Tuesday, October 03, 2006

We're Not in the Playoffs, But It's Still All About Us

As the leaves turn colors and the temperatures cool here in the Hub, we've become accustomed to watching both our Red Sox play in the postseason and our Patriots continue their drive to add more hardware to their trophy cabinet. Sadly, this year's train-wreck of a season ensured that we won't have October baseball at Fenway for the first time since 2002. But fear not, Red Sox fans - we will be well represented. A ridiculous number of former Sox players and prospects are on postseason rosters this year, including at least 9 on the San Diego Red Sox: David Wells, Dave Roberts, Josh Bard (ouch), Cla Meredith (double ouchie), Mark Bellhorn, Todd Walker, Alan Embree, Rudy Seanez, and Scott Williamson. In LA, we've got Nomar, D-Lowe, Aaron Sele, and Grady calling the shots (chills); in the Bronx, Johnny Cash patrols CF and Mike Myers is the lefty specialist; David Eckstein and Jeff Suppan are on the Cardinals; Jay Payton and Justin Duchscherer on the A's; Todd Jones, Mike Maroth and Matt Stairs are Tigers, and Lew Ford's a Twin. And that's leaving out Pedro Martinez, who's on the shelf till next year. Proof positive, as Seinfeld said, that we really are just rooting for laundry.

Anyway, onto the matchups...

The AL games should be pretty interesting, as the surprising Tigers will take on the mighty Yankees, and the Twins will do battle with the A's. In the NL, it's the Dodgers taking on the Mets and the Padres (too many Sox alum to list) playing the Cardinals. How bad did the Cardinals stumble down the stretch - and how bad is the NL Central? The Red Sox' 86-76 record would have given them the division crown by 2.5 games. Let's a quick capsule look at each series and make some predictions:

Detroit Tigers (95-67) vs. New York Yankees (97-65)
The Tigers, as Dan Duquette would say, spent more time in first place than the Twins but in the end they take the Wild Card and have to face George's Gazillionaires. I've loved Detroit's pitching all year long, and they will have to stand tall against this modern-day Murderers Row. The Yanks' 6-7-8 hitters are A-Rod, Matsui, and Cano. Jeeezus. Also, Jayson Stark makes a good point today in that the Yankees were able to avoid the exhausting battles against the Red Sox of years past, and thus saved their arms and have plenty of people rested up and ready to go. The Tigers have been a great story, but they're about to turn back into a pumpkin. Yanks take this one in 4.

Oakland A's (93-69) vs. Minnesota Twins (96-66)
Billy Beane is sure as hell consistent. Either that, or the Angels and Rangers and Mariners just perpetually suck. Oakland is led by Game 1 starter Barry Zito and the resurrected Frank Thomas, who had a monster year. But the Twins will prove to much to handle, and will take advantage of having the first two at the Hefty Bag. Sure, they'd rather see the name 'Liriano' penciled in for Game 2 instead of 'Boof Bonser,' but don't discount what Bonser has done. In the end, the Twins have the superior balance of pitching and hitting, and the M&M boys (Mauer and Morneau) will wreak havoc. Twins win in 4.

Los Angeles Dodgers (88-74) vs. New York Mets (97-65)
We could have had Grady Little and Pedro Martinez on the same field for the first time since that fateful night against the Yanks in '03, but Pedro's shoulder is being held in place by twine so he's all done for a while. Still plenty of intrigue in this matchup, though, as we'll get to see if Nomar can come through in the clutch, and if Derek Lowe can continue his postseason mastery. The Dodgers have been a feel-good story, and they have to feel good about their chances against a Pedro-less Mets squad. The Mets, meanwhile, have been waiting since June for the playoffs to start and may be guilty of looking past LA a bit. Wright and Reyes will have to carry the day. This one should go the full five, and I'm torn on a winner. I'll go with the Mets.

St. Louis Cardinals (83-78) vs. San Diego Padres(88-74)
The Cardinals' fade job was legendary, and they completely backed into the playoffs thanks to Houston's last-game defeat. The Padres will win this one on the backs of their pitching. We know Jake Peavy is good. The freakishly tall Chris Young is vastly underrated, and they've got themselves a big-game hunter in Wells. Padres sweep another disturbingly lethargic Tony LaRussa-led squad.

Everything seems lined up for the Yankees to win the crown - and if they don't, it would be a hugely fun collapse.

ALCS Prediction: Twins over Yankees
NLCS Prediction: Padres over Mets
World Series: Twins over Padres in 6, as Johan Santana says f-you to all those who didn't vote him as AL MVP

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