The St. Louis Cardinals are both lucky and deserving to be in the National League Championship Series. The Red Birds are lucky because their wild-card rival, the Atlanta Braves, ran out of gas. But they earned a bid in the playoffs thanks to Albert Pujols, who may leave the nest next year. There is no better clutch hitter in baseball than King Albert, and he proved it by scalding the ball throughout September.
Chris Carpenter was pretty damn good, too; especially in game five against the Philadelphia Phillies when he out-dueled Roy Halladay. It’s also true, though, that Carpenter’s gem wouldn’t have happened without the stellar defense of Rafael Furcal. The veteran shortstop thought long and hard about blocking a deadline trade that sent him from the lowly Los Angeles Dodgers to the contending Cardinals. I wonder if Furcal reminisced about that decision when he took that “happy flight” from Philly to St. Louis.
I predict that the matchup between the Cards and Milwaukee Brewers, their hated rival, will be a dog fight to the finish. When you think about the “Brew Crew,” Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun immediately come to mind. It’s easy to forget about Yovani Gallardo. The talented Mexican right hander usually flies under the radar, but this year stole the spotlight from the celebrated Zack Greinke in overall mound presence. Yovani and “secret weapon” Carlos Gomez are a big reason why Milwaukee had a magical season.
No pair of teams employ more Latino players than the Texas Rangers and the Detroit Tigers, the combatants in the battle for the American League crown. Nolan Ryan’s team has already set the tone behind the golden arm of closer Neftali Feliz. And the Rangers shortstop, Elvis Andrus, is a blossoming superstar.
The Tigers have Cy Young shoe-in Justin Verlander, who showed he’s human with an opening-game loss. Without the injured Delmon Young, Detroit’s chances squarely rest on the broad shoulders of batting champion Miguel Cabrera and his twin assassin, Victor Martinez. It would help if platooned third baseman Wilson Betemit would quit swinging at air, and Jhonny Peralta will have to step it up along with aging Magglio Ordonez.
My point is that none of these mentioned clubs would be playing in October without the influence of Hispanic personnel. They are the common denominator who will spell success, or failure, for their respective teams.
If you ask me, that’s very amazing.