Five Thoughts Heading Into the World Series

It has been a tumultuous journey to the World Series for Tony LaRussa and the Saint Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals journey to the World Series has been simply stunning. They rallied from a 10 ½ game deficit in the final two months to clinch a playoff berth on the final night of the season.

They knocked off a Philadelphia Phillies team that was built specifically for the playoffs. Sure, naysayers may point to the fact that Philadelphia’s lineup struggled mightily down the stretch, but the Cardinal offense still had to get past two former Cy Young winners and Roy Oswalt, who dominated the Cardinals in October during his time with Houston.

Octavio Dotel continued his dominance of Ryan Braun, striking him out in Game 5 of the NLCS to preserve the Cardinals' lead.

Next up for the Cardinals was Milwaukee. While on paper the two teams were almost identical, it was the Cardinals’ bullpen and offense that finally started to click on all cylinders (at the same time) to power this team to victory. I am not a huge TLR fan, but the decisions he made in the NLCS put this team in the best position to win.

The best part of his moves: they were ones that not only made sense, but were also low-risk, high-reward ones. The one that stands out to me is putting in Dotel to face Ryan Braun in game 5. TLR opted to leave Garcia in to face Braun in game 1 and it ultimately cost the Cardinals the game. Thankfully, the skipper learned his lesson and pulled Garcia before things got out of hand.

Now the Cardinals will wage war against the Texas Rangers. It only makes sense that the odds are stacked against the Cardinals. This is nothing new for them. They know what they are up against and will take nothing for granted. As the Cardinals prepare to take on the Texas Rangers in this best of 7 series on the national stage, here are five thoughts heading into the World Series.

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Missouri rolls over Iowa State on 100th Homecoming Anniversary

Just a week after falling below .500 for the first time since 2004, the Missouri Tigers capped off a week of celebration for the school’s 100th homecoming anniversary with a 52-17 rout of the Iowa State Cyclones.

It was a total team effort for the Tigers as quarterback James Franklin found the end zone five different times, while tailback Henry Josey rushed for over 100-yards for the third time this season.

“[Josey has] some quicks. He touches the football, he’s a difference guy, and he’s a young player,” Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said. “Boy you just have to give him a little seam and with his acceleration he’s really a very impressive guy.”

Playing in front of 71,004 fans, the first sellout at Farout Field since last season’s homecoming game against Oklahoma, Missouri opened the game with 10 straight runs, including a 1-yard sneak from Franklin with 12:03 to go in the first quarter for its fastest touchdown of the season. Franklin and the Missouri offense found the end zone again just minutes later after an Iowa State fumble set up a 2-yard touchdown run for Josey, who finished the game with 129 yards and a touchdown on 19 attempts.

“I had a great game today, and my offensive line did a great job. We came out with a lot of confidence,” Josey, the Big 12’s leading rusher, said. “[Offensive coordinator Dave] Yost did a good job of calling plays that allowed me to get into the open field.”

After essentially being a non-factor throughout the first half of the season, tight end Michael Egnew caught 6 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown, including a 39-yard score late in the first quarter, the longest of his career. TJ Moe and Wes Kemp also found the end zone for Missouri, who finished the game with 583 yards of total offense and had 8 different players with receptions.

“It’s nice to see [Egnew] back in the game here,” Pinkel said. “We had a chance to get a lot of people out and catch a lot of footballs.”

While Franklin did complete 20 of his 28 passes for 289 yards and 3 touchdowns, he did throw 2 interceptions on consecutive drives early in the game, one of which was returned 78-yards for a touchdown.

“Those were very poor decisions by James, and the great thing about that is he came back,” Pinkel said. “[The interceptions] were almost back-to-back, we lost field position. And can you come out of that and continue to focus, regain your focus and go out and execute? So, there’s a great lesson there if you learn it and you apply it and I think he did.”

Next up for Missouri is #6 Oklahoma State who is coming off of a 38-26 victory over Texas.

