As Yogi Berra once famously said, "It's getting late early out there."
Beyond the logic that went into that gem, there exists a silver lining that applies to the 2013 World Series and the eventual crowning of a World Series champion. With just three games to go in the series, it's now or never for the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals.
While you may read about how David Ortiz and Carlos Beltran must continue to carry their respective lineups, why Koji Uehara and Trevor Rosenthal are so important in the bullpens and how Jon Lester and Michael Wacha need to remain unhittable in October, the World Series may be determined by those performing below expectations as much as they are about the stars exceeding them.
Star performers can carry a team to the brink, but every squad is only as good as the weakest link.
The following five players have been somewhere between disappointing, underwhelming and awful. In order for their team to win it all, a breakout moment is necessary.
Here are five World Series stars who need to step up before it's too late.
1. Stephen Drew, SS, Red Sox
According to Baseball-Reference, Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew was worth 3.1 WAR during the 2013 regular season. Signed to a one-year, $9.5 million deal prior to the season, the 30-year-old shortstop was a bargain. Above-average players at up-the-middle positions like shortstop do not usually come on the cheap or via short-term contracts.
If you watched Drew all season, his postseason has likely come as a shock. If you just tuned in for October, you're probably hoping your favorite team isn't dumb enough to give him a long-term deal this coming winter.
As the World Series heads to its conclusion, Drew has been almost a complete and total non-factor throughout October. In total, he's 4-for-47 in the postseason, including an ugly .077 on-base percentage in the World Series.
Thus far, Red Sox manager John Farrell has been loyal to Drew, penciling him at shortstop throughout the postseason despite having a capable left side of the infield of Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks available to him on a nightly basis.
For Red Sox fans, the hope now is that Drew's Game 4 sacrifice fly is the start of a three-game breakout.
2. David Freese, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals
Two Octobers ago, David Freese was on top of the baseball world. As the recipient of the 2011 NLCS and World Series MVP trophies, the Cardinals third baseman established a reputation as one of baseball's most clutch power hitters. His walk-off home run to end Game 6 of the 2011 World Series will go down as one of the most dramatic moments of an all-time thriller.
Unfortunately for Freese and the Cardinals offense, clutch isn't a gene and can't be replicated at the turn of the calendar from September to October.
Freese dominated October of 2011 by hitting .545 in the LCS and driving in seven runs in the World Series, but since Game 1 of the 2012 LCS, the 30-year-old third baseman has posted the following line in 22 postseason games: .173/.244/.293.
If the Cardinals are going to score enough to outlast the Red Sox, they'll need the 2011 Freese to emerge from his October funk.
3. Matt Adams, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
Allen Craig's return to action has taken the spotlight off his replacement, Matt Adams, but don't let that dissuade you from thinking that the young first baseman's bat isn't important for St. Louis down the stretch of the World Series.
Over the first four games of the series, Adams was placed in the following lineup spots by Cardinals manager Mike Matheny: seventh, fourth, fourth and fourth, respectively. In other words, the Cardinals are placing their 25-year-old slugger in a major run producing position and expecting results.
Thus far, Adams has posted a .176/.176/.235 line in the World Series. After 17 home runs and a .503 slugging percentage during the regular season, more is needed from a hitter with immense power.
4. Craig Breslow, RP, Boston Red Sox
Heading into the World Series, Craig Breslow's ability to retire hitters from both sides of the plate and bridge the gap to Koji Uehara made the Red Sox my choice for top bullpen in the matchup.
Unfortunately for those who chose the Boston bullpen in the Tale of the Tape, Breslow has been awful.
In three World Series appearances, the left-handed reliever has recorded a grand total of one out, allowed three hits and three runs (two earned), walked two and even hit a batter.
Due to the emergence of fellow left-hander Felix Doubront, Breslow's appearances might be curtailed over the next few nights, but don't expect him to totally disappear. Doubront is the more effective southpaw right now, but he's now pitched in back-to-back games for the first time since 2011 (via Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe). Without an off day until after Game 5 and without one between Game 6 and a potential Game 7, Breslow will still be needed in this series.
If he can't do the job out of the Red Sox pen, St. Louis can find a way to rally late in games.
5. Jake Peavy, SP, Boston Red Sox
After a no-decision in his Game 3 start, Red Sox starter Jake Peavy still has never won a postseason game. While individual wins and losses are secondary at this point of the season, one Peavy victory would assure the Red Sox of a World Series title.
Due to the reshuffling of the rotation around Clay Buchholz's weak arm, Boston tabbed Peavy to start Game 3 on Saturday night. That lines him up to be the Red Sox starter for a potential Game 7 on Thursday night.
If the series reaches that point, it will be all hands on deck for each team. Through three postseason starts this October, Peavy hasn't completed six innings once and likely won't be asked to go deep in a deciding game, but effectiveness is a must.
When Boston traded for him in July, it was to give it depth to win the AL East. Now, his role has evolved into potential hero or goat in the biggest game of the season.
Agree? Disagree? Who needs to step up?
All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted.
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