Don't laugh now, but Cardinals have Red Sox in a dangerous position

October 27, 2004|By PETER SCHMUCK

ST. LOUIS - The St. Louis Cardinals have the Boston Red Sox right where they want them.

The Cardinals stumbled all over themselves last night and fell three games back in the 100th World Series with a 4-1 loss to Pedro Martinez at Busch Stadium, which should mean - if a century of baseball history is any indication - that they won't be having a parade around here anytime soon.

Except that this just set up the ultimate worst-cast scenario for the Red Sox, who are now in a position to remove any doubt that the Almighty really is disinclined toward them.

No team has ever blown a 3-0 lead in the World Series, but imagine what it's going to be like in Boston on Saturday when the Cardinals have crept back to 3-2 and gimpy Curt Schilling stands in the way of an apocalyptic Game 7. They don't make that much Prozac.

The Cardinals will win tonight and then it will be like old-fashioned water torture, with Red Sox fans suffering through Game 5 ... drip ... Game 6 ... drip ... drip ... and see you Sunday.

Maybe that sounds a little fatalistic, but I was at Shea Stadium in 1986 when that ground ball slipped under the glove of Bill Buckner. I was there in 1990 when Roger Clemens melted down in the playoffs against Oakland. Something always happens.

So far, it has been the curse in reverse. The Red Sox can't lose no matter what they do wrong. But if you think it's going to be this easy the rest of the way, you haven't been paying attention.

Truly, this is the best of all possible baseball worlds.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig wouldn't say it if it weren't so. He spent his first decade on the job predicting the sport's impending economic doom, and now he surveys the baseball landscape with a rosy outlook that is downright Panglossian.

"The renaissance of baseball has just been remarkable," Selig said. "As I told someone in Boston the other day, this year will be the gold standard by which all future years will be judged."

There's a case to be made. Baseball attendance continues to climb and television ratings have rebounded. The Red Sox just pulled off the greatest comeback in postseason history to defeat the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. The Cardinals and Houston Astros staged an unprecedented homerfest in the NLCS to set up this rematch of the 1967 World Series.

Selig is assuming that the World Series will live up to the hype and bring the season to a dramatic end, and who's to argue when any Red Sox victory - no matter how anticlimactic - will be considered cataclysmic. It has been a remarkable year both aesthetically and economically.

Let's stop right there for a moment while I explain to our green-jerseyed football fans from the north (whom I will be visiting this weekend) that the pretentious literary reference above was to the optimistic Dr. Pangloss in Voltaire's Candide, who insisted that everything in the world was created for its best purpose. He obviously never sat in the bleachers at The Linc.

He obviously never saw Jeff Suppan run the bases either. The Cardinals were supposed to be at a distinct advantage at Busch Stadium because they were playing Game 3 under National League rules - since their pitchers supposedly are used to hitting and running the bases - but Suppan looked like he was running to catch the wrong end of a bus when he was thrown out returning to third base on what should have been a very routine RBI grounder in the third inning.

There really is only one explanation: The Cardinals watched the Red Sox make four errors in each of their first two victories and decided that the only way to win this series was to play worse than the opposition. Next thing you know, they'll let their hair grow out and stop bathing.

Selig gets the last laugh with his response to a reporter who asked whether it was fair to use the All-Star Game to determine Series home-field advantage.

"Well," Selig replied, "it's not like we were using Einstein's Theory of Relativity to determine who got it before."

Contact Peter Schmuck at

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