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WHEELER: World Series Preview, Rams Lose Bradford, Mizzou in Top 10

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St. Louis Cardinals Carlos Beltran gets the celebration started with champagne as the team celebrates their 9-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on October 18, 2013. The Cardinals will now advance to the 2013 World Series. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

St. Louis Cardinals Carlos Beltran gets the celebration started with champagne as the team celebrates their 9-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on October 18, 2013. The Cardinals will now advance to the 2013 World Series. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

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Wow. Once again I blog coming off an insane weekend.

The Cardinals advanced to the World Series. Again.

Mizzou beat Florida soundly, jumping up into the Top 10 heading into this weekend’s game against South Carolina.

The Rams lost in an ugly performance against Carolina and they lost their quarterback for the season.

For fun I’ll touch on each of those subjects in reverse order…

Bradford Down, Rams Done?

Say what you will about Bradford but aside from his meltdown against the 49’ers on national television he was pretty good this year. Now the Rams are going to have to rely on Kellen Clemens, a journeyman who has never really been a starter, to lead the way on offense moving forward.

Well, I guess the good news is that the Rams will have a higher draft pick than they had anticipated. Ok, that’s not really good news. More the silver lining in a dark cloud.

I’m already writing off the rest of this season as development for the rest of the squad. Teams almost never win with backup quarterbacks and Kurt Warner is not walking through that door.

So what does this mean for the future of the franchise and for Bradford?

In a word: uncertainty.

The Rams lose their starting QB, which is terrible, but even worse is the fact that they lose 10 games of seeing how the pieces come together around him. They lose evaluation time and where QB was not likely going to be a significant part of their offseason plan, now it has to be.

ACL injuries generally take 6-8 months for recovery and for most athletes (not named Adrian Peterson or Robert Griffin III) it takes about a year to be “normal” again. That means there’s a chance that the early part of next season could be in question, though I would point to Tom Brady’s recovery from ACL surgery in 2008 as a good comparison for Bradford.

Brady had surgery in October 2008 and played the entire 2009 season with a brace on his knee, so that’s somewhat encouraging. Bradford is going to be about a month behind Brady (surgery in November) so that could muddle things a bit but football players seem to be coming back from ACL injuries faster than ever.

Still, can the Rams risk going through the offseason without a better QB alternative than Clemens? Do they draft one in a QB-rich draft class? I’d have to answer “no” and then “yes” to those questions.

What a bummer. The Rams came into this season hoping to take the next step and now they just have to see if they can find a way to survive.

Mizzou in the Top 10

I have to give Mizzou credit – I didn’t think there was any chance they’d beat Georgia or Florida. But they did, even with Maty Mauk filling in for the injured James Franklin, and now they’re in the Top 10.

Amazing and praiseworthy.

People will be annoyed with me for saying this but I still don’t believe Mizzou is as good as their ranking. Oh, they’re better than I thought before the season. There is no doubt about that. But they’re not as good as their record or ranking indicate. Neither are the Miami Hurricanes, Baylor Bears or Texas Tech Red Raiders but I do think Mizzou is probably the best of that bunch.

I give them credit. The Tigers have earned the respect they’re getting. For some reason, maybe I’m just dumb, I feel like the bottom is still going to fall out at some point.

Mizzou fans take heart…my doubts have nothing to do with whether they win or lose and since I’ve been wrong about them all season long maybe I’ll just continue to be wrong about them moving forward. And I’ll admit to that when the time comes. I’ve been wrong many times before and will be again…

World Series Preview

Let’s compare the 2013 Cardinals to the 2013 Red Sox (and neither to the 2004 versions who wore the same uniform, please!) position-by-position and see what we can come up with…

Catcher: big edge Cardinals

Yadier Molina is better in every measurable (and immeasurable) way compared to Jarrod Saltalamacchia and David Ross of the Red Sox. The Cardinals have both the offensive and the defensive advantage here.

First base: slight edge Red Sox

Mike Napoli has a lot more experience than Matt Adams does and he has hit better in the playoffs so far, which means something. They both have elite power and they both tend to swing and miss a good bit. Adams is a better defender than Napoli, so that helps keep the comparison close.

Second base: draw

Matt Carpenter and Dustin Pedroia are equals. Oh, they have their differences but the overall comparison results in a draw. Carpenter has hit for better power and a slightly higher average this season. They both walk with the same frequency. Pedroia is a faster base runner and is the better defender of the two.

Third base: draw

David Freese has had down year but he has a significant edge over both Will Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts when it comes to experience, both overall and in the playoffs. Middlebrooks probably has the best power of the group and Bogaerts is easily the most dynamic talent but Freese is more of a known commodity and that levels the playing field a bit.

Shortstop: big edge Red Sox

Look, Stephen Drew isn’t a world beater by any stretch of the imagination but he is as good a defender as Pete Kozma and he’s a much bigger threat at the plate than either Kozma or Daniel Descalso.

Left field: big edge Cardinals

Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes have combined to give the Red Sox good production from left field this season but neither of is the middle-of-the-order presence that Matt Holliday is. Haters are gonna hate but Holliday is an elite hitter who has already had a couple of signature moments here in these playoffs. He is the easy choice here.

Center field: big edge Red Sox

Jacoby Ellsbury is a fine all-around player. He hits for average, has some extra base power and has top tier speed. The good news for the Cardinals is that Molina usually controls the running game but Ellsbury will probably try to put that to the test. Jon Jay has been a very productive player for the Cardinals at times but has struggled defensively this season more than in 2012 and his offense just hasn’t been consistent. Ellsbury wins the matchup in every area.

Right field: big edge Cardinals

Shane Victorino hit the grand slam that put the Red Sox into the World Series and he had a strong regular season as well, but he’s not Carlos Beltran. Victorino is the better defender (better range) and runs better than Beltran but he is not an intimidating presence in the lineup. Not only did Beltran out produce Victorino in the regular season, he is the most dominant postseason hitter of all-time and that has to matter.

Designated hitter: slight edge Red Sox

If Allen Craig weren’t coming off 6 weeks on the sidelines I’d be comparing David Ortiz to Adams here and the Red Sox would get a bigger edge (though Craig would get an edge over Napoli at 1B in that scenario). Either way, these are two of the most dangerous and productive RBI men in the game. The only reason the edge goes to Boston is that Ortiz has been healthy and playing and Craig has been hurt.

Starting rotation: slight edge Cardinals

Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn vs. Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey and Jake Peavy.

The Cardinals are better on the front end of that comparison, based largely on how these guys have performed over the last 3-4 weeks, and the Red Sox have the edge in the 3-4 spots, in my opinion.

Either way, it’s close. Wainwright is the best pitcher in the group and Wacha is the hottest. That’s breaks the tie.

Bullpen: slight edge Cardinals

The Red Sox have the advantage when it comes to experience, having more veterans in the bullpen, but the Cardinals have better stuff at the back end. Koji Uehara has been unhittable as Boston’s closer this year and Junichi Tazawa has emerged as a good setup man, plus they have a reliable lefty in Craig Breslow, but the rest of their pen is a little on the shaky side. Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez have fastballs that no Red Sox reliever possesses plus the Cards can play matchups with Seth Maness, John Axford, Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist. The 9th inning is a draw but on the whole the Cardinals’ bullpen is better than Bostons, even if only slightly.

Prediction: flip a coin

I don’t feel good about picking either team, to be honest. I’ll go with the Cardinals in 6 or 7 but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the Red Sox won the series. One thing I absolutely do not expect is a blowout. I’d be surprised if either team won in fewer than 6 games.

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