2009 Guessology: The American League Championship Series
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.