The St. Louis Cardinals are the closest thing the National League has to the New York Yankees. The Dodgers are right behind them.
Since taking their name in 1900, the Cards have won 11 World Championships, 18 pennants, and retired 13 uniform numbers, not including Jackie Robinson. And let's not include Jackie Robinson.
The Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers have six World Series titles and 22 NL pennants to their credit -- five and nine in New York and L.A., respectively -- while retiring 10 numbers, very much including Jackie Robinson.
The Cardinals have a near-legendary October performer in Carlos Beltran (.345, with 16 home runs and 31 postseason RBIs lifetime), the Dodgers have the planet's best pitcher in Clayton Kerhsaw.
The Dodgers have World Series god Sandy Koufax in their corner, the Cards have one of their own, guy by the name of Bob Gibson.
Andre Ethier is aching to come back to center field for the Dodgers, injured Allen Craig is off the Cardinals' NLCS roster, but hopes to DH in the World Series.
L.A. beat St. Louis in their last playoff meeting, when Matt Holliday famously and painfully misplayed a ball in the 2009 NLDS. St. Louis beat Los Angeles in their only National League Championship Series matchup, when Jack Clark famously and painfully-for-Tom-Niedenfuer homered his team into the 1985 World Series.
I attended that one, which most Dodger fans refer to wistfully as "the Jack Clark game," with a Hollywood actor. He's a man of the cloth now. Seriously.
We're both looking for a different result this time, and while I'm predicting L.A. in six, I have no idea. I called the NLDS -- Dodgers in four -- but that was the always-losing-in-the-first round Braves, this is the St. Louis Cardinals, superior to Atlanta in every way imaginable, especially when it matters most.
Cards to watch (and worry about) are many, and include in alphabetical order, Beltran, Matt Carpenter, David Freese, Holliday, Jon Jay, Yadier Molina, Trevor Rosenthal, Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright. Add some extra fretting over Beltran.
St. Louis fans have to worry about the Dodgers too, who will be ready with their 25 guys, and hopefully a smaller number of bunt attempts.
The clubs have until 8:00 a.m. PDT to submit a final roster to Major League Baseball. With the extending to a best-four-out-of-seven for the League Championships in both leagues, and a healthier Ethier anticipated, I expect the Dodgers to drop Dee Gordon in favor of a 12th pitcher, a relative coin flip between Edinson Volquez and Carlos Marmol.
Possible roster scenarios also include keeping Gordon and replacing Scott Van Slyke with a pitcher, keeping both Gordon and Van Slyke, while replacing Paco Rodriguez with Volquez or Marmol, or the dropping of a player with a previously-unannounced injury in exchange for a more able body.
Ponder this: Analysts are pointing to the Cards' hitting .238/.301/.371 against left-handed pitching this season as a potential Achilles heel (they hit .280/.343/.412 versus righties), as if all the Dodgers have to do is trot out a southpaw to foil them. Don't buy it. Not in October, anyway. And beware of Carlos Beltran, who doesn't care a lick about which arm a pitcher uses to deliver the baseball.
NLCS schedule, with all times Pacific, and announced probables are as follows:
Zack Greinke @ Joe Kelly, tonight at 5:37 p.m. on TBS.
Kershaw @ Wacha, Saturday at 1:07 p.m. on TBS.
Wainwright @ Los Angeles, Monday, October 14 at 5:07 p.m. on TBS.
St. Louis @ Los Angeles, Tuesday, October 15 at 5:07 p.m. on TBS.
St. Louis @ Los Angeles, Wednesday, October 16 at 1:07 p.m. on TBS (if necessary).
Los Angeles @ St. Louis, Friday, October 18 at 5:37 p.m. on TBS (if necessary).
Los Angeles @ St. Louis, Saturday, October 19 at 5:37 p.m. on TBS (if necessary).
Ethier is 10 for 33 with three homers lifetime against Wainwright, via Jon Weisman, who also has a clip of a rather significant faceoff between the two men.
Matt Kemp's shoulder cleanup surgery has been "deemed a success." In other words, he survived it.
Hall of Famer Frank Robinson kicks off the inaugural Frank Robinson Celebrity Golf Invitational Monday, November 11th at the Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles, with support going to the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton.
Registered participants golf with sports and entertainment celebrities, including Hall of Famers Robinson, Rod Carew, Reggie Jackson and Joe Morgan, baseball All-Stars Kenny Lofton, Mike Piazza and Bret Saberhagen, NBA Hall of Famers Bill Russell and Jerry West, NFL Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson, and actors Anthony Anderson, Don Cheadle and Kevin Nealon.
Click here to register for the event, and to learn more about the MLB Urban Youth Academy.
[Update at 9:45 a.m.]: The Dodgers have dropped pitchers Chris Capuano and Paco Rodriguez from their NLCS roster, replacing them with Edinson Volquez and Carlos Marmol.