WHY THE TIGERS WILL WIN THE 2007 WORLD SERIES
A brief list prepared for the benefit of my old friend John in Iowa City, who wears his ragged Tigers cap to bed each night.
• Because the high council of baseball elders admires the fact that although Game 1 of the Series falls on your daughter's wedding night, John, you have made no special arrangements for a big-screen television to be set up at the reception hall; such restraint, such focus, will be rewarded.
• Because the Tigers have arms, and those arms have stones. Verlander guts out the crucial fourth inning in Game 2 of the ALDS, Rogers reinvents himself and busts Yankees hitters with inside heat, Bonderman flirts with a no-hitter, guys plunk Frank Thomas (0-for-13 in the ALCS) and toy with Nick Swisher (five strikeouts and one hit) and through it all Fernando Rodney and his tweaked lid say, "You don't want any of this, you're only gonna hurt yourself." They know they're deep, and they know they're good, and the knowing is all the difference.
• Because Thomas Magnum wouldn't have it any other way. And neither will Joel Zumaya.
• Because Detroit gets big-time pop out of the bottom of its order. They bat Brandon Inge (27 HR) and Craig Monroe (28), and sometimes Marcus Thames (26) down there in the seven, eight and nine holes -- just waiting on pitchers who've used up their energy and intellect to get through Curtis Granderson, Magglio Ordonez and Pudge Rodriguez. And these other guys are just waiting on pitchers to go into their windups with anything less than full concentration and strong stuff, just waiting to kick somebody in the gut.
• Because (and you may have heard this once or twice before, but I think you'll have to agree it just gets more moving each and every time it's uttered aloud) Jerome Bettis was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. True story.
• Because, if he has to, Inge will run barefoot over broken glass while Cardinals fans shoot poison darts at him, all "Raiders of the Lost Ark" style, from the stands, to catch a pop-up in foul territory.
• Because the list of World Series champions since 2001 (Arizona Diamondbacks, Anaheim Angels, Florida Marlins, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox) reads like an absurd, illogical, delightfully unexpected litany -- the next sacred term of which can only be "Detroit Tigers."
• Because with runners on and nobody out, and with the St Louis crowd at a lusty, mean-spirited pitch, a man is going to walk to the mound to settle his young pitcher down and offer words of encouragement to his young infield. And that man is going to be Jim Leyland, which means the young pitcher is going to be settled down and the infielders are going to be encouraged. The Leyland quote of the week, in a reverse-Van Gundy sort of way, came from Todd Jones, who told MLB.com: "He dictates everything. We just follow his lead. We just close our eyes, grab onto his leg and go."
WHY THE CARDINALS WILL WIN THE 2007 WORLD SERIES
As penance for my suggestion a few weeks ago that the Cards, mired in a late-season swoon, should keep losing -- here's a brief list prepared in tribute to the high council of baseball elders and their infinite wisdom, to the good people of St. Louis, Mo., and to my new friends Bridgid and Dan, devoted members of Redbird Nation.
• Because no one thinks they will win it. According to our SportsNation poll here at ESPN.com, 76 percent of the country believes the Tigers are a lock to win the Series. Two things about this, both immeasurable, but not irrelevant: One, Detroit hasn't been a mortal-lock favorite since Kirk and Sparky were conspiring against the aging Goose and his brown-and-yellow-clad brethren back in '84, and it will weigh on them, and they will find the bats heavier, and they will find routine plays trickier, and they will feel a sudden, unexpected empathy for the Yankees they vanquished just two weeks ago. Two, the Cardinals have a legit claim to the underdog, get-no-respect mantle in this series and to the angry edge that comes with it. The screw-you fire is worth a little extra umph, a little extra free swinging-ness on the big stage; while the Tigers tighten up, the Cardinals let loose.
• Because they've already survived a terrifying September losing streak, Scott Spiezio's red dye No. 2 soul patch, Preston Wilson hitting in the lineup in front of Albert Pujols and Juan Encarnacion hitting after him, and Endy Chavez's sixth-inning Game 7 catch in the cold rain at Shea. What could scare them now? They fear nothing.
• Because Adam Wainwright is the better closer in this series.
• Because Chris Carpenter, Jeff Weaver 2.0 and Jeff Suppan, with their first-pitch breaking balls for strikes, will own an anxious, first-pitch-swinging Detroit lineup that was third to last in all of baseball in walks (430) this year.
• Because they have momentum. Because they're battle-tested. Because they come in on a high. In short, because the cliché truck done backed up at their doorstep and dropped all the good ones down on the porch.
• Because Yadier Molina (two HRs, 12 hits and seven RBI in the postseason) thinks he's Pujols. And because, oh by the way, the real Albert Pujols also plays for them -- and strained hammy or no strained hammy, there is absolutely no chance he'll be held to one RBI in the next series.
• Because you know all that good, gritty, gutty stuff Inge brings to the Tigers? David Eckstein invented that stuff. It's true. Not a lot of people know this, but he was actually signed as a free agent directly out of a grainy sepia-toned team photo of the Gashouse Gang. You should hear his Ducky Medwick stories
• Because Tony La Russa will see Jim Leyland's plain-spoken gravitas and raise him some devious, micromanaged in-game strategy. He will get in guys' heads, he will disrupt their timing, he will make them wonder what he knows that they don't -- and it will begin with the Tigers' grounds crew, and it will never, ever stop.
It's tight. It could go either way. Both clubs have compelling claims to the crown.
My prediction, after careful deliberation?
Yankees in six.
That Jeter kid, he just knows how to win.
Eric Neel is a columnist for ESPN.com and Page 2. Sound off to Page 2 here.