Winning ugly: The Cardinals topple the Brewers and win the NL Pennant

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Maybe I should say “beating ugly.”  Because while there were all kinds of things in this game that were hard to look at, the Brewers looked way worse in losing 12-6 to the NL Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

Three more errors tonight made for seven in Milwaukee’s final two games.  Fourteen more hits allowed means 24 in those two games.  The Brewers’ defense — never a strength — and their pitching suffered a complete meltdown in Games 5 and 6 of the NLCS.

From the moment Shaun Marcum blew up in Game 2 of the series, people were asking whether he’d get to pitch in Game 6.  The response back, however, was who else could Ron Roenicke use? The next arm on the staff was Chris Narveson and he’s no great shakes himself, so Marcum got the call. And he promptly gave up four runs on three hits.  From there it was Narveson, who was even worse, giving up five runs on four hits.  It seemed that either answer was the wrong one.  The Brewers — whose pitching was vastly improved in 2011 — simply didn’t have enough of it as the season came to a close.  A good arm like Marcum’s was simply too tired. And there was no one else to pick up the slack.

As for the Cardinals, it was the same old story:  a starting pitcher didn’t go deep but the bullpen stepped in and disabused the opposition of any notion that it could get itself back into the game.  Edwin Jackson had nothing on his pitches and his command was nonexistent. But then the pen gave Tony La Russa seven innings of three-hit, two-run ball.

And now we have a World Series matchup: Texas vs. St. Louis, beginning on Wednesday.  We’ll have a more in-depth preview of the festivities between now and then, but my knee jerk reaction: the Cardinals have a good bullpen pitching well and a lot of pop up and down that lineup.  But the Rangers have a better bullpen and more pop in theirs.  Although, I suppose someone could totally disrupt the script at this point and, say, leave a starting pitcher in for as many as five or six innings, but why go crazy now?

If we’ve learned anything this fall it’s that predicting baseball is for suckers.  But we still have our opinions, and this man’s opinion is that the Rangers seem like the stronger team.  We have two full baseball-free days in which to consider the matter, however.  For now: congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals: champions of the National League.

Michael Bourn opts out of his minor league deal with the Orioles

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Outfielder Michael Bourn was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Orioles late last season and hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with them through the end of the season. While that’s not enough to outweigh the miserable season he had in Arizona, it was enough to get the O’s to give him a look in spring training with a minor league deal. They signed him to one in late February.

Then, a couple of days later, Bourn broke his finger while playing catch with a football. Unable to play, the O’s cut him. In early April, once Bourn healed, the O’s signed him again. He played 11 games for their Triple-A affiliate and went 9-for-41 with ten walks in 51 plate appearances. While that makes for a decent OBP, his lack of any sort of pop or good contact suggests that if someone throws him strikes, he can’t do much with the ball.

As such, the O’s had not called him up to Baltimore. And as a result of that, Bourn exercised his opt-out rights and became a free agent.

Someone may take a look at him given that his batting eye seems to be intact and given that, in an admittedly small sample size, he still performed last season. But if he does get a look, it’ll likely be back at the minor league level.

Rob Manfred talks about playing regular season games in Mexico

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The new Collective Bargaining Agreement commits the players and the league to regular season games on foreign soil. Most of the focus of this has been on games in London, for which there has been a lot of activity and discussion.

Yesterday before the Astros-Tigers game in Houston, however, Commissioner Rob Manfred talked about playing games in Mexico. And not as just a one-off, but as a foot-in-the-water towards possible expansion:

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that the time had come to play regular-season games in Mexico City as Major League Baseball weighs international expansion.

“We think it’s time to move past exhibition games and play real live ‘they-count’ games in Mexico,” Manfred said. “That is the kind of experiment that puts you in better position to make a judgement as to whether you have a market that could sustain an 81-game season and a Major League team.”

A team in Mexico could make some geographic sense and some marketing sense, though it’s not clear if there is a city that would be appropriate for that right now. Mexico City is huge but it has plenty of its own sports teams and is far away from the parts of the country where baseball is popular (mostly the border states and areas along the Pacific coast). At 7,382 feet, its elevation would make games at Coors Field look like the Deadball Era.

Monterrey has been talked about — games have been played there and it’s certainly closer — but it’s somewhat unknown territory demographically speaking. It’s not as big as Mexico City, obviously. Income stratification is greater there and most of the rest of Mexico than it is in the United States too, making projections of how much discretionary income people may spend on an expensive entertainment product like Major League Baseball uncertain. Especially when they have other sports they’ve been following for decades.

Interesting, though. It’s something Manfred has talked about many times over the years, so unlike so many other things he says he’s “considering” or “hasn’t ruled out,” Major League Baseball in Mexico is something worth keeping our eyes on.