Monthly Archives: October 2009
The American League may be the better league, but it does not have a better brand of baseball. I am not a fan of the DH and its trickle-down effect on the AL style of play (i.e., no strategy at all). Regardless, this year’s ALCS matchup is the one I felt was inevitable.
Los Angeles Angels vs. New York Yankees This really is a battle between the two best teams in the AL. The Yankees once again loaded up on talent via trades and the free agent pool, landing Nick Swisher, AJ Burnett, Mark Texiera, and CC Sabathia in the offseason. The Angels took a strong core and added just a couple of missing pieces–namely Bobby Abreu, Brian Fuentes, and Scott Kazmir–to their seemingly bottomless well of homegrown major
Of course, the midseason trade for Kazmir probably wouldn’t have been necessary if not for the death of pitcher Nick Adenhart at the beginning of the 2009 season. But Adenhart’s death has become a rallying point for the Angels; they play with a sense of purpose and inspiration. Although they haven’t been back to the World Series since winning it all in 2002, the Angels seem to be in the postseason (or at least in the race) every year. They’re winners.
The Yankees, for their part, are trying to get back to the World Series for the first time since 2003, their longest drought since they began their amazing run in 1996. And for all the talk about how the Yankees “buy their way” into the postseason every year, 12 of the players on their 25-man roster have been with the Yankees their entire careers, whether that be 15 years or two. And that doesn’t count Hideki Matsui, who has only played for the Yankees in North America but had a great pro career in Japan first, or Andy Pettitte, who was brought back to his original team after several years with the Houston Astros.
This series, like all postseason series, will come down to pitching. Both of these teams can hit and score runs, and both can hang in a tight game. They have strong rotations and bullpens, top to bottom. But the Yankees have the equalizers: Sabathia is one of the best pitchers in the game, Pettitte is one of the best starters in postseason history, and Mariano Rivera is the best closer in postseason history. The Angels have answers in just about every other area but those three; unfortunately they happen to be the most important three of all. Yankees in six.
Well, I was 3 for 4 on my Guessology picks in the Division Series. Unfortunately, the one I guessed wrong is the one that hurts the most…my Cardinals got swept by the LA Dodgers. If you’d like to read my take on that series (or lack thereof), check out my column from last Sunday.
OK, moving on…
Philadelphia Phillies vs. Los Angeles Dodgers Ladies and gentlemen, we have a rematch! These two teams battled it out last year, with the Phillies taking the series in five games to earn a trip to the World Series. The teams obviously haven’t changed much, so short memories could play a role in the demeanor of this NLCS. And the secondary stories are intriguing as well.
Dodger manager Joe Torre is trying to get back to the World Series for the first time since 2003 with the New York Yankees, and if he does he has a shot at facing his former club in
the Fall Classic. The Dodgers have also reunited Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome, who enjoyed a lot of success as teammates in Cleveland. Even though the Indians made a couple of World Series appearances in the 90′s, they never could win it all. Ramirez eventually won a couple of rings with the Boston Red Sox, of course, and Thome just missed his chance by joining the Chicago White Sox in 2006. When they look across the diamond, they’ll see former Dodger Pedro Martinez, scourge of both the Indians and Yankees a decade or so ago and Ramirez’s teammate on the 2004 World Champion Red Sox.
The Phillies are up against a lot of history. They are trying to become the first NL team to win back-to-back World Series since the Cincinnati Reds did it over three decades ago in 1975-76. The Dodgers are hoping for a shot at their seventh world championship, and if they make it they’ll have to battle some history as well…they will either be a part of the first ever all-Los Angeles World Series against the Angels, or they will re-kindle one of the longest and deepest World Series rivalries of all time against the Yankees.
These teams match up pretty well top to bottom. Both have big bats in the middle of their lineups. Both have deep benches. Both can play defense, steal a base or two, and scratch out a run with smallball. Overall, the Phillies have the better rotation and the Dodgers have the better bullpen. It’s like a pick’em, really.
Pitching does win championships. The Phillies’ rotation isn’t vastly superior to the Dodgers’, but it is better. The Dodgers’ bullpen, however, is vastly superior to the Phillies’. When it comes down to it, a good starter can get you far…but a solid bullpen is essential to winning the four games it takes to finish off a seven game series. Dodgers in six.
Now that the AL Central Division has finally been clinched, the playoff matchups are set. That means it’s time for some wild (but somewhat educated) guesses as to who will survive to play in the League Championship Series!
Minnesota Twins vs. New York Yankees: The Twins won a thrilling game to take the AL Central Division crown Tuesday night. Momentum may be on their side initially, but the Yankees are a juggernaut. They have superior pitching, superior hitting, and at least equal defense to the Twins. They also have home field advantage and a day of rest that the Twins will eventually wish they had. The Metrodome gets no more than a two-game stay of execution, and even that may be generous. Yankees in three.
Boston Red Sox vs. Los Angeles Angels: Again? These two teams seem to make a postseason meeting mandatory, and the Red Sox always seem to have the Angels’ number. But all good things must come to an end. The Angels have a very solid team top to bottom. Their defense will be the difference in this series, and it won’t be easy, but I think the Angels have more of a sense of purpose than the Red Sox this year. Angels in five.
Colorado Rockies vs. Philadelphia Phillies: This series could set a record for most runs scored in a five-gamer. The thin air in Colorado; the cozy confines in Philly…and both teams have a ton of offense. The pitching? Well, the Rockies’ rotation is suspect with the injury to Jorge De La Rosa, and the Phillies’ bullpen is terrible. In the end, I think the Phillies have more firepower…and if they put up a ton of runs the closer issues will be moot. Phillies in five.
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers: The two most storied franchises in the NL hook up for only the third time in playoff history. Neither team was great down the stretch. The Dodgers can do some damage on the basepaths, and manager Joe Torre isn’t afraid to play smallball…but these situations can be countered with (if not nullified by) catcher Yadier Molina and the Cardinals solid if unspectacular infield. The Dodgers have the superior closer, but he’s useless if they can’t get a lead for him. Pujols. Carpenter. Wainwright. LaRussa. It’s all too much for LA. Cardinals in four.
Stay tuned…we’re just getting started, baby!
After watching Minnesota Twins defeat the Detroit Tigers in Game 163 to clinch the AL Central Division Title, I am almost speechless. That game was like a microcosm of the entire season for these two teams: the Tigers had a lead early, the Twins chipped away, the Tigers held them off, the Twins pulled even, and they eventually won. Remarkable.
Now they will head to New York to face the Yankees in the ALDS…and probably get their brains beat in by the Bronx Bombers. The Metrodome lives to see another game, but how many more?