INFOGRAPHIC: Dodgers top MLB payroll list again

BASEBALL – For the third season in a row, the Los Angeles Dodgers have the highest payroll in baseball’s Major League Baseball, shelling out an estimated 239 million dollars worth of salary in the 2015 season, which will start on Sunday, 5 April. By clicking this LINK you can activate our interactive Infographic. By checking and unchecking the boxes on the right hand of the screen you can compare any teams you which to match against each other and you can also look at teams across divisions.

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REVIEW: Boston Red Sox win their eighth World Series

BASEBALL – The Boston Red Sox won their eighth World Series in franchise history and a
league-high third since the year 2000 by seeing off the St. Louis Cardinals in
six games in the 2013 World Series. It was the first time in 95 years (1918)
that the Red Sox closed out the World Series in front of a home crowd.

> Since that time, the Fenway Park faithful had only seen the St. Louis
Cardinals (1967) and Cincinnati Reds (1975) celebrate a championship in their stadium.
> David Ortiz was named Series MVP. It was only the second time
that this honour was bestowed upon a designated hitter, with the New York
Yankees’ Hideki Matsui being the first in 2009.
> The victory capped off a remarkable turnaround season for the Red Sox who join the 1991 Minnesota Twins as the only teams to win the Fall Classic one year after finishing in last place in their division.
> This is now the fifth season in a row that the World Series have been won by a team that failed to reach the postseason altogether in the previous year.

PREVIEW: 2013 World Series – Red Sox v Cardinals

BASEBALL – The following is a preview for the 2013 World Series, featuring the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, which starts Wednesday, 23 October.

> These teams have met on three previous occasions in the World Series. In 1946 and 1947 the Cardinals needed seven games to edge the Red Sox 4-3 and in 2004 Boston retaliated with a 4-0 clean sweep over the Cards.
> In 1946, the Cards rallied from a 3-2 deficit in the series and won Game 7 in dramatic fashion on the “Mad Dash” by Enos Slaughter who came around from first base to score amid Sox players’ confusion.
> In 1967, Boston’s lineup was spearheaded by Triple Crown winner Carl Yastrzemski. Even the offensive exploits of “Yaz” could not help the Sox overcome the masterful pitching by Cardinals ace Bob Gibson, who was credited with three wins in the series.
> This will be the fourth World Series between these two teams and only three fixtures have been played out more often in the Fall Classic: Yankees v Dodgers (11 times), Yankees v Giants (seven times), Yankees v Cardinals (five times). Four equals the record for a World Series not featuring the New York Yankees. Giants v Athletics and Cubs v Tigers were also World Series fixtures on four occasions.
> The last time these two teams met was in the 2008 regular season. On 22 June 2008, Boston triumphed 5-3 at Fenway Park when Kevin Youkilis hit a home run in the 13th inning.
> These teams both established a record of 97 wins and 65 defeats in the regular season, the best record in their respective leagues. No two best sides from the regular season have met in the World Series since 1999, when the Yankees and Braves took each other on.

