BOSTON -- "Thirteen?"
David Ortiz repeated the number with emphasis, partly surprised and partly reassured. It is a number that represents an era of competitive balance in Major League Baseball.
With the reigning Giants long gone and the Cardinals and Red Sox about to meet in Game 1 on Wednesday night at Fenway Park, airing at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX, that is how many consecutive World Series will be played without a repeat champion, one shy of the longest such streak in Major League history, set from 1979-92.
The last repeat champion was the Yankees, who had three-year run from 1998-2000. These Red Sox (2004 and '07) and Cardinals (2006 and '11) have each won twice during this 13-year turnover party, and members of those clubs said during Tuesday's media day that that it is a good thing for the game.
"It's not easy," Ortiz said of repeating. "Well, you see that those Yankees, every year they had the team with the highest payroll out of everybody. Every good free agent out there, they'd go out and grab them. I'm pretty sure that what they did was something super special, because I don't think many teams had done it before -- winning that many years in a row.
"Everybody puts a different team together every year, so it's hard to keep up with going to the World Series every year. You see guys going to the playoffs -- 'Oh, we've got a good team.' You get to the playoffs, the next thing you know it's a short series and anything can happen."
The D-backs ended that Yankees reign in 2001, and they were followed in triumph by the 2002 Angels, 2003 Marlins, 2004 Red Sox, 2005 White Sox, 2006 Cardinals, 2007 Red Sox, 2008 Phillies and 2009 Yankees. Then the Giants won San Francisco's first World Series title in 2010, and last fall sandwiched a second one around that St. Louis parade in 2011.
"I don't know, I think it's a great thing, though," said Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter, now on the disabled list but hoping for his third ring. "Baseball is at such a high level right now. I think it's great. It's great to have this kind of representation from small markets to big markets. It's great that the competition level we have all year long, they're doing great things in this game."
His theory on the title turnover?
"Why it's different? I don't know if it's because of rounds, if it's better players," he said. "I think obviously the young players coming up, you see the transition all around the league of younger players who are just amazing. That's probably part of it."
When you mention to Carpenter that the Cardinals have had two previous chances to repeat, he sees it not as a failure to repeat, but as a privilege to even have the repeat opportunity.
"How fortunate is that?" Carpenter asked. "To be able to come to this situation four times? If I had told you that when I signed here in 2003, you would not have believed me. I was just hoping to get one. And then to come here in '04 and not be able to participate, because I got hurt at the end of the year, it crushed me. But then to be able to get another opportunity, and not only that, but to get another opportunity -- we're back again. I'm very fortunate where I'm at and where this organization is."
With the exception of the NBA (see: Miami Heat and previously the 2009-10 Los Angeles Lakers), this extends beyond MLB as a trend across the board in North America's major professional sports.
The National Hockey League has crowned 14 different champions in its past 14 seasons, dating back to the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings' repeat (the 2004-05 season was canceled due to lockout). The Super Bowl has gone eight straight years without a repeat winner, dating back to the 2004-05 New England Patriots.
You never hear the word "dynasty" mentioned around baseball, pro football or hockey in this era. That, say veterans at this Fall Classic, is good. Dynasties make for great legend, but they also can be demoralizing for hungry markets. And if neither the Cardinals nor Red Sox make it back to the 110th World Series in 2014, then this streak will match the record.
"I think it's a good thing because each team each year, it's a new team to win the World Series," said Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who was a rookie in 2004 when the Cardinals were swept by Boston, and then a key member of the '06 and '11 clubs. "They are all doing a good job, preparing a winning team obviously. It's good for baseball."
In 2005, the Red Sox followed up their long-awaited World Series championship by being swept in the American League Division Series by the eventual champion White Sox. In 2008, the Red Sox followed up their next title by making it to Game 7 of the AL Championship Series -- losing at Tampa Bay.
"We've had our chances," Ortiz said. "It's not easy. Anything can happen. Thirteen years -- that's a long time and that's how it is today."