10/10/06 4:14 PM ET
Opinions differ on experience factor
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
Edmonds also played for La Russa's teams that lost the NLCS in 2000 (to the Mets) and 2002 (to the Giants). Pujols was also a member of the 2002 team. Edmonds has 49 games of postseason experience, while Pujols has 41.In addition, Scott Spiezio and David Eckstein played for the 2002 Angels, the AL Wild Card winner that came from nowhere to defeat the Giants and win the only World Series in the franchise's history. For the younger Cardinals, making their initial journey deep into the postseason, all those experienced playoff veterans have to be a great source of support. "I think so," said Spiezio, whose Game 6 homer in 2002 helped save that World Series for the Angels. "Some of the younger guys asked me questions about how the postseason was going to be beforehand. The best thing about the end of the season, even though we didn't play that great, it was kind of a playoff atmosphere. It came down to the wire. I was telling them, 'This is what playoff games are like.'" The 2002 Angels are a perfect example of a young team congealing at the right time to make a run at the championship. Even though they won 99 games that season, the Angels went into the playoffs as a decided underdog to the Yankees, who were on a run of four AL pennants in a row. But like the Tigers this postseason, the Angels came from behind to win Game 2 at Yankee Stadium and stunned the Bombers in four games. "We have veteran leadership," said Eckstein, comparing this year's Cardinals with the '02 Angels, who were back in the playoffs for the first time since 1986. "That having been said, I was in Anaheim with a hungry club that was able to do it. That club over there [the Mets] is in the same situation." It's why baseball analysts believe that playoff experience loses to playoff momentum every time. "Discount all that experience stuff," said Tim McCarver, a FOX analyst who was the starting catcher on the 1964 Cardinals team that won the World Series. "It makes no difference. None. All these guys have had enough big-game experience that the theory holds no water, as far as I'm concerned." "Experience doesn't mean a thing," said Buck Martinez, who managed Team USA in this year's World Baseball Classic and is an analyst for XM satellite radio. "Look back to the 2002 Angels and the 2003 Marlins. It just matters who gets hot and who's pitching well at the time. This generation of ballplayers is such that they don't pay too much attention to history." What they pay attention to is taking advantage of the opportunity because it may come that way again. Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado is in the postseason this year for the first time after playing in 1,710 regular-season games. Ditto Cliff Floyd, who had only two hitless at-bats for Florida in the 1997 World Series to show for his first 1,415 regular-season games. "You can't underestimate the experience the Cardinals have," Delgado said. "By the same token, if you sit back and say, 'We've been here five times in the last seven years' and don't play the games, it's not going to get you anywhere." "They have a lot [of experience]," Floyd said. "But winning solves a lot of problems. We won three games in a row [in the NLDS over the Dodgers] and believe it or not, that's important at this particular time. Their experience might help [the Cardinals] a little bit preparation-wise. But it doesn't help you win games."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.