Boston Red Sox
> The Boston Red Sox will appear in their 12th World Series and their first since 2007, which is also the last year when they won the Fall Classic. From 1903 to 1918 they won five World Series championships titles. After sending Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1919, the ‘Curse of the Bambino’ set in, a jinx that would haunt the Red Sox for 86 years. The curse was lifted in 2004 when they miraculously recovered from a 3-0 deficit against the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series before sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
> Among American League franchises, only two have won more World Series than the Boston Red Sox’ seven, the New York Yankees (27) and Oakland Athletics (nine). 
> Boston won their last two World Series in a clean sweep, against the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004 and against the Colorado Rockies in 2007.
> The Sox have won their last eight World Series games. In the history of the Fall Classic, there are four longer winning streaks: 14 by the New York Yankees (1996-2000), 12 by the New York Yankees (1927-1932), 10 by the New York Yankees (1937-1941) and nine by the Cincinnati Reds (1975-1990).
> If the Red Sox win the 2013 World Series, it will be the fifth MLB season in a row that the title is won by a team that failed to reach the postseason in the previous season.
> The Red Sox last suffered defeat in the World Series in 1986, when they fell 4-3 to the New York Mets.
> In the ALCS, the Sox belted two grand slam home runs, by David Ortiz in Game 2 and by Shane Victorino in Game 6. In all of their previous postseason series together, the Sox had produced three grand slam homers. Victorino joined Jim Thome as the only players to have hit two career grand slam home runs in the postseason. Victorino previously performed that feat as part of the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies.
> Ortiz has been with the Red Sox since 2003, and as such was part of the Red Sox team that swept the Cardinals in the 2004 World Series. The burly Dominican set the tone for the series by hitting a three run home run in his first World Series at-bat.
> Apart from Ortiz, the remaining players from the 2007 championship team are: Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz. Except for Buccholz, all played in the 4-0 sweep of the Colorado Rockies.
> Two other players on this Red Sox roster won the World Series playing for another team. John Lackey achieved that feat with the 2002 Anaheim Angels and Shane Victorino won the World Series with the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies.
> Boston closer Koji Uehara has earned five saves in the 2013 postseason. The record by one pitcher in one postseason is seven by John Wetteland (New York Yankees, 1996), Robb Nen (San Francisco Giants, 2002), Troy Percival (Anaheim Angels, 2002) and Brad Lidge (Philadelphia Phillies, 2008).
St. Louis Cardinals
> The St. Louis Cardinals will go to their 19th World Series. Their 19th Fall Classic appearance equals the record for a National League franchise, a mark that belongs to the San Francisco Giants, who were previously based in New York. The Cards will surpass the 18 World Series appearances by the Los Angeles Dodgers (previously: Brooklyn Dodgers).
> The 11 championships by the St. Louis Cardinals are already a record for a National League franchise. League-wide, the only franchise with more championship titles in the New York Yankees (27).
> The Cardinals playing in the World Series almost guarantees suspense and excitement. In 11 of their 18 previous Fall Classic appearances their Series went to a decisive Game 7. Only the Yankees have been involved in as many Game 7 deciders. The Cardinals lead the Major League in World Series Game 7 victories (eight). Since 1944, the Cards have been to 10 World Series, eight of which required a seventh game.
> The exceptions in that streak are the Cards’ 4-1 series triumph over the Detroit Tigers in 2006 and their 4-0 whitewash defeat at the hands of the Boston Red Sox in 2004.
> Botch catchers used by the Cardinals in the 2004 World Series are currently under contract with the organization. Mike Matheny, the 2004 starter, is the Cards’ current manager. He was replaced by Yadier Molina in Game 4. The Puerto Rican, who was 22 years old in 2004, is currently in his 10th season with the club.
> Molina, Adam Wainwright and the currently injured Chris Carpenter remain from the Cardinals’ World Series winning sides from 2006 and 2011. Molina and Wainwright are vying for a third championship ring. Carpenter is ineligible for a third, because he has not been on the Cards’ active roster at any point this season.
> Reliever Randy Choate won the 2000 ‘Subway Series’ playing for the New York Yankees. The 2000 World Series were nicknamed ‘Subway Series’, because the New York Yankees and New York Mets and their fans could travel to each other’s stadiums using the subway. Thirteen years later, Choate is looking to win another championship ring.
> On 97 wins and 65 defeats, the Cardinals posted the best regular season record in the National League. It marks the first time since 2004 (also the Cardinals) that the NL’s best regular season team makes it to the World Series. That team has not won the World Series since the 1995 Atlanta Braves accomplished that feat.

PREVIEW: MLB Postseason – ALCS

The following is a preview to Major League Baseball’s National League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers, which starts on Saturday, 12 October.

