Conventional wisdom is that Mike Elias would like to pattern the Orioles after the Houston Astros, the team he worked for before coming to Baltimore. He wouldn’t mind mimicking the Astros’ success, but the Orioles’ general manager has said more than once that he also admires the work of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Elias began working in baseball as a scout for the Cardinals in 2007, and it’s St. Louis’ long record of consistency that he admires.
The Cardinals, who begin their National League Championship Series against the Washington Nationals tonight at Busch Stadium, are much more of a realistic model for the Orioles than the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees.
According to currentresults.com, St. Louis’ metropolitan area was 2.81 million last year, about 100,000 more than the Baltimore area’s 2.71 million.
People who’ve lived in both St. Louis and Baltimore say that the cities are similar. Many have resided there for generations, and there’s a great passion for their sports teams.
Each city has just two major league sports teams. St. Louis has the Cardinals and the NHL Blues, who won their first Stanley Cup in June.
St. Louis has lost the NFL twice, when the Cardinals moved to Arizona, and three years ago when the Rams returned to Los Angeles. In the 1960s, the NBA Hawks moved to Atlanta.
Baltimore lost the Colts in 1984 and welcomed the Ravens 12 years later. In 1972, the NBA Bullets, who are now the Wizards, left town.
In recent years, St. Louis has had great baseball success and the Orioles very little.
The Cardinals last lost 90 games in 1990. Since then, the Orioles have done it 12 times. Not since 1908 have the Cardinals lost 100 games, something the Orioles have done the last two seasons.
St. Louis has never had the No. 1 draft choice in the June draft and has 12 straight winning seasons.
The Cardinals don’t get to the postseason every year. Before this season, they’d gone three straight years without playing in October. This is their first NLCS since 2014.
The Orioles can’t match the Cardinals in fan support. In every season but one since 1998, St. Louis has drawn 3 million fans. In 2003, the season the Cardinals didn’t, they attracted 2.91 million.
A consistently competitive team with excellent fan support playing in a smallish market. That’s what Elias would like the Orioles to become.
My NLCS pick: After the bizarre 10-run first inning, the Cardinals cruised to a 13-1 win over the Atlanta Braves in the National League Division Series, then watched the Nationals’ heart-stopping rally and extra-inning win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Nearly everyone, including me, picked the Dodgers to represent the National League in the World Series, and now baseball is left with an NLCS that few predicted.
The Nationals should be exhausted. After winning the wild-card game, they had two cross-country flights, and must begin the NLCS on little rest.
St. Louis advanced directly to the NLDS and had to travel only to Atlanta and had an easy fifth game.
But the Nationals, who along with Seattle are the only teams never to play in the World Series, have the better starting pitching.
Anibal Sanchez starts Game 1 against Miles Mikolas, and Nationals manager Dave Martinez has Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin available for Games 2-4.
While the Nats’ bullpen was horrible in the regular season, they pitched well enough to win both deciding games.
Nationals in 7
ALCS prediction: Seemingly everyone predicted an Astros-Yankees LCS, and that’s what we have.
Sure, the Yankees polished off the Minnesota Twins in three straight while it took five games for Houston to beat Tampa Bay.
But I love the three Astros’ starters. Gerrit Cole looks unhittable, and though he won’t be ready until Game 3, having Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander to start the first two won’t make for much of a disadvantage.
There’ll be lots of home runs by the Yankees, who also have the superior bullpen. The Astros’ bullpen isn’t as strong, but their starters are better.
Astros in 7
Orioles announce agreement: The Orioles announced an agreement with K-MOTION to become the Orioles’ Player Development Partner.
K-MOTION provides personalized 3D swing data.
“Our partnership with K-MOTION allows us to quickly build a smarter, more efficient foundation for our player development programs,” said Sig Mejdal, vice president and assistant general manager for analytics of the Orioles.
“From Single-A all the way to the majors, we expect K-MOTION Baseball to accelerate our goal of creating the sustainable, long-term success that will bring a World Series title back to the city of Baltimore.”
Babe Ruth Museum Event: I’ll be appearing on a Fan Forum panel with Orioles broadcaster Mike Bordick and former Orioles pitcher Ross Grimsley on Saturday from 1:30-2:30 at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum.
The Museum is at 216 Emory Street, a short distance from Oriole Park.
Admission to the event is free to Museum and Birdland members.