Redbird Rants spoke with MLB Network analyst John Hart on Monday afternoon prior to the start of the 2013 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox. The former Cleveland Indians general manager is a MLB Network analyst who will be part of MLB Tonight’s pre- and postgame coverage of the World Series.
Redbird Rants: What is the biggest difference between the Cardinals and Red Sox when it comes to the pitching?
John Hart: I think the Cardinals might have a slight advantage in 1 and 2 if you’ve got Wainwright/Wacha vs. Lester/Bucholz because I’m not sure if Bucholz is exactly where he needs to be. I’m not sure if he’s going to throw 2 or Lackey but with the role that Michael Wacha has been on, it’s obviously not spoken mirrors. There’s some legitimacy there. You worry a little bit about Wacha perhaps throwing at Fenway. That’s going to be another big test but they did it in front of the blackout in Pittsburgh.
I think that you’ve got a little advantage there. It’s a slight one. I think probably 3 and 4, the edge might slip to Boston a little bit. When you look at Kelly and Lynn vs. Lackey or Bucholz and Peavy. I don’t think it’s an advantage to Boston but it’s less of an advantage to St. Louis so I give a slight advantage to starting pitching to the Cardinals. I think Wainwright’s a pro as is Lester. I love both of these guys. Wacha, I think, matches up better than any of the 2’s whether it’s Bucholz or Lackey. I think 3 and 4 are pretty neutral either way.
Redbird Rants: As far as the overall matchup goes, where do the Cards have an advantage over the Red Sox?
John Hart: I think, again, a slight edge in the starting pitching. Offensively, they’re two different teams. I think the Red Sox have a better overall team speed. I think the fact that their first three hitters—Ellsbury is a runner as is Victorino and Pedroia—where I don’t really see a runner there with the Cardinals. The Cardinals might have one through seven if Allen Craig is back, which I think he will be. I think that 1-7–I think that there may be a deeper, better offense one through seven even though they don’t have the speed. Maybe better hitters, though, in there than the Red Sox.
I think that when you get down to the end of the lineup. I think the Red Sox might have an advantage. I think the short stop situation is a bit of an issue with the Cardinals. Again, it’s a very slight advantage offensively because of the ability to hit. They got a lot of guys that can hit the ball out of the ballpark. They’ve got some tough at bats. They grind, similar to Boston.
I think Boston is going to perhaps lose Napoli for the mid-three. Either Napoli or Papi. They’re going to lose their 4 or 5 hitter when they go to the National League park. That’s a big piece. They’ll become a bench player because either David Ortiz nor Napoli have another position. Not having the ability to catch Napoli that this guy might sit and they’re losing the 5 hitter. That’s going to further give St. Louis an advantage in a National League Park to St. Louis.
Again, it’s two different types of offenses. Both of them were the best offense in their league. They are both offenses. I like them. There’s a little more versatility with Boston but there are better hitters top to bottom with St. Louis.
Redbird Rants: The Cardinals have accounted for nearly 40 wins this season from rookie pitching alone. Will talent win out over experience in the World Series?
John Hart: Yes. It will. It wins out every time. I haven’t been a GM for 15 years and I understand experience. I love experience. I signed Orel Hershiser at the end, Dennis Martinez, Eddie Murray, Tony Pena, and won with those guys. We won because of our young talent. Exceptional talent is always going to trump experience if experience is lesser if you follow what I’m saying. In other words, I don’t mind seeing Rosenthal in the ninth inning or Carlos Martinez in the eighth inning or Michael Wacha. I don’t mind seeing that. I don’t mind seeing Xander Bogaerts because that’s young talent.
I think it trumps it but at the end of it, I think the Cardinals have proven it. Right now, they are the golden standard in all phases of the organization—through the draft, their player development is exceptional, they’ve made really wise trades, nice free agent signings. All the ingredients you put in the cake to bake it. The Cardinals have done a great job. When it’s all said and done, I’ll take the talent anywhere down the line if it’s exceptional talent over experience.
Like right now, if you ask me how would you feel about throwing Jose Fernandez in Game 2 against Michael Wacha or Jake Peavy. I’d take Fernandez right there even though Peavy has all the experience in the world. I’d take Fernandez because it’s that exceptional of a talent. That’s apples to oranges in this postseason.
I do like the talent. Exceptional talent. Rosenthal is an exceptional talent. Is he a finished off, fully polished closer? Not yet but he’s making huge strides to kind of be in the Kimbrel category. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t go ball four on everybody. This guy pounds the strike zone. He throw’s a hundred and has an angry fastball.
Redbird Rants: How big is Allen Craig’s return going to be this week?
John Hart: I think it’s huge. Again, you have to qualify that with the fact that the guy hasn’t played since the first of September. But all you got to do is look at Jhonny Peralta and you know, go, hey, it can’t be done. Here’s what I like about Allen Craig. Allen Craig is a professional hitter. At a young age, he’s got a great plate discipline. He’s got a great rhythm and balance. He’s more of a gap-type hitter where he’ll stay on the ball. I think he’s proven with the runners on base, the stakes that are out there, this guy will take what the pitcher will give him to drive in the run. I just think that this guy is a solid profile quality that gives you a tough, good at-bat all the time, especially with runners in scoring position. The only question there’s going to be is: what’s the layoff going to do to him? I don’t think we’ll know until we’ve seen a game or two and watched this guy’s at-bats.