The first batter of the bottom of the ninth inning in game six of the 2011 World Series was Ryan Theriot. At that point in the game the Texas Rangers held a 7-5 lead, and when Theriot summarily struck out it dropped the Cardinals’ odds of winning to approximately 4%. Fans of both teams still remember what happened next, though obviously with different feelings about that night in October. Most Cardinals fans wanted their team to win the World Series, and to them the Texas Rangers just happened to be the ones standing in the way that particular year. I, on the other hand, a Cardinals follower living in the Dallas/Forth Worth Metroplex, needed the Cardinals to win. Your team losing the championship is never fun, but it is downright brutal when you are surrounded by legions of the other team’s fans.
I actually do not mind the Rangers as a team. Growing up in Texas, Nolan Ryan was always one of my favorite athletes to watch, and so even as a Cardinal fan I am glad when the local team wins, so long as it does not come at the expense of the Redbirds. (On a side note I still believe the baseball gods punished Ryan for saying before the series that the Rangers would win in six) I would wager that aside from the ridiculous Jurickson Profar for Oscar Taveras trade rumors that persisted for a while most of us think about how the Cardinals compare to the Pirates, the Reds, the Dodgers, and perhaps even the Yankees or Red Sox. Due mainly to geography, the link between the Cardinals and Rangers is stronger for me than for most of Cardinal Nation. It has been with great interest that I have seen how these two franchises have gone about their business since that spectacular night in October, and I have to be honest, the Cardinals seem to still have an edge.
- By my count as of this moment the Rangers have 8 players left from their 25-man World Series roster assuming Nelson Cruz signs elsewhere. If, as expected, Jason Motte makes it back from Tommy John surgery the Cardinals will also have 8 players left from that World Series team.
- Both teams said goodbye to their biggest sluggers who relocated to Anaheim, California. Albert Pujols in 2011, and Josh Hamilton in 2012 went to the Angels and have been far from successful in their time there. The loss of these two players has been negligible for both teams.
- At the time of the World Series both the Cardinals and Rangers were considered to have excellent farm systems. Due to a variety of reasons, both teams are not nearly highly regarded today. ESPN’s Keith Law ranks the Cardinals as the 12th best farm system in baseball, and the Rangers as the 13th best. One significant difference is the sheer amount of talent that has already graduated to the big league clubs. The Cardinals were all but carried to the World Series last year by players that came up from the minors while the Rangers saw much less of an impact both in sheer numbers and in performance. The Rangers have also parted with some talent in trades while the Cardinals have preferred to hang onto their homegrown talent.
- When it comes to immediate success neither team has won a World Series over the last two years, but in 2012 and 2013 the Cardinals were right there in the thick of the hunt. In 2012 the Rangers slipped badly near the end of the season and were eliminated in the one-game wild card. In 2013 they were eliminated by the Tampa Bay Rays in a one-game playoff to see who would make it to the postseason.
- The way in which both of these organizations have gone about building their respective teams over the last two years has been quite different. The Rangers have spent big free agent money on Yu Darvish, and Shin Soo-Choo, and they have taken runs at Zack Greinke as well as other big-name free agents. Texas has also traded for players such as Matt Garza, Alex Rios, and Prince Fielder. The Cardinals biggest free agency splash of the last two years has been Jhonny Peralta. The only real notable trade performed by General Manager John Mozeliak and company has been shipping David Freese west for Peter Bourjos. The Rangers have repeatedly made, or at least tried to make, big splashes in the transaction department while the Cardinals have exhibited a “less is more” philosophy. Much to the chagrin of the armchair GMs amongst Cardinal fans Mozeliak has tended to stand pat, and it has undoubtedly been the right thing to do.
- One area in which these two teams have diverged quite widely is in their willingness to commit large amounts of money into the future for aging players. The Cardinals have made significant commitments to premier players such as Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday, and Yadier Molina. However, using the information from Cot’s Baseball Contracts you can see that the large number of young, cost-controlled players that the Cardinals are relying on will allow them to pay those players because the Cardinals are relatively commitment free.
In 2019 the Rangers have committed a little over $54 million to Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus. Andrus actually has an opt-out after 2018, and the Tigers were willing to pay the Rangers $6 million a year just to get rid of Fielder, so a more realistic number is $39 million. Still we are talking about 2019, and the Rangers have already spent that much money. They do have more money to play with than the Cardinals, but such significant commitments so far into the future can hamstring even a wealthy team. Thankfully the Cardinals have been able to avoid these types of commitments.
2014 is the third season since the epic 2011 World Series. The two teams that participated in that fantastic series have traveled different paths ever since. It was good to be a Redbirds fan back then, and it is good to be one now.