October 30, 2011
When appropriate, Big League Stew reviews key decisions to see if the right one was made.
The Turning Point: In Game 7 of the World Series, Allen Craig(notes) hit a third-inning home run off Matt Harrison(notes) to give the St. Louis Cardinals a 3-2 lead over the Texas Rangers. The Cards would never trail again in the game, as they went on to win, 6-2, clinching their 11th World Series championship.
The home run was Craig's third of the series. And with that homer, he drove in the go-ahead run for St. Louis in four of the seven games against the Rangers. (The Cardinals went on to win three of those games, with their Game 2 loss being the exception.)
The Case For: In both Games 1 and 2 of the series, Craig came through with pinch-hit RBI singles off the Rangers' Alexi Ogando(notes) that gave St. Louis the lead. If not for him, the Cardinals could have been down 0-2 in the series before heading to Arlington for the next three games.
His three home runs tied teammate Albert Pujols(notes) for the highest total in the World Series. His 1.154 OPS was second to David Freese among Cardinals hitters, and third overall (behind the Rangers' Mike Napoli(notes)). And as mentioned, four of his five RBI in the series gave St. Louis the lead.
Craig also helped the team with his glove when he played in the field. In the sixth inning of Game 7, his leaping catch at the left field fence robbed Nelson Cruz(notes) of a home run that would've cut the Cardinals' lead to 5-3 and potentially fueled a Rangers rally.
The Case Against: Craig hit .263 (5-for-19) in the series, which not only trailed Freese's .348 average, but also Lance Berkman's(notes) .423 and Yadier Molina's(notes) .333. He had eight strikeouts, tied for the most among World Series batters. (With only 19 at-bats, that meant he struck out 42 percent of the time.) And while he drove in four go-ahead runs, Craig's five RBI were tied for the fifth-highest total among World Series batters.
Craig was also involved in two of the most notable gaffes of the series in Game 5 when he was twice thrown out trying to steal second base. Blame for those botched hit-and-runs fell to Pujols, who called at least one of the plays on his own then failed to make contact, leaving Craig as an easy target on the basepaths. But he still ran into two key outs in a game the Cardinals could have won.
And though Craig made an impressive catch in Game 7, he didn't play the field in three of seven games. If not for Matt Holliday's(notes) wrist injury, Craig probably would've been relegated to pinch-hitting duties in the last two games of the series. Though he made the most of his opportunities, it's difficult to argue Craig was as crucial a player as Freese, Berkman, or even Molina with such limited playing time.
Craig: "It's all about making the most of opportunities. You can't let opportunities slip, especially ones in the World Series. I'm just glad to be a part of it."
Tony La Russa: "He's an everyday player waiting to play every day."
Mark McGwire: "Pinch hitting for a young kid who is used to playing on an everyday basis is a very, very tough thing to do."
Stew Verdict: Craig made a very convincing case for World Series MVP, and could easily have won the award. Had the series been a short one — four or five games — his pinch-hit RBI would have been more resonant. But he lacked a signature dramatic moment, such as Freese's game-tying, two-run triple or walkoff homer in Game 6.
And maybe Craig's narrative just wasn't as compelling as the hometown guy who once quit the game, only to eventually become the breakout player of the 2011 postseason. That's not an unimportant consideration among those who want to tell a good story. Ultimately, the reporters and officials who vote on the MVP award got it right.
What do you think?