The Cowboys, who have one of the most prolific offenses in the nation, are averaging 395.7 passing yards per game (2nd in the nation) and 49.2 points per game (2nd in the nation). Fortunately for Missouri, however, their defense leaves much to be desired, allowing an average of 27.3 points per game.

“Oklahoma State’s a great team to face next week,” Franklin said. “We’ll have to be at the top of our game.”

Bottom line, the key for Missouri will be to have the offense firing on all cylinders from the start. The margin of error, especially for Franklin, will be razor thin. While the team was able to recover from his 2 interceptions against Iowa State, the Cowboys present an entirely different challenge and have the offensive firepower to immediately turn any turnover into points. This game will come down to which offense can out perform the other. That tandem of quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon masks a lot of flaws in Oklahoma State’s defense, because those two are talented enough to outscore any opposing team by themselves.

Missouri has not beaten Oklahoma State since 2005 and are winless at home against the Cowboys under Gary Pinkel. Kick-off is scheduled for 11 am next Saturday at Farout Field.

Quotes and stats courtesy of MUTigers.com

Missouri takes big step towards exiting Big 12

Missouri has taken another step towards leaving the Big 12. Tuesday evening, MU’s board of curators voted to give chancellor Brady Deaton the authority to explore other conferences. The governing board’s members agreed unanimously after a four hour meeting at the UM-St. Louis campus to give Deaton the power to take “any and all actions necessary to fully explore options on conference affiliation….which best serve the (school’s) interest.”

Deaton, who has been working tirelessly to keep the Big 12 together over the past few months, also stepped down as chairman of the Big 12 to avoid any conflicts of interest.

Tonight’s developments come a day after the Big 12 announced the 9 remaining chancellors and presidents had agreed to equal revenue sharing for the tier 1 and 2 sports, pending a long-term commitment to the conference from all 9 schools.

“What brings us here tonight is that the Big 12 Conference is now requesting that its members make binding, long-term irrevocable commitments to the conference,” said Steve Owens, interim president of the four-campus University of Missouri system. “We don’t fault the Big 12 Conference. It is something it should be doing in order to promote stability.”

Shortly after Missouri made its announcement, Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas said he was confident that MU would remain with the Big 12, despite its exploration of other conferences.

“The University of Missouri is a member in good standing in the Big 12 Conference, and I anticipate the University will continue to be a member of the Big 12,” Neinas said in a statement.

While Oklahoma and Texas A&M both made similar announcements last month, Missouri’s decision to give Deaton the power to explore other conferences is much more significant considering the lack of commitment to the Big 12 and speculation that MU is the SEC’s top pick for a 14th member.

For anyone who cares, here is my two cents on the issue:

-While I like the idea of joining a conference whose stability is not in question, I do not like the idea of Missouri joining the SEC. Geographically and historically speaking, the Big 12 makes the most sense for Mizzou. The football program’s recent success has come due in large part to Gary Pinkel’s ability to recruit in the state of Texas, picking up players such as quarterback Chase Daniel who were overlooked by Mack Brown.

-If Missouri joins the SEC, there is no guarantee that their rivalry with Kansas will be preserved, especially in football. Let’s be honest. With a conference schedule that is going to feature the likes of Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, and Arkansas among others, MU is going to stay away from legitimate (yes, it will get so bad that even KU will be considered legit) non-conference opponents. Read: non-conference schedule will feature series with Western Kentucky, East Texas A&M, and Truman State. No thanks.

-After tonight’s announcement, I think the writing is on the wall, Missouri is leaving the Big 12. I believe they only make tonight’s announcement (and do not immediately re-commit to the conference) if there is a deal already in the works with the SEC.

-There is an outside chance that Mizzou is trying to draw the Big Ten out of hiding. If that is the case…I hope the public never finds out, because the backlash for such a blatantly arrogant and ignorant move by Deaton and the BOC would be insane.