpet ride in the late ‘80s.
So if the star-studded Dodgers are hoping for another easy vick in the NLCS like the Braves, Busch Stadium is the wrong place to lurk. The Cardinals don’t have as many World Series rings as the Yankees, but their rich tradition and winning formula makes them the Yankees of the NL. Yearly, they field competitive teams that come playoff time, are ready to make a serious run at the whole ball of wax.
Nobody’s messing with the Yankees’ 27 World Championships, but the Cardinals’ 11 are second all-time and first among NL teams, so they have become a blueprint franchise for postseason success.
Interestingly enough, the Cardinals just recently snatched that title from LA. The Dodgers have produced 21 pennants and the fifth-most World Series titles all-time with six. Residing in a mega-market has made the Dodgers a more recognizable franchise, whose worth and global attraction has benefited from the Jackie Robinson factor and the team’s World Series success during the money and media-explosion of the 1980’s.
When the Dodgers are popping in the summer, they have the Hollywood glitz and glam and wide-reaching LA media machine all to themselves. It’s like a big-city Tom Cruise dressed as Paul Bunyan coming through swinging a baseball bat. The Cardinals handle business in a quieter, more Midwestern fashion. Like Kansas City native Don Cheadle, incrementally building a legacy through a string of solid performances.
To some baseball heads, the debate is still open as to which franchise is the NL’s Hitsville USA. Family allegiances, extenuating factors and personal biases affect people’s opinion. The franchises are neck and neck statistically, with each team having appeared in 18 World Series, although the Cards have done a better job of completing the kill (.661 winning percentage, 11-7 record). LA has a .331 winning percentage and 6-12 record in World Series, though to be fair, they did lose to the Yankees a gang of times.
The first two games of the NL Championship Series will be Friday and Saturday in St. Louis and it’s the perfect storm for these squads to break that WS-appearance tie in a throwback, NLCS heads-up. In fact, St. Louis has prevailed two of the last three times these squads have faced each other with World Series tickets on the table. The Dodgers caught the Cards slipping, and swept LA 3-0 in the 2009 NLDS. Cardinal’s fans focus on their wins in the 1985 NLCS and 2004 NLDS.
In recent years, these franchises have been slowly moving in opposite directions. The Dodgers went through a tough period of incompetent, product insensitive, greedy ownership under Rupert Murdoch and the McCourt family, which nearly destroyed the franchise. Frank McCourt was entrenched in a nasty divorce with his wife and reports of rampant nepotism, financial neglect and tax-loophole abuse, forced MLB to take the franchise and polish it up for a new driver. Luckily, it was Magic “Midas Touch” Johnson and his pack of big wallet Willy’s.
At the same time, St. Louis was chilling, re-calibrating and riding the steroid-laced homer frenzy of Mark McGwire, in preparation for a run of sustained dopeness under the leadership of the Baur-DeWitt group, who purchased the team from Anheuser-Busch in 1996.
Oddly enough, St.Louis’ rise in national popularity also coincides with not only baseball’s overall growth, but also the explosion of cats wearing team jerseys and baseball caps, most notably St. Louis rap mogul Nelly, whose baseball background and platinum-selling rap group St. Lunatics crashed rap and found crossover success, while hard body-repping “The Lou” and the Cardinals insignia.
As of 2013, according to Forbes, the Cardinals are the tenth-most valuable franchise in MLB at $716.2 million, with revenue of $239 million. They have some of the most rabid fans and are among the league's leaders in television ratings and attendance every season. The Cardinals value has increased significantly since the Baur-DeWitt purchase. In 2000, the franchise was valued at $219 million.
This NLCS is a rare opportunity for the baseball world to witness two of MLB’s flagship franchises go at it. The list of Hall of Famers, Cy Young Award winners and legendary managers is extensive for these squads.
The Dodgers have been clicking and are looking to complete the wild task of turning a sinking season into a California dream come true. The Dodgers are like Wu-Tang Clan, bouncing in a Yukon truckload of dope MC’s with multi-faceted games. You could get anything on any given night from Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford and those crazy cats. St. Louis is like Mobb Deep. They are vintage and very murderous on the low, but in plain sight. Baseball fans don’t always want to respect them, but the decades of hardware and relevance speaks for itself.
Pitching and clutch bombing is the name of this very evenly matched face-off. It’s almost impossible to go against the Cards with their recent playoff history. Second-year skipper Mike Matheny is underrated and Adam Wainwright doesn’t lose this time of year. He’s going nine at anytime, but Clayton Kershaw and Co. have a response to that diss record. The Dodgers bats will be the difference and they’ll advance to their first World Series in a quarter-century, reclaiming their status as the NL’s historical hot-shot squad.