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What To Watch For In The World Series


For the first time since 1999, the two teams with the best record in baseball will meet in the World Series. The Boston Red Sox host the St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park tonight.

Enough said, let's bring in NPR's Mike Pesca. Hey, Mike.


GREENE: You're going to be at the game.


GREENE: So we have the two teams with the two best records. That has to tell us something about his World Series. Or maybe in this crazy world of sports it tells us nothing.

PESCA: Or in the crazy sport of baseball, actually you're right, it kind of doesn't. I mean you mentioned 1999, that was a stinker of a World Series. The Yankees swept the Braves. The Braves had a much better record even than the Yankees did. And then you go back to some recent series were teams that were wildcards and, quote-unquote, "snuck in" like in 2002. The Angel/Giants that went seven - that was a great World Series. So yes, there's not a whole lot of correlation.

In general the correlation between the regular season and the postseason often becomes tenuous. We see things like great players through the regular season slump. We see nobodies delivering the clutch. And that's because the baseball season is so long, it gives us a false sense of how good or bad anyone could be on a given day.

I mean if a guy is a 300 hitter that says what? Oh, that guy can hit. But if you take any seven-game snapshot may be he's a 180 hitter over that snapshot. You know, it's more likely he'll be a 320 hitter or a 300 hitter but there's far from a guarantee in the sport of baseball.

GREENE: So we'll watch to see who the heroes that will emerge.

PESCA: I'm being paid to, yes.


GREENE: Well, let's start with the St. Louis Cardinals. I mean a franchise that just a stays right towards the top. What makes them so good?

PESCA: That's it, steady efficiency. I mean they have a great farm system. They have so many good pitchers that they have Shelby Miller, a young 15-game-winner. He's like the sixth guy on their staff. They're very good from top to bottom. They have few weaknesses. They have the Cardinal Way which has been derided a little bit for its arrogance. I don't know if the players themselves buy into it, as much some of the very proud fans do.

But they do have an ethic of success and culture in getting things done. And they are a model organization in this sport.

GREENE: Well, besides the beards that the Boston Red Sox players have grown to bond together, what gives them the chance to come on top of the Cardinals?

PESCA: I think looseness. I think, you know, sheer talent from top to bottom. I think their strategy of hitting crucial game-winning grand slams in the last series, if they could light upon that strategy again...

GREENE: That would work, two of them and the American League championships series.

PESCA: Yes. And it has this great study in contrasts because you know Boston, which is this real loose team which is a team with a lot of characters who embraces them. And you have the Cardinals, a team that, you know, Adam Wainwright - starter in Game 1 - set up one of his last opponents, Adrian Gonzalez, was behaving in a Mickey Mouse fashion by being too enthusiastic. Some Cardinals players also criticized the Yasiel Puig for perhaps over-celebrating, and not knowing how the game should be played.

So, you know, you have this contrast between those who criticize others for being Mickey Mouse, and the Red Sox who are just plain goofy.


GREENE: Goofy and slow, right? I mean one thing we know about this we know about this World Series with the Red Sox involved, we're going to have some long games.

PESCA: They are pretty fast on the bases but, man, do they take their time. Clay Buchholtz, even with no one on base, their pitcher takes between like 18 and 26 seconds to deliver a pitch, one-nothing games going almost four hours. The Red Sox do take up a lot of your patience. But then, I guess, they deliver the big dramatic hits when it counts. Still, could we do that here in three and a half hours, guys? Is that too much to ask?


GREENE: The journalists who are going to be at Fenway tonight, you guys grow beards or something to bond over this whole thing?

PESCA: I can't help it. I got a five o'clock shadow at two.

GREENE: Nice, can't wait to see it. NPR's Mike Pesca, who will be at tonight's game at Fenway Park Game 1 of the World Series. Mike, thanks.

PESCA: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mike Pesca first reached the airwaves as a 10-year-old caller to a New York Jets-themed radio show and has since been able to parlay his interests in sports coverage as a National Desk correspondent for NPR based in New York City.
David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
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