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Some Teams Just Know How To Win When It Matters


In the twenty-some odd years that I've been a sports fan, one of the things that I have come to learn is that when you compete at the highest level, the final outcome is rarely ever decided by which team or individual. Instead, big games are won and lost by one's preparation, mental toughness, and a belief...not just a belief in one's self, but a belief in the system.

That system is what elite team's strive for, and what separates contenders from pretenders. As we embark on the 2011 edition of the World Series, seeing the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals meeting up in the Fall Classic just makes sense...even though most pundits and prognosticators never saw this coming.

No seriously, no one saw this coming. Check this out, as back in the beginning of the season ESPN put their top folks together to come up with who would be in the 2011 World Series:

Marty Bernoski, ESPN.com – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Phillies
Aaron Boone, ESPN – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Phillies
Steve Berthiaume, ESPN – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Braves
Dave Cameron, FanGraphs – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Braves
Jim Caple, ESPN.com – WORLD SERIES: White Sox over Phillies
Jason Churchill, ESPN Insider – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Braves
Tristan Cockcroft, ESPN Fantasy – WORLD SERIES: Phillies over Yankees
Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com – WORLD SERIES: Braves over Red Sox
Richard Durrett, ESPNDallas.com – WORLD SERIES: Phillies over Red Sox
Gordon Edes, ESPNBoston.com – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Phillies
Doug Glanville, ESPN – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Phillies
Jason Grey, ESPN Fantasy - WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Giants
Steve Goldman, Baseball Prospectus – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Phillies
Pedro Gomez, ESPN – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Braves
Orel Hershiser, ESPN – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Phillies
Tony Jackson, ESPNLA.com – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Giants
Eric Karabell, ESPN Fantasy – WORLD SERIES: Phillies over Rays
Jonah Keri, FanGraphs – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Brewers
John Kruk, ESPN – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Braves
David Kull, ESPN.com – WORLD SERIES: Rockies over Red Sox
Tim Kurkjian, ESPN The Magazine – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Phillies
Keith Law, ESPN.com – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Braves
Andrew Marchand, ESPNNY.com – WORLD SERIES: Phillies over Red Sox
Joe McDonald, ESPNBoston.com – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Phillies
Matt Meyers, ESPN Insider – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Braves
Mark Mulder, ESPN – WORLD SERIES: Phillies over Red Sox
Amy K. Nelson, ESPN.com – WORLD SERIES: Braves over Red Sox
Dave O'Brien, ESPN – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Phillies
Buster Olney, ESPN – WORLD SERIES: Giants over Red Sox
Doug Padilla, ESPNChicago.com – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Phillies
Nick Pietruszkiewicz, ESPN.com – WORLD SERIES: Phillies over Red Sox
Karl Ravech, ESPN – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Braves
Nate Ravitz, ESPN Fantasy – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Phillies
Mark Saxon, ESPNLA.com – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Phillies
David Schoenfield, ESPN.com – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Braves
Jon Sciambi, ESPN – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Phillies
Dan Shulman, ESPN – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Braves
Mark Simon, ESPN Research – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Phillies
Jayson Stark, ESPN.com – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Phillies
Rick Sutcliffe, ESPN – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Phillies
Matt Szefc, ESPN.com – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Phillies
Peter Pascarelli, ESPN – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Giants
Bobby Valentine, ESPN – WORLD SERIES: Phillies over Red Sox
Dave Winfield, ESPN – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Phillies
Gene Wojciechowski, ESPN.com – WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Phillies


Seriously...no one picked the Rangers or the Cardinals? Out of 45 people? Good grief. It should be noted also that when 25 of the same contributors came together at the end of September and the playoff field was finalized that no one thought the Cardinals would get to the Fall Classic. Still no one believed.


Its the trick we all pull on ourselves. We always want our teams to go out there and get the best talent money can buy. The Boston Red Sox tried that this year in acquiring Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, and for what seemed like a blissful relationship for all involved in Beantown ended in one of the most epic collapses by an organization of all-time, players eating chicken and playing Madden in the locker room, and both the manager and GM both chucking the deuces.

Texas and St. Louis followed the same protocol that most successful teams do, they build from within and they have phenomenal chemistry. They make the savvy move, not the grandiose move. Texas had the chance to move Michael Young on countless occasions, but for what? Because there wasn't a position for him on the field in the beginning of the season? Uncle Ron and Nolan knew better, hung onto the all-star and he's thrived for the Rangers all season.

St. Louis knew they'd deal with the future free-agent saga that is José Alberto Pujols Alcántara. What they didn't know is that their ace Adam Wainwright would go down for the season, that Pujols would get hurt, that Matt Holliday would be sidelined in the second half of the season, and that their young talent would have to carry them this season. Fortunately for them, they had the old man Tony LaRussa back there calling the shots...and he's been here before. It been painfully obvious for anyone whose faced the Cards.

Per ESPN's Jayson Stark:
"We remind ourselves of that every day," La Russa said. "Even today, we went around to different players and reminded them it's always about maintaining your edge for that next game you play. So if even for a minute you do either one -- look ahead or look back -- you lose that edge."

So there was no time, even on this day, for them to ask: "How did we get here?" Which means we'll just have to ask it for them.
Its that type of mentality that the Rangers had to grow into (missing the playoffs in '09, losing the World Series in '10) and its the type of mentality that the Cardinals ('06 World Series champs) just take in from LaRussa, Pujols, and Chris Carpenter.

This won't be the most watched World Series at all, actually it won't be close. Not the fault of the two teams or MLB, most baseball fans are leeches to the teams that keep their teams in the headlines by making flashy acquisitions or causing a scuttle butt because one of their pitchers is crappy. Fans, players, and organizations should take note because knowing how to win is the hardest thing to learn.

-Ed.
www.edthesportsfan.com

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