Albert Pujols Better Than Joltin' Joe? Say It Ain't So!: Texas Rangers-St. Louis Cardinals World Series Preview and Game 1 Open Thread

Categories: Sports

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Texas Rangers
Gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling inside, doesn't it?
It's finally here. Pinch yourself. Your Texas Rangers are back in the World Series, and this time feels much different than last year's playoff run. There's a confidence flowing through my body that just wasn't there before, and I suspect the players feel the same way.

Don't get me wrong. I expected the Rangers to beat the San Francisco Giants last season, but the prospect of facing the best pitching in baseball was daunting, and success seemed to be in the hands of one man for Texas: Cliff Lee. This year, however, the Rangers look and play much more like a complete team.

In my American League Championship Series preview, I boldly proclaimed that I didn't fear Detroit Tigers ace and soon-to-be-named AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, and the Rangers shouldn't have been scared of him either.

Sure enough, Verlander surrendered seven runs in his 11 1/3 innings on the mound. My point then was this: No one player can win a postseason series.

Of course, that's still the case. But if there's one player in baseball that comes the closest, it's the great Albert Pujols. The man. The myth. The Machine.

Despite three National League MVP awards and a 2006 World Series championship, Pujols' place in history hasn't been fully appreciated. Although he's played just 11 seasons, Pujols is already a first-ballot Hall of Famer and one of the game's all-time greats.

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Texas Rangers
Just how great? I think he's already somewhere in the top 15 all time, which obviously puts him into some pretty incredible company. But he has really been that great and has plenty of productive seasons ahead of him at just 31 years old.

My older brother Jess recently scoffed at such a suggestion. I asked him to name some of the players he thought were in lower end of the top 15 or so, and Joe DiMaggio's name came up.

Without hesitation, I said, "Pujols is already better than him."

Seems like a crazy proclamation, and there's no definitive answer, but the numbers don't lie.

Like Pujols, DiMaggio began his career as a 21-year-old and won three MVP awards. He played a total of 13 seasons, missing three years during his prime (ages 28 to 30) while enlisted in the air force in World War II. In those 13 years, DiMaggio had a .325 batting average and .977 on-base plus slugging percentage with 2,214 hits, 361 home runs, 389 doubles, 1,537 runs batted in and 1,390 runs scored in 6,821 at-bats.

DiMaggio was also a spectacular defensive center fielder (105 career errors) and won the World Series a jaw-dropping nine times in 10 attempts. However, his performance in those games (51 total) wasn't nearly as jaw-dropping, as he hit .271 with eight homers and 30 RBI. Of course, he also holds the all-time record for recording at least one hit in consecutive games with 56 set in 1941.

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St. Louis Cardinals
In 500 fewer career at-bats (roughly a full season's worth), Pujols has a .328 BA and 1.037 OPS (sixth best all time) with 2,073 H, 445 HR, 455 2B, 1,329 RBI and 1,291 R. He's also a stellar defensive first baseman (110 career errors and two Gold Gloves) and is hitting .339 with 15 homers and 46 RBI in his 67 postseason games.

Even if you don't buy the argument that he's better than Joltin' Joe, you have to admit Pujols belongs in the conversation, which puts him either right at or just outside the top 15.

And there's a lot more baseball ahead for him.

He's clubbed at least 30 homers every season. He's scored at least 100 runs in 10 of his 11 seasons, with 99 in 2007. And, this year, he just missed out (.299 BA and 99 RBI) on continuing his decade-long run of posting an average above .300 and at least 100 RBI.

Pujols already has more career home runs than Cal Ripken and Duke Snider, more runs scored than Ozzie Smith and Harmon Killebrew, more RBI than Roberto Clemente, a slugging percentage only bettered by Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig and a higher batting average than Honus Wagner, Jimmie Foxx and Wade Boggs.

He's the best player in the game right now. Period. And as soon as the Rangers forget that, they're gonna be in trouble.

I'm not suggesting Texas should issue Pujols a free pass every time he's at the dish, but they must pitch him tough and keep him off balance to win this series. And I believe Texas is poised to do just that after learning some tough lessons while facing probably the second-best player in the game right now, Miguel Cabrera, in the ALCS.

It's not like Pujols is the only Cards' hitter to be concerned about. Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman, David Freese and Yadier Molina are big-time threats as well, and St. Louis led the NL in batting average, runs scored and OPS. And Chris Carpenter is capable of dominance on the mound, as he showed once again while tossing a shutout in Game 5 of the NLDS against Roy Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies.

But the Rangers are simply a better all-around club, top to bottom. The Giants were last year. Texas is this year.

Expect to start celebrating at the end of Game 6.

Four more wins. Just four more wins.

A look at the position-by-position match-ups:



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356 comments
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MikeInEuless
MikeInEuless

One small quibble:  Baseball, to the best of my knowledge, never based World Series home-field advantage on which team had the best record.  Before 2003, they just alternated between the two leagues.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

You're quite right. I had totally forgot that. Makes any argument against using the All-Star Game to determine it silly.

