Sarcasm aside, there are few things more enjoyable than getting drawn into a very close baseball game in October. And, as always, if you're not a fan of a team that remains alive after today, you can simply buy interest in the playoffs by throwing cash on one of the teams that is still playing! That's where we come in....place your bets, here's Runaround Sue's best guess as to who will be standing when the Christmas decorations are blanketing every mall across America.
Note: As a Braves fan who lived through the glory years of Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz, and also saw the older versions of those squads lose at the hand of the Wood/Prior Cubs, Clemens/Oswalt Astros, and Schilling/RanJo Diamondbacks, I believe the best thing to have heading into the playoffs, particularly the divisional series, is a lethal 1-2 punch at the front of the rotation. Sure, it's not the end all be all (again, my life as a Braves fan has taught me that having a strong bullpen is also a must-have once you get to October), but if I'm putting my money down, I'm going with the horses that are capable of throwing eight scoreless any given night.
I know they got eliminated just a few hours ago, but I will say this: Congrats to the Twins for continuing to pump out quality, playoff caliber teams on such a minuscule payroll. Congrats to the Twins for pushing the season to a 1 game playoff just a few months after trading Johan Santana 60 cents on the dollar. Seriously, look at that roster and compare it to, say, the Tigers or Yankees. Talk about bang for your buck.
White Sox (16-1)
I am a big John Danks fan. I picked him up in fantasy this year, expecting two good weeks and ended up getting a full good season. A 23-year-old lefty that can pitch deep into the game, has overpowering stuff, gets mad strikeouts and has pitched well in big games already...they don't grow on trees. He reminds me of left-handed Josh Beckett or Doc Halladay.
That said, I don't have much faith in a team that required the following situation play out in the final week of the regular season just to make the playoffs by forcing a make-up and one-game playoff:
- Manager blasts a front-end starting pitcher, challenging his ability to pitch well in meaningful games. Pitcher basically doesn't give a shit.
- Pitcher goes out and gives up 5 earned runs in 4 innings to the team you are battling for the division title.
- Manager, because of lack of rotation depth, decides to pitch said pitcher on 3 days rest.
- Pitcher gives up 7 earned runs in 4.1 innings pitched.
I've been picking these guys to collapse all year, so why stop now? No playoff experience, no dominant ace, not a very strong finish...I'm just not buying it.
(One question I've always wondered...why were they named the Devil Rays in the first place instead of Stingrays? Tampa Bay Stingrays is an badass name. Who the hell had ever heard of a friggin' devil ray before that team came around? Wikipedia isn't even sure what a devil ray is. Then, when they decide to abandon that idiotic moniker, they punt on 'Stingrays' again and go with a name that just reminds me of either the worst sitcom of all time or the name of your average Tampa-area nursing home resident...too bad.)
Who knows though...look at what the Rockies did last year with about half the talent of this Rays team. Also, Joe Maddon seems to have that Les Miles crazy streak where no matter how insane he acts in interviews or how his decisions seem to defy simple logic...things just seem to go his way. He even has a trademark fashion statement akin to Miles' hat. Of course, this isn't football and there is only so much influence a manager can have over a five game series. Helluva season for these guys though.
The last time these guys made the playoffs, I was 7 days old.
By the way, I love what the Brewers have done with CC Sabathia since acquiring him in July. They know there is no way they can re-sign him after this season, and unlike Ben Sheets (who they also probably can't re-sign), he doesn't have a significant injury history, so what do they do? They run his left arm like a
Now we start getting into the teams that can actually win this thing. This Phillies team scares me. They're going to be good for a really long time. Look at the ages of their best players: Howard (28), Utley (29), Rollins (29), Burrell (31), Victorino (28), Weryth (29), Hamels (24), Myers (27). All those guys are either in or just entering their primes. I'll enjoy hating them all for the next 7-8 years.
Either way, this beats the late 1990's, when Phillies ownership somehow tried to convince the media and baseball fans that they were a small market team. Apparently it was all part of a plan to suck for a few years, draft a bunch of homegrown studs, get a new stadium and be able to pay them all when the time comes. Kudos.
By the way, do you think those awful game-winning homers Brad Lidge gave up in the playoffs a couple years ago will come back to haunt him this year?
/ Lidge immediately gives up homer.
Manny Ramirez has been absolutely killing the ball for them. You might have heard about it.
In other news, Chavez Ravine is apparently where former Braves stars go to die.
As I see it, the Cubs are the clear-cut best team in the National League. The regular season pretty much proved this as fact. There is no reason they shouldn't represent the NL in the World Series, except that the playoffs are a crapshoot and anything can happen in a five or seven game series. That being said, you got to love how this Cubs team is built for October. They have the deepest rotation of all the playoff teams, and Jason Marquis should be able to slide into a middle relief role for them, adding to an already deep bullpen.
This team led the NL in runs, doubles, OBP, SLG%, was 2nd in hits and average, 5th in homers. This all in spite of the fact that their best player missed 53 games this season. The Cubbies are stocked with talent, and quite frankly with no other horse in the race, I'm cheering for them to win it all (and shut everyone up about curses once and for all).
This was an offense that really struggled before the acquisition of Mark Texiera at the deadline. However, upgrading from Casey Kotchman to Texiera is roughly the equivalent of upgrading from my dependable but POS '98 Toyota Corolla to a fully-loaded BMW E67, and since then, all is running smoothly in the land of the Rally Monkey. Regardless, I still get the feeling that this is still an offense with a tendency to fall asleep at times, and just two poor offensive showings in a row in the divisional series could be the end of the road for the Halos. Tough, tough first round draw for the team with the majors’ best record.
Outside of John Lackey, the Angels rotation has little to none postseason experience. They better win the first two games of that series, because if they split 'em, they're looking at a Joe Saunders vs. Josh Beckett matchup in Game 3 in
Red Sox (3-1)
I have a problem picking against the school of thought that "they've been there before, and they were the best." It's the kind of logic that made me pick the Yankees to win the World Series before every season from 1997-2006. It's the logic that allows me to continue selecting John Smoltz and Randy Johnson in fantasy every year. It's the logic that allows me to think that maybe Shaq isn't washed up. Anyway, I'm applying that logic here to the Sox...they're the champs, they have more postseason experience than anyone else in the playoffs, and they're still as stacked as any team out there.
I’m not sure I understand the weird dichotomy that while Manny was feasting on National League pitching and leading the Dodgers from a barely-sub .500 team to a barely-above .500 team, the Red Sox actually improved more so and played their best baseball without Manny. I don't think there is a correlation, but it seems there is still some doubt as to whether or not this lineup can still be lethal offensively in October with
Doesn't matter now...much like he did in trading Nomar Garciaparra in 2004, Theo Epstein decided he needed to take the risk and decided to cut ties with Manny in a controversial move. Rather than getting youngsters or a quick fix veteran, he grabbed a very good hitter in Bay that fits nicely into any lineup and is signed through next year at an extremely reasonable salary. He made the executive decision that it was over between the Sox and Manny and made the best of the situation...and thus far it has worked out.
Sure, Sox fans will long for Manny when Ortiz is getting intentionally walked so the pitcher can face Bay or Kevin Youkilis. But if the Sox don't win the World Series this year, it will likely be because their lineup couldn't withstand the loss injuries to J.D. Drew or Mike Lowell, or maybe because their middle relief is shaky as hell, or that they had to start freakin’ Tim Wakefield for a game. It won't be because their lineup is incapable of scoring runs with the personnel on the roster.
Final Prediction: Red Sox over Cubs in 6. Place your bets.