Pretty much everyone hates the Cardinals, right?

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Will Leitch is probably the most notable Cardinals fan in the little corner of the Internet a lot of us call home. And something dawned on him over the weekend:

I have spent so much time watching the Cardinals, reveling in their victories and agonizing in their defeats, that I had forgotten that the rest of the world was watching them, too … And the rest of the world, to my astoundment, hates the Cardinals. The rest of the world was cheering for the young, likable, fiery Washington Nationals, with their superstar youngsters and their facial hair and their natty natitude. The Cardinals weren’t the heroes to them; they were the brutish villains, the Cobra Kai, the Empire, stomping on the dreams of the upstart rebellion.

“Hates” is probably too strong a word. I don’t think people truly hate them. If anything, they have become incrementally more likable now that Tony La Russa is gone and don’t have many personalities — apart from maybe Chris Carpenter — who tend to draw the ire of fans in any notable way.

But people are certainly tired of them. Tired of them in much the same way people are tied of the Yankees. If you’re not a fan of either of those teams you almost always want to see them lose. Not because there’s anything wrong with them in and of themselves, but simply because we’re tired of the stories about them told during the postseason. Tired of the late comebacks which, no matter how exciting they are in any given moment, have some dispiriting element to them for anyone who doesn’t cheer those teams on.

It’s probably because the Cardinals and the Yankees are the ultimate overdogs.  They have attained that status for very different reasons, of course. They have different financial structures and fan bases and press coverage and general attitude surrounding them. But they are both considered the gold standard of their respective leagues for whatever reason and they both can never, ever be counted out.

Folks don’t like that much. If their own team can’t be in it, they prefer that just about any other team move on before the Cardinals and the Yankees do.  They either want to root for underdogs or, if there are no underdogs around — remember, the Nationals won way more games than the Cards did — they at least want the new stories and faces on their TV screens in October.

All of which makes this postseason rather dreary.  We were a couple of random bounces, key hits and close calls away from the A’s, Orioles, Nationals and Reds playing in the ALCS and NLCS. That may have been ratings poison for Fox and TBS, but it would have been refreshing for people who were watching.  Now we have those two always-theres in the Yankees and the Cardinals.

And really, the other guys aren’t a ton better.  The Giants don’t have that same feeling as the Cardinals, but they did just win it all in 2010. Saving them, I reckon, is the fact that Brian Wilson can’t pitch this year, which goes a long way to combat the annoying familiarity.  The Tigers are no Yankees and are not even as ubiquitous and tired a story as the Rangers have been, but they do have the Cabrera-Verlander duo which have consumed an awful lot of media oxygen when it comes to MVP arguments and such in the past two years.

So, nope, we really don’t have any fresh faces or exciting new stories this postseason.  Those of us who aren’t Yankees and Cardinals fans are probably settling on rooting for the Tigers and Giants, but it’s not that satisfying.  I suppose the best we can root for is high-quality baseball over the next two weeks and change. Which, given how sloppy and ugly so much of this postseason has been, would be a refreshing storyline of its own.

Sigh.

Astros vs. Dodgers is a match made in heaven

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A lot of people who work at the league office or who take paychecks from the Fox network probably wanted to see the Yankees and the Cubs in the World Series. They won’t admit it, of course, but I suspect that many did, as the ratings for a Cubs-Yankees Series might’ve broken modern records. If they are at all disappointed by the Astros and Dodgers winning the pennant, however, they should let that go because they’ve been gifted by a wonderful matchup from a purely baseball perspective. Indeed, it’s one of the best on-paper matchups we’ve had in the Fall Classic in many years.

Before the Dodgers went on their late-August, early-September swoon, this was the potential World Series pairing most folks who know a thing or two wanted to see. At least I did, and I don’t think I was alone. It was certainly the matchup which represented the teams with the two best regular season records and storylines at the time. While Cleveland ended up winning more games than Houston did, for the first time since 1970 we have a World Series pitting two 100-win teams against each other.

Like that Orioles-Reds series in 1970, which featured Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson and a host of other All-Stars, the Dodgers-Astros provide us with an embarrassment of big names and future Hall of Famers. Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw and Astros DH/OF Carlos Beltran are destined for induction already. Astros ace Justin Verlander may very well join them, especially if his late 2017 surge is evidence of a second career peak. Houston second baseman Jose Altuve‘s first seven years and Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen‘s first eight are the stuff upon which Cooperstown resumes are made as well. People will be arguing Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley‘s Hall of Fame case for years once he retires.

Youth is served as well in this matchup, with each club featuring a handful of the game’s best young players to accompany their big name veteran stars.

The Dodgers will bat their no-doubt N.L. Rookie of the Year first baseman Cody Bellinger second or third in the lineup every game. 2016 Rookie of the Year Corey Seager, who sat out the NLCS with a bad back, is expected to be activated for the Series where he’ll be the Dodgers shortstop. The Astros are actually an old team on paper — Verlander, catcher Brian McCann, starter Charlie Morton, first baseman Yuli Gurriel, outfielder Josh Reddick and DH Evan Gattis are all over 30 while Beltran is 40 — but young players are essential to their attack as well. Shortstop Carlos Correa just turned 23 and he’s one of the game’s brightest stars. Third baseman Alex Bregman, also 23, made the play that may very well have broken the Yankees’ back during Saturday night’s pennant clincher. Age aside, the Astros are the product of a major, multi-year rebuild and many of their players are making their first national splash this postseason.

Beyond just the names and resumes, though, the Dodgers and Astros represent a fantastic strategic matchup. The Dodgers attack this postseason has featured admirable plate discipline, with third baseman Justin Turner, right fielder Yasiel Puig and center fielder Chris Taylor all letting balls out of the zone pass them by while abusing pitches left out over the plate. Astros pitchers not named Justin Verlander, however, have lived by getting the opposition to chase bad balls. Game one starter Dallas Keuchel did this by relying on his very fast sinker. Lance McCullers pitched well starting Game 4 of the ALCS and pitched spectacularly closing out the final four innings of Game 7 mostly by virtue of his curveball, which Yankees pitchers could simply not lay off. Indeed, his final 24 pitches of Game 7 were all curves, many of them low and away. Who will give in first in this series?

On the side of things, Dodgers relievers have made a living by pumping in strikes. Particularly strikes high in the zone from Jansen and Brandon Morrow. There may be no better fastball hitter in all of baseball than Jose Altuve, however, and the team as a whole was one of the best in the bigs in dealing with gas in the zone. This was a big reason why the Astros struck out less than any team in baseball this year while simultaneously boasting the best offense in the game. The Dodgers throw strikes. The Astros make you pay when you throw them strikes. Again, something’s gotta give.

Maybe the suits in New York wanted the Yankees and Cubs. But everyone else is getting exactly what we want: a matchup of the two best teams in the game. A matchup of strength against strength. What is, from a purely baseball perspective, the best World Series we could’ve possibly hoped for.