Dennis Gonzalez
Dennis Gonzalez

It was gratifying to see the Redbirds beat the Rangers.  I've never in my 35 years as a Dallasite liked the Rangers, having been a Colt 45's fan as a kid, when my dad would fire up the old tube radio and listen to broadcasts from Houston.  I wanted to be the trumpet player at the stadium playing "Charge!", not knowing it was a recording.

My wife is from Mizura (the way she pronounces Missouri) and I had to convert to keep the peace, but ya know, I love the Cards, and even put up with my wife's boyfriend FredBird.

I was supposed to be mixing last week's Yells At Eels recording but couldn't concentrate and decided to give it up to go see the Cardinals squeak by on Allen Craig's at bat and "The Grill" Cruz's heartbreaking (not!) balldrop. 

See y'all at the Ballpark in Arlington on Saturday...pray for no rain!

smijca
smijca

Well, the outcome wasn't what we hoped but losing has never been so fun thanks to you guys. Same time same place tomorrow?

smijca
smijca

I have decided I won't panic until after tomorrow's game. Because, hey, if Rangers can take 1 of 2 then that's nothing to scoff at. I shall be optimistic (or completely foolish) and say that the Rangers win tomorrow and win the next three at home to win it all at home. So...when is CJ pitching again?

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Sure -- optimism is the baseball fan's best friend. That's why we love the game. Big deal -- one game out of seven. LONG way to go. This is fantastic. Kids today will never know a time when the Rangers were a laughingstock. We're competing against a good lineup and a historic franchise in the biggest baseball games of the year.

Tad Banyon
Tad Banyon

We looked like shit tonight

scottindallas
scottindallas

we looked like shit in game one of every series this post season

Tad Banyon
Tad Banyon

thats true and a reason for hope

smijca
smijca

And CJ is worth how much?

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Sam, you got your Game 2 preview work cut out for you. Lots to write about here. An all-round debacle. Not even close.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Between my Wash story the other day and La Russa one today, I kinda feel like I've already written it.

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

This is the sequel -- the first chance to compare and contrast ... and contrast. Because, wow. 

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Oh, I know. Just funny how it came into play so soon.

smijca
smijca

I know panic mode isn't supposed to set in after just one game but, damn it if it's not hard.

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Didn't feel, look or taste close to Rangers ball. Certainly not the post Aug. 27 team. This one looks like it could lose two in a row for the first time in two months.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

And that's it. 

La Russa: 1Wash: 0

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

I'm tired of facing hellacious pitchers with funky facial hair in the post-season. 

Rawlins
Rawlins

Robbed again in Battin' Rudes.

smijca
smijca

What was that Warsh? That's the way baseball go? I'm going to need a drink or two to get over this one.

scottindallas
scottindallas

The infrared film, like Shakira's hips, don't lie

Tad Banyon
Tad Banyon

We got the early postseason Michael Young back, yay!

scottindallas
scottindallas

yard time

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Or hit the ball of yourself time. Again.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

But not according to umps. He's called out. Wash out to complain, and rightly so.

smijca
smijca

Aw, hell. C'mon boys, do what you do how you do! But, just in case...what was that stat again on teams who win Game 1 of World Series again?

scottindallas
scottindallas

Meaningless, David Hume long ago established that the past bears no influence over the future.  It's all about will to power!

smijca
smijca

I like your silver lining philosophy, scottindallas. But it'd still be nice to get that Game 1 win just in case.

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Amazing how tense a single at bat can be even when yer down a run. Every pitch in every at bat.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Heck, it's more tense when you're down a run.

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Well, I mean ... it's worse when you're up a run and they have a man on. Something about losing your lead, rather than merely giving up a bigger lead.

smijca
smijca

I, for one, am looking forward to Warsh's icy, standoffish "no" when he's asked if he regrets not pulling CJ earlier. Curt. That's the way I like my Warsh.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Pit stop at Robert's on your way home?

smijca
smijca

No. Just a loong drive! Also, seeing as how Robert's lovely boy and wife are mentioned more than thrice a day...for shame Merten, for shame!

scottindallas
scottindallas

oh yes, Robert likes shame.  He can deal with that just fine.  You know what they say about Jewish mother's and guilt.  You get enough shaming, you come to like the shame.   (wink)

Tad Banyon
Tad Banyon

If we dont win this thing this year, Im not sure it can be done without at least one reasonably dependable ace

scottindallas
scottindallas

Take heart Rangers fans, we still have the top of our order coming up, what with Beltre, Cruz and company.  And, we have Adams and Neftali pitching in their familiar roles.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Berkman, Descalso and Molina up next for St. Louis.

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Ugh. Just, that one inning no one can explain to me (GERMAN?) left me lying in a big pile of UGH.

Tad Banyon
Tad Banyon

I chalk it up to Wash trying too hard. Dont try to be LaRussa. Dont overthink it.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

That was awful, but leaving C.J. out there too long was just as costly, if not more so.

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Indeed. I was thinking, even more prescient than I'd thought at first.

smijca
smijca

Thus Merten's wonderful ode to LaRussa.

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