American League Championship Series

Boston Red Sox v Detroit Tigers (best-of-7)

> Somewhat remarkably, the Red Sox (established in 1901, 1901-07 as Boston Americans) and the Tigers (1894) have never met each other in a playoff series.
> Boston (AL East, 97-65) and Detroit (AL Central, 93-69) both won their division in 2013.
> The teams have met seven times during regular season, with Boston winning three and Detroit four games. The Red Sox have won the last two, including a 20-4 in the last meeting.

Boston Red Sox
> Boston finished off the Tampa Bay Rays in four games in the American League Division Series. This was Boston’s sixth ALDS win in 10 attempts.
> Boston have reached their 10th ALCS. They have won four of the past nine, most recently in 2007, when they went all the way.
> Boston will aim to reach their 12th World Series. They won the World Series seven times (1903 as Boston Americans, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 2004, 2007 as Red Sox).
> David Ortiz was part of the World Series winning 2004 and 2007 Red Sox. Ortiz collected his 50th career postseason RBI in the ALDS. Postseason RBI leaders: Bernie Williams 80, Manny Ramírez 78, David Justice 63, Derek Jeter 61, Albert Pujols 52, Ortiz 50.
> Manager John Farrell, in his third season as a head coach and his first in Boston, will try to grab his first pennant.

Detroit Tigers
> The Tigers are in the ALCS for the third straight year, which is a franchise record, and for the seventh time overall. They won three of the past six ALCS, most recently last season.
> In 2011 and 2012, Justin Verlander was the winning pitcher in an ALCS game. He could become the sixth pitcher with one or more wins in three consecutive years, after Jim Palmer and Dave McNally (Baltimore Orioles, 1969-1971), Juan Guzman (Toronto Blue Jays, 1991-1993), Orlando Hernández (New York Yankees, 1998-2000) and Andy Pettitte (New York Yankees, 1999-2001).
> Detroit needed five games to eliminate the Oakland Athletics in the ALDS. This kept their perfect record in Division Series alive – four series wins, no series defeats.
> Detroit want to keep improving: In 2011, Detroit lost the ALCS; in 2012, they won the ALCS, but lost the World Series; could they take the final step in 2013?
> The Tigers reached 11 World Series, winning four (1935, 1945, 1968, 1984), losing seven. 
> Manager Jim Leyland, a 22-year coaching veteran, looks to win his third American League pennant (all with Detroit). Leyland won the World Series in 1997 with the Florida Marlins.

PREVIEW: MLB Postseason – NLCS

BASEBALL – The following is a preview to Major League Baseball’s National League Championship Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers, which starts on Friday, 11 October.

National League Championship Series

St. Louis Cardinals v Los Angeles Dodgers (best-of-7)

> These teams have met in three playoff series. The Cardinals won the 1985 NLCS in six, and the 2004 NLDS in four. In the 2009 NLDS, the Dodgers swept the Cardinals.
> Despite having 22 NLCS appearances between them, the Cardinals and Dodgers have only met once at this stage of the postseason, in 1985. The Cardinals won that series 4-2, including Ozzie Smith’s famous walk-off home run to end Game 5.
> In all three previous series, the first two games went to the home team. Only the 1985 Dodgers lost the series after going 2-0 up.
> The teams played 13 mutual playoff games. At Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers lead the Cardinals 5-2 in playoff games. At Busch Stadium, the Cards lead the Dodgers 5-1.
> St. Louis (NL Central, 97-65) and LA (NL West, 92-70) both won their division in 2013.
> The teams have met seven times during regular season, with St. Louis winning three and Los Angeles four games. The Dodgers have won the last two.

