Wednesday, October 24, 2007

World Serious

I know I should have been posting more during the baseball playoffs -- so much to write about -- but I've been keeping my nose to the grindstone trying to get all my writing done before my colleagues go out on strike (a topic for another blog post perhaps).

But the postseason has been nothing if not dramatic, at least on one side of the baseball world. In the National League, the playoffs have been so undramatic, that the Pennant winner has been sitting on their ass for eight days. In the every night a different game world of pro baseball, that's a long freaking time to be playing catch.

There's been a lot of speculation about whether the Colorado Rockies will be effected by their long layoff, which included a workout in four inches of freshly fallen snow (which begs the question why are we playing the World Series so late in October?). Last year, the Detroit Tigers, arguably the better WS team had six days off before facing the the St. Louis Cardinals and lost 4-1 in a very one-sided series that turned on the Tigers' mental mistakes. This has been repeated a lot since the Rockies swept the Diamondbacks out of the playoffs last week, with the theory being that too much time off is a bad thing.

If this turns out to be the case, the Rockies should blame Major League Baseball and the networks who broadcast the games (this year, Fox and TBS) because there's just too many days off in between games. I would like to take this opportunity to rue the day that TBS won the rights to broadcast playoff games. They put together their broadcast booths like they had everybody's leftovers to chose from. I like Bob Brenly and Tony Gwynn isn't bad but they need to be paired with guys who know how to call a game and Chip Carey is not one of them. Who thought I would long for the days of Thom Brennaman? There's been a lot of criticism about these guys so one hopes they work harder to get a better group in for next year.

Back to the series. The AL playoffs were a lot more interesting, what with the Indians facing the Yankees in the Joe Torre Future series (and we all know what happened there) before taking a 3-1 lead over the Boston Red Sox. Just when it looked like curtains for Beantown, the Red Sox reeled off three straight dominant wins in sending the Indians home disappointed for the 49th straight year.

I'd like to toot my own horn, even though it's hardly worth tooting, because at the start of the playoffs, I picked the Rockies to face the Red Sox in the World Series. I even picked the Rockies to sweep the Phillies (for reasons I admit that had more to do with my disappointment with my Mets than anything else). If Boston beats the Rockies, and I think they will, I'll have a perfect picks-wise. I mean it's only worth minor bragging rights and a small amount of cash from the pool I'm in but heck, it doesn't take much to make me happy.

So I have to pick the Sox, even though the Rockies are in the midst of one of the most impressive winning streaks in the history of the game. It's so impressive that seeing it in black and white looks downright crazy. That's 21 wins in 22 games dating back to the last three weeks of the season and including a sweep of the aforementioned Phillies and Dbacks in the playoffs. For a nice analysis of how they did it, check out this link.

The Rockies aren't winning with mirrors. They have fine starting pitching, a very underrated bullpen and a core bunch of hitters who seriously rake. But my thinking is they haven't faced a team in the postseason that's even remotely as good as the Red Sox or as experienced. And the Sox have to feel like world beaters after coming back from the brink of elimination for the second time in four years. And we all remember how the last one ended. The NL team that year (St. Louis) didn't have a chance.

I don't think the Rockies will be swept but I don't see this series going seven games. I just don't think Colorado pitching staff can keep Boston's formidable lineup in check. I see the series at most going six games, though it could be over sooner if Boston wins Games 1 and 2 at home.

The one thing that could really play havoc with this series is the weather. They're already talking about rain in Boston tonight and snow as we've already discussed, is not unusual this time of year in Denver.

I hope it does rain and snow, causing games to be canceled, because I think that's the only thing that will convince MLB and the broadcasters to shorten the postseason so we can actually play the entire Fall Classic in the freaking fall.

Should be fun to watch these teams play anyway. And if you're a casual baseball fan, there's a few treats to look for.

On the Rockies side:
Matt Holliday is a one of the best young players in either league. He hits for average and with power and is a nifty fielder.

There might be no smarter hitter than first baseman Todd Helton and for slick fielding, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is already one of the best in game. In fact, the Rockies defense is worth watching. Nobody in the NL committed fewer errors. His double play partner is the ex Met Kaz Matsui, the Japanese import who looked like a bust until he was traded to the Rockies and spent time in their minor leagues. Give him credit for figuring out the big leagues but whatever he did is working and without him, the Rockies would not be where they are.

On the Red Sox side:

There may be no better hitter in the history of the game than Boston's Manny Ramirez. This guy eats, sleeps, drinks, walks, talks, thinks, dreams hitting. And when you watch him play left field, you'll see how single-minded he is about offense. How good is Manny? He's batting over .400 in the playoffs with two strikes on him. Most other players, two strikes usually means an out. Not with Manny.

David Oritz, aka, Big Papi. A great clutch hitter though in recent games, he's not been at his best. Chalk that up to a knee injury he's been battling all season long and which will likely require surgery this winter.

Kevin Youkilis is as hard nosed as they get but don't let that overshadow what a great hitter he is. Watch how many pitches he's able to "waste" in each of his at bats. The guy doesn't get cheated at the plate but he also battles to get his pitch. I imagine he's a pitcher's nightmare in how patient a hitter he is.

Josh Beckett, Boston's starting pitcher tonight, has carved out one of the best postseason resumes in recent years, maybe the best ever if he can help Boston bring home it's second title in the last four seasons. He's been lights out although he's known to have slow starts so watch to see if the Rockies get to him early.

Stay tuned, sports fans ...

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