Cinderella Is Dead: It's Heavyweights-Only Season In The MLB


At the beginning of the end, baseball’s cream has risen to the top. After a season where the field was level and all things seemed to be created equal, with no one, true dominant club, the four teams left standing as the League Championship Series begin are all members of the MLB elite, both in 2013 and in time. But despite all having division championships and big-win pedigrees coming along with them, each comes from a very different place.

The season resets for the second time starting tonight, and with a week left to decide who gets to grab the 2013 edition of the Holy Grail, there’s no party crasher left to hash out. All of the Cinderellas have left the dance and are at home soaking their feet. Because from here on out, there are nothing but heavyweights coming out swinging this October.

The big-money heavyweight of the AL, the Boston Red Sox, owned the American League East this year in the most unlikely of ways. After a resurrection from the cellar of the league under new management, and new inspiration, they performed as would be expected in their opening playoff match-up: dominantly. They put up runs in swarms with the same ease they kept them off the board. At Fenway, they bullied the Rays and beat their best arms with what looked like ease. Basically, they’re playing like the best team in baseball, which is the role they hijacked for themselves … and are still proving was legit.

That brings up the team with the least wins of any remaining but in many minds is the best in baseball regardless. The Los Angeles Dodgers forgot how to lose for much of the season. With the world’s greatest pitcher in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, the guy who would be the world’s best pitcher right now if it wasn't for his teammate, leading the way, they keep scores low and the hype high. The presence of Yasiel Puig resurrected a club that was face down in the river in early June and pushed the Dodgers to a runaway win in the West. They are the most irresistible force in the game, on a mission to continue stamping it.

Yet, if L.A. is the irresistible force, then the St. Louis Cardinals are the immovable object. The Cardinals cashed in their homemade chips to make their push this year and continued to be the mainstay of the National League, making their third consecutive National League Championship Series under yet again a brand-new guise. The chameleons of baseball stayed steady by deploying a club-record 20 rookies around their MVP-candidate core of Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig. But these rookies — Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal and Matt Adams — are not the regular run of variety; they are ready to play, ready to win and products of the best system in baseball. The Back to the Future Cards, with their Marty McFly’s around the field and Doc Brown Matheny on the bench, are back in the position they seem to inherit automatically.

But there is another regular at the bar in the LCS rounds this year in the Detroit Tigers. It was déjà vu all over again to get them there, playing a gauntlet of a series against the pesky Oakland A’s, but ultimately Justin Verlander shut the door in a style that made it clear why Detroit has been the force for the AL for the last three years. Each year, the Tigers have grown in the face of epic disappointment from the year before. After losing a heartbreaking LCS in 2011 and then having an overwhelming sweep in the World Series last fall, the logic would say there’s only one more outcome that is possible. And with Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Max Scherzer climbing the hill, they are looking to climb the mountain to see their valley below, finally.

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