St. Louis Cardinals
> By beating Pittsburgh Pirates in five games, St. Louis won their ninth Division Series in 11 attempts. Lost NLDS: 2001 v Arizona Diamondbacks, 2009 v  Dodgers.
> It is the third straight year in which the Cardinals have advanced to the NLCS by winning the decisive fifth game of the NLDS.
> For the 12th time and for third straight year, St. Louis are in the NLCS. In six of the past 11, they went on to the World Series.
> The Cardinals have qualified for their eighth NLCS in the 21st century. The next most NLCS appearances since 2000 is just three, by the Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants and now the Los Angeles Dodgers.
> St. Louis’ eight LCS appearances this century is the most in either league. The New York Yankees have the most ALCS appearances this century with seven.
> The Cardinals have qualified for the NLCS three years in a row for the second time in their history (after 2004-06). St. Louis join Pittsburgh (1970-72, 1990-92) as the only National League clubs to play in three or more consecutive NLCS on two separate occasions.
> The Cardinals enter this series on a three-game NLCS losing streak. After taking a 3-1 series lead over San Francisco in last year’s NLCS, St. Louis dropped the next three games to lose the series.
> Most recently, the Cards won the 2011 NLCS v Milwaukee Brewers in six games and lost the 2012 NLCS v San Francisco Giants in seven.
> For the first time since 2005, St. Louis will start the NLCS at home. They have started six NLCS in their own stadium, advancing to the World Series three times. They never went on to the World Series after losing Game 1 at home.
> St. Louis have won 11 World Series, the most of all National League teams.

Los Angeles Dodgers
> By beating Atlanta Braves in four, the Dodgers won their fourth NLDS (8 attempts), including the strike-affected 1981 season, with Division Series temporarily introduced.
> Los Angeles was the first team in either league to qualify for the LCS this year after defeating the Atlanta Braves 3-1 in the NLDS.
> The Dodgers are in their 10th NLCS (won 5 of 9). Since their last World Series win (1988), the Dodgers reached two NLCS, losing to Philadelphia Phillies in 2008 and 2009.
> The Dodgers have lost eight of their last 10 NLCS games, all at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008-09 (consecutive 4-1 series losses).
> Los Angeles have lost the opening game in the last three NLCS in which they have participated. The last time they took a 1-0 lead in the NLCS was against the Cardinals in 1985, a series that the Dodgers went on to lose.
> The Dodgers have won six World Series, five of which came after the relocation from Brooklyn to LA in 1958. Last World Series win: 1988 v Oakland Athletics.
> The Dodgers will start the NLCS without home advantage for the fourth time. They won twice (1974 v Pittsburgh Pirates, 1978 v Phillies) and lost once (2008 v Phillies).
> In the 2011 NLCS (Milwaukee Brewers v Cardinals), Zack Greinke was the winning pitcher for the Brewers in Game 1 and the losing pitcher in Game 5.
> In his 64th season (1950-present) with the Brooklyn/LA Dodgers, legendary announcer Vin Scully (85) is in his 22nd postseason. He announced with the Dodgers eight NLDS (introduced in 1995 and temporarily in 1981), nine NLCS (introduced in 1969) and 13 World Series. It is 25 years ago that the Dodgers made their last Fall Classic.

PREVIEW: MLB National League Division Series

BASEBALL – The National League Division Series schedule is set with the Pittsburgh Pirates taking on the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers locking horns with the Atlanta Braves.

St. Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates

> St. Louis won the National League Central Division in 2013 to qualify for the postseason for the third consecutive year. 
> However, this is the first year since 2009 in which St. Louis won their division. In both 2011 and 2012, the Cardinals advanced to the Division Series as the National League’s wild card.
> St. Louis finished the 2013 season with a 97-65 record, best in the National League and equal best in the Major Leagues with the American League’s Boston Red Sox.
> The 97 regular season victories represented the most for the Cardinals since 2005, when they won exactly 100 games.
> St. Louis are making their 11th appearance in the National League Division Series (NLDS). The Cardinals have won eight of their 10 previous Division Series match-ups, losing only to Arizona in 2001 and Los Angeles in 2009.
> The Cardinals have won 11 World Series, more than any other National League team.

