Wednesday, October 13, 2010

MLB -- Championship Series Update

How unfortunate is it that baseball has apparently hired the same money-grubbing monkeys to schedule their postseason who already schedule the NBA playoffs these days? I mean, here we are, all done with the divisional rounds of the playoffs, and we have to wait until Friday night to start up the ALCS, which just ended on Tuesday night, and until Saturday night for the start of the NLCS, which ended on Monday night? I mean, in the end, sure this helps my Phillies this year in that we will have more than enough time to line up our pitching staff just the way we want to for the NLCS, but is it the way the games should be played? Personally, I prefer a system that favors the teams with the incredible 2- or 3-man starting rotation less, by having fewer off days in between series and even during the series themselves, but as I said, there's no doubt that this helps mostly every team still alive by this point in the playoffs and I imagine that is 90% of the reason behind the move (the other 10% being media money, in some form or another), but it totally takes away from the excitement and the momentum of the games to us fans, and I am not specifically a fan of this move one bit.

All that said, it was an entertaining divisional series round of games, with some surprises in the AL but nothing but chalk in the NL. First, in the American League, the Rays and Rangers played a very unusual series in which -- for the first time in divisional round history -- the road team amazingly won all five games in the series, including the Rangers clinching on Tuesday night on the back of yet another stellar postseason performance out of Cliff Lee. I think the owner of the Rays made a major, major screwup by coming out right as the regular season was coming to a close and announcing his intentions to essentially slash the payroll and break up the team after this postseason run was over. His team played tight as hell in the playoffs right from the getgo, they couldn't score runs when they needed them against a very scoreable-against team (other than when Cliff Lee is out there), and in the end their best pitcher (and the Rays' only great pitcher at this point in the season) lost two starts in the series, both at home, and that's your season right there in a nutshell.

On the other side in the AL, I picked the Twins to take down the Yankees finally after years and years of ineptitude against the Bronx Bombers, but instead we were all treated to one of the biggest step-downs I've in the postseason in years, in any sport. I mean, even for the Twins, and even against the Yankees, this was a huge puss-out for the Twins. They did not come to play, they allowed themselves to get rolled over by a pitching staff that has been very assailable by many teams throughout this season, and they continued with their total inability to hold on to any kind of a lead whatsoever, even late in games. The Twins led in two of the three games of the series, one of them late, and they had homefield in both games where they led. The fact that they got bounced this badly by a team with noticeable weaknesses compared to last year's world championship team is a huge black mark on that team and on Rod Gardenhire, who I now can only label as the game's best regular season coach, not best overall coach given his total postseason ineptitude.

Looking forward, the Rays would have been a much, much better matchup with the Yankees I think, other than the one big, fat, huge scary part about the Rangers to every Yankee fan in the world -- Cliff Lee. Recall that as a Phillie in 2009, Lee won both of his starts against the Yankees, including in Game 1 when he came out and absolutely moved down the best lineup in the AL by far. And the sick thing about watching Lee pitch is how incredibly calm and stone-faced he seems out there, even in the biggest spots of his life. Who could forget this catch by Lee in Game 1 of the World Series last year, when it was almost like he was too busy thinking of something else to be bothered really paying attention while making this catch. It is a small, insignificant play but I think speaks volumes about Lee and his ability to shine against the best lineup in the game while under the biggest spotlight in his sport. Unfortunately, even though I never believed the Yankees would make the World Series this year after around the halfway point in this regular season, I just don't see the Rangers as having quite enough on either the offense or the pitching staff to take down this juggernaut Yankees squad. Especially with the way that Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes pitched against the pussies Twins, the Yankees have got to be a significant favorite in this series, despite the fact that every Yankee fan out there is quaking in their boots about facing Cliff Lee. Not having to face Lee until Game 3 was the Yankees' biggest win of the entire postseason so far, and is a major factor in my thinking the Rangers will not have enough to find their way to their second-ever postseason series win as a franchise.

The National League divisional series had much less excitement and interest, and they went right along with the chalk. The Phillies took the best-hitting, most prolific run-scoring team in the National League in the Reds, and no-hit them in the first game, gave up 3 earned runs in the second, and then 2-hit complete game shut them out again in the third game to nab the easy sweep for the far and away the league's greatest team. Meanwhile, equally prdictably on the other side, the incredible pitching staff of the Giants was as expected far too much for a very ordinary Braves lineup, and they easily disposed of Atlanta in four games with no big offensive outputs throughout out of the overmatched Braves batters.

People are having fun predicting the Giants to take out the Phillies or at least to make a serious run at the best team the National League has seen in some 90 years, but to be perfectly honest I am just not seeing it. I mean, there is no doubt that the Giants are the team I would have wanted the Phillies to face the least, because between Lincecum and Sanchez they have two starters who have previously and I am sure will again shut down the Phils' lineup, and we could easily face those two starters as many as five times in a 7-game series. Plus the Giants' bullpen is excellent, which is the only weakness this Phillies team has here in the 2010 postseason. But in the end, even though I respect the Giants' picthers quite a bit, I am just not seeing this as anything but an awful matchup for them. The Phils have homefield advantage, and even though I could surely see Lincecum outlasting Roy Halladay in a pitchers duel in one of his two starts in Games 1 and 4, the bottom line is that the matchups of Halladay vs. Lincecum -- both in Philadelphia -- and Oswalt vs. Sanchez -- one in Philly and one in San Fran -- plus Cole Hamels pitching Games 3 and 7 against the Giants' #3 starter, and again with the extra game at home in Philly, this one just seems like a mismatch to me for the defending NL champs. This Phillies lineup is the total opposite of the Braves' light-hitting squad, and those games that were 1-0 and 3-2 wins for the Giants in the NLDS are more likely in my mind to be 5-3 and 6-1 losses for the Giants here in the NLCS.

In any event, Friday cannot get here quickly enough for those of us big baseball fans out there. It's been quite a ride so far and it should only get better from here as we march towards the 2010 World Series.

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Blogger jjok said...

While it sucks for the Rangers, I don't think they wait till game 3 for Lee to pitch. My guess is he makes the start on Saturday for game 2. They really don't have a choice.....they have to do it.

Regardless, fun times for me as a lifelong Rangers fan.

1:52 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Cliff Lee is an awesome guy to watch, and I can say from personal experience a great guy to get to root for as a fan of a team.

Best of luck with the Yankees. They are definitely beatable (the Phillies can't wait to crush them), but it's gonna be tough if those pitchers are all hot again.

2:56 AM  
Blogger OhCaptain said...

The Twins loss was a huge disappointment. That's all I got, I'm going back in my cave until pitchers and catchers report.

6:25 PM  
Blogger Lucki Duck said...

Although a lifelong Astros fan (not easy), the Rangers have always been my #2 team, since they're also from Texas.

But, I also stand to book a sizeable win on a futures bet should the Phils ship the World Series, so I have two dogs in this hunt.

Baseball season, for me, is usually over by early October.

If it ends up a Texas/ Philadelphia Series, it'll be a tough choice.

Money or heart?

Enjoyed your blog, very insightful. Thanks!

12:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am the biggest baseball nut of the Phillies so i really loved reading your article.I was glad i got my Philadelphia Phillies Tickets for the up coming baseball game for Phillies Stadium.

1:27 AM  

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