Suppose we need to define "Go Cardinals", first. When a team goes Cardinals in the playoffs, they storm through three rounds, win 11 games, and have a delightful parade. But not just any team can go Cardinals. It has to be something of an under-the-radar team -- the team that's not going to get a lot of action in the pre-playoff picks. If we were doing this the year after the 2010 World Series, it might be called "going Giants", but:
a. The Cardinals are the most recent team to do it, but more importantly …
b. The Cardinals have the most "going Cardinals" team of all-time. Of all-time!
The individual version of this is known as "going Jeff Weaver", so it all ties together.
So that's going Cardinals. And I'll tell you a team that has a real good shot this year: the Cardinals. They slumped a bit toward the end, but it's still a well-balanced team. However, they won't be my pick because I don't trust any of the teams that have to win the one-game playoff. Maybe if the Cardinals dispatch the Braves, they'd be the pick. But the Cardinals, Braves, Orioles, and, what the hell, wait, Rangers?, aren't going to be the pick.
It's not going to be the Yankees. They don't go Cardinals; they go Yankees. I came of age as a serious baseball fan in 1996, so four of the first five World Series that I truly watched were Yankees-dominated. It was kind of gross, and it scarred me for life. The Yankees will never be a surprise pick -- they'll be the dammit-here-we-go-again pick for the next couple of decades.
The A's? Could be. But I also think they'll be a sexy pick with a lot of the prognosticators after their nutty second-half. You'll see a lot of people pick the A's, so they don't qualify with the under-the-radar part. Same goes with the Nationals and Reds -- you don't sneak up on the world after winning 97 or 98 games.
That leaves two teams. The Giants kind of work, but they'll still get some prognosticative love because of their second half, and they'll catch the eye of people who don't realize just how inconsistent their rotation has been apart from Matt Cain. They'll get picked quite a bit.
The Tigers. There you go. The Detroit Tigers, who were supposed to win the Central by 20 games, who were the only team you felt confident picking before the season, but who limped into the playoffs in a division with three 90-loss teams, have a good chance to be around in November, making everyone reevaluate their picks to see where they went wrong.
You might be ready to list the reasons the Tigers weren't as good as expected, starting with the defense, moving onto the defense, then staying with the defense. There are other reasons -- like, I'm starting to think Delmon Young might not live up to his potential, everybody -- and you can mix and match them as you see fit.
But going Cardinals isn't about what could wrong. It's about what could go right. Justin Verlander pitching on three day's rest, and dominating. Doug Fister and Max Scherzer being better than you remember, shutting the other teams down. Miguel Cabrera and/or Prince Fielder exploding for a series or three, similar to what Albert Pujols did in the NLCS last year. Something freaky and unexpected, like Jhonny Peralta and Omar Infante remembering how to hit.
That's my pick. They're not the logical pick to win the World Series, but there's nothing really logical about the playoffs. The Tigers have the best surprise-to-expectations ratio, so they're the one I'm going with.
Of course, the predictions are already coming out. And over at CBS, two prognosticators have already picked the Tigers to win the whole thing.
Which throws my theory out. But I'll tell you what team they didn't pick ...
Ah, hell, it's going to be the Cardinals, isn't it? It'll always be the Cardinals. Forget you read this. Not that you needed any help.