> The Pirates qualified for the postseason for the first time since 1992 and advanced to the Division Series by defeating Cincinnati 6-2 in the National League Wild Card Game.
> The Pirates finished with a 94-68 record in 2013, their best record since 1992 (96-66). From 1993-2012, the Pirates did not once have a winning record.
> This is the first time the Pirates will play in the National League Division Series. The last time they made the postseason, there was no Division Series – only the Championship Series and the World Series.
> The Pirates become the last National League team to play in the Division Series. The Toronto Blue Jays are now the only Major League team to have never played in the division series (Kansas City played in the Division Series in the strike-affected 1981 season, but have never done so since the Division Series was permanently implemented after 1993).
> The Pirates have won the World Series five times, most recently in 1979.
Head to Head
> As divisional rivals, St. Louis and Pittsburgh have already played each other 19 times this year, with Pittsburgh winning 10 of those 19 games. 
> This will be the first time the Cardinals and Pirates, both founded in 1882, have ever played each other in the postseason. 
> It was not possible for these two teams to meet in the postseason until the addition of an extra round of postseason play with the introduction of the wild card in 1995. 

Atlanta Braves v Los Angeles Dodgers

> Atlanta won the National League East for the first time since 2005, the last year of their record 14 straight division titles. 
> Atlanta’s 96-66 record was their best since they finished with the same record in 2004.
> Atlanta will play in the Division Series for the 13th time, more than any other National League team. Among all MLB teams, only the New York Yankees (18 American League Division Series appearances including 1981) have contested the Division Series more often than Atlanta.
> The Braves have lost the last five Division Series they have contested. The last time they won a postseason series was in the 2001 NLDS against Houston.
> Overall, Atlanta have a 6-6 record in Division Series play. 
> Atlanta have played 46 games in the Division Series. They won 18 of their first 23 from 1995-2001, but since then, they have won only eight of their last 23 NLDS games.
> In the Braves’ 12 previous Division Series match-ups, the series has gone to a decisive fifth game three times. The Braves lost all three, in three consecutive seasons (2002-04). 
> The Braves have won the World Series three times, once each in the three cities that they have played in (Boston in 1914, Milwaukee in 1957 and Atlanta in 1995).

> After being in last place and trailing division leader Arizona by 9 1/2 games in the standings on June 21, the Dodgers played a remarkable stretch of baseball to win the National League West by 11 games.
> It was the Dodgers’ third consecutive winning season but first division title and postseason appearance since 2009.
> The Dodgers have won three of the seven Division Series they have contested, including defeating Houston in the strike-shortened 1981 season (when the Division Series was temporarily introduced).
> The Dodgers have won their last six Division Series games, sweeping the Chicago Cubs in 2008 and the St. Louis Cardinals in 2009.
> The Dodgers have won the World Series six times (five of which have come since the team moved to Los Angeles from Brooklyn), most recently in 1988.
Head to Head
> This is the second time the Braves and Dodgers have met in the NLDS. In 1996, Atlanta swept Los Angeles 3-0.
> The Dodgers are the fourth team that the Braves will have played two or more times in the NLDS, along with Houston (5), Chicago (2) and San Francisco (2). No other National League team has played four opponents two or more times in the NLDS.
> For the Dodgers, Atlanta becomes the second team they have played twice in the NLDS, after St. Louis.
> That 1996 NLDS meeting was the only postseason series the Braves and Dodgers have contested. They have never met in the National League Championship Series despite combining for 20 NLCS appearances since the Championship Series was introduced in 1969.
> The two teams have met seven times in the 2013 regular season. Atlanta holds a 5-2 edge.

REVIEW: Pirates end 20-year habit of losing seasons

BASEBALL – Major League Baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates raised their victory total for the 2013 season to 81, ensuring that they will not endure a 21st successive season sporting a losing record. The 1992 season was the last in which the Bucs established a winning record and was also the last in which they reached the postseason. Their streak of 20 successive losing seasons is the longest in professional North American sports history.