Nine of ten ESPN writers picked the Cardinals to win the series. I don't find this appalling or shocking or stupid, even though they were wrong. The argument for the Cardinals was so smooth, so natural, so hard to fault. The Cardinals were names that carried weight, a team of four. One, the transcendent hitter, two, the essential sidekick, three and four, the aces, new and old.
Pujols. You can't argue with that. Speak Manny and you are laughed at. I would laugh at that. Anyone would. Speak Kemp and my heart would be moved but my mind cold, my head shaking. Not a chance. Ethier, no. Pujols is the force that has no equal. Whisper it, because it is too terrifying to say in normal voice: the Cardinals have Pujols. It's like saying they have Babe Ruth, almost. That's not true, but you have to reach for Ruth to really explain what it's like. Pujols. How can a team with him lose?
Holliday. He was the multiplier, the second leg of the fearsome Cardinal beast. Pujols is the ridiculously high score in the video game, and Holliday is the 2x multiplier that takes the score into a new order of magnitude. With Holliday there was no escape from Pujols. Walk Pujols and Holliday would crush you. He completed the lineup. The Cardinal lineup has Pujols AND Holliday. Wow, that's all you need to say. You don't even need to say the other names. Talk about the Dodgers, with Blake who has okay numbers and Loney and Martin with pretty good on base percentages and Furcal and Belliard who won't drag a lineup down too far and it feels like walking through frozen Minnesota after a holliday in Hawaii. There is no argument. Arguing for the Dodger lineup, the whole thing, takes too long. It fills up too much mental energy, presents too many moments to pause. Arguing for the Cardinal lineup takes all of two words. What weakness? We didn't even have to talk about those other players.
Carpenter, Wainwright. How large they loomed over the series. Cy Young A and Cy Young B. Two aces. How many times have you heard that you need aces to win in the postseason? The Dodgers need an ace, we were always told. They never got one. They had internal candidates try out but none made the cut. They tried to hire outside help and were rebuffed. They were left with none. And the Cardinals had two. Baseball Playoff Hold 'Em, the strongest hand to be dealt is a pair of aces. Of course the Cardinals had to be picked. But then the flop came, and the Dodgers ended up with three Jacks. That beats two Aces. Series over, just like that. 3-0.
The games are played, and all the players count, beyond just the front four. Padilla counts. Can you believe that? Belliard counts. What a country. Ethier counts. Well of course he does. Kemp counts. The golden boy! Manny counts! Kershaw counts! Even Loretta counts! I still can't believe that. What a moment.
I don't fault the predictions. But they were wrong. Why? Because the Dodgers won. A tautology, yes, but also the only wholly honest way to explain it. Explanations are like predictions: sure to be wrong, and miss the point too. The score is the only thing that matters. Winning is the irrefutable argument.