When the Red Sox won two years ago, I think most of the people in the country were genuinely happy for them. I think most of the people in the country were at least happy not to hear about the Curse and Red Sox suffering anymore, anyway.
When the Chicago White Sox won last year, I think again most people in the country were happy for them--it had been even longer since they won the World Series than the Red Sox, and not many people knew it before that postseason. They were a Cinderella team, rising out of the mire of losing seasons, from the outhouse to the penthouse in one whirlwind ride.
That's who the Detroit Tigers were this year. After finishing in last place just the year before, they got a wizened, chain-smoking, old-school inspiration of a manager in Jim Leyland, a flock of fireballing young studs on the pitching staff, and set about energizing a city otherwise being devastated by yet another wave of the job losses and corporate bankruptcies that has gutted it bit by bit, year after year, since its postwar heyday.
The AL Central, for that matter, was the miracle division this year, between the Twins, the still-competitive White Sox and the out-of-nowhere Tigers. The real baseball magic this season was the AL Central.
The St. Louis Cardinals are--statistically speaking, now, not just subjectively--one of the worst teams ever to win the World Series, in terms of their regular season wins (83). The Cardinals had a shot in 2004 and blew it. A shot in last year's playoffs and blew it. This was the charmed third time, but far from the fairy-tale narrative many of us find so addictive about watching baseball.
According to my own interior barometer, the Tigers were it this year--from the very beginning they were the ones who captured my imagination. They were the ones with the compelling story. For the Cardinals--a bland team, there's just no getting around that--to win it all is a total anticlimax, from where I sit. And to win it 4-1 over that scrappy Tigers team...meh.
There wasn't even one particular heartbreak a la Bill Buckner that can now be mythologized and passed down through the ages--the Tigers booted the ball around, pitched like crap, were suspected of cheating, and in most ways failed to even show up.
I know Cardinals fans are ecstatic--there must have been some serious frustration in getting so close to the Promised Land so many times in a row and losing every time, and I can at least understand that feeling of catharsis--but as for the rest of us out here looking for a classic story, classic characters to go along with the Fall Classic, this Series has let us down.