Ideal MLB Playoff Scenarios We Would Most Like to See

Kerry MillerCollege Basketball National AnalystSeptember 3, 2013

Ideal MLB Playoff Scenarios We Would Most Like to See

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    "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you might find you just might find you get what you need." - The Rolling Stones

    That song may have been released three months after the pitching mounds were lowered in 1969, but that line seems pretty applicable as we look ahead to the 2013 MLB playoffs.

    We'll make the best of any situation we're given, finding a way to create drama in any and every playoff series played this October.

    That doesn't mean we aren't pining for a few ideal scenarios, though.

    Based on the 10 teams currently projected to make the playoffsthough Tampa Bay certainly seems to be trying to change those projections based on their recent losing wayshere are 10 pairings that would be just a little extra special based on the history between the two teams.

Detroit vs. Texas

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    Ideal Pairing

    Detroit Tigers vs. Texas Rangers in ALDS

     

    Reasoning

    These two teams met in the 2011 ALCS. Texas put a beating on Detroit in the decisive Game 6, but the first five games were either decided in extra innings or by three or fewer runs. The Rangers hit just seven home runs in the series. Each was crucial, and six of them were hit by Nelson Cruz.

    Ah, yes. You didn't really think we could talk about the 2013 playoffs without reminiscing about the Biogenesis scandal, did you?

    Far more than any other playoff team, Detroit and Texas were negatively impacted by those suspensions, losing a starting shortstop and a starting right fielder, respectively. It only seems fitting that they should play each other in the ALDS to make sure that a maximum of one team in the ALCS was aided by 110 regular-season games from a performance-enhancing player.

    Who knows when Cruz started using PEDs or how much it upped his game? However, there's no question that Texas would have lost that 2011 series without Cruz playing at the level that he did. Detroit, no doubt, will be out for justice after having their chance at a World Series berth ripped away from them by a cheater.

    Of course, they can't be too indignant about it, seeing as how Jhonny Peralta easily could have been named the 2012 ALCS MVP after batting .389/.421/.778 with two home runs in Detroit's sweep of New York.

    If nothing else, you could get extremely "hydrated" by taking a "sip of water" every time "Biogenesis" or "suspension" is uttered by an announcer during this series.

Los Angeles vs. St. Louis

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    Ideal Pairing

    Los Angeles Dodgers vs. St. Louis Cardinals in NLDS

     

    Reasoning

    With both Philadelphia and San Francisco missing out on the 2013 playoffs, possible rematches of recent NLCS or NLDS pairings are few and far between.

    Aside from the Cardinals and Dodgerswho squared off in the NLDS in both 2004 and 2009the most recent NLCS or NLDS between two of the five teams currently projected for the playoffs came between the Cardinals and Braves back in 2000.

    Placido Polanco is the only player from either of those teams that is still playing in the majors, so we can probably rule out any bad blood still lingering from that three-game sweep. However, Los Angeles vs. St. Louis is more than just the only option available. In fact, with the Yankees likely to miss the playoffs, this could be our best instance of good vs. evil.

    St. Louis is one of the most revered franchises in baseball history. They have more World Series titles than everyone except for the Yankees, and are widely regarded as a team that simply plays the game the right way. Maybe you didn't like or root for Tony La Russa or Albert Pujols, but you respected them.

    Enter Yasiel Puig.

    Narrowly trailing Alex Rodriguez for the unwritten honor of most polarizing player in baseball, Puig's "antics" would never fly in a Cardinals uniform, and may very well fly in the face of every fan at Busch Stadium.

    That dichotomy in on-field behavior could set the stage for a memorable series.

Boston vs. Anyone in the NL Central

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    Ideal Pairing

    Boston Red Sox vs. St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds or Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series

     

    Reasoning

    Take your pick, and there's an extremely memorable World Series involved.

    Boston and Pittsburgh faced off in 1903 in the first modern World Series of MLB history. Back then, they were known as the Boston Americans, the World Series was best-of-nine (Boston won five games to three), and ground rules were a bit...bizarre.

    According to a Wikipedia excerpt citing the book Baffling Baseball Trivia, "Due to overflow crowds at the Exposition Park games, if a batted ball rolled under a rope in the outfield that held spectators back, a 'ground-rule triple' would be scored. Seventeen ground-rule triples were hit in the four games played at the Exposition Park."

    Boston and Cincinnati met in the 1975 World Series, which, based on a panel of voters in 2003 was the second-best World Series ever played. The Reds won in seven games, but not before Carlton Fisk hit one of the most memorable home runs in baseball history.

    And then, of course, it was the St. Louis Cardinals who the Red Sox swept in 2004 to finally break the Curse of the Bambino. Plus, it was the Cardinals in both 1946 and 1967 who beat the Red Sox in seven games to keep the curse alive for another few decades.

    Throw in the fact that the Atlanta Braves used to be the Boston Braves and that Boston-L.A. is arguably the most iconic NBA rivalry of all time, and it's hard to imagine a World Series involving the Red Sox that wouldn't reek of historical undertones.

Tampa Bay vs. Texas

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    Ideal Pairing

    Tampa Bay Rays vs. Texas Rangers in ALDS

     

    Reasoning

    In both 2010 and 2011, the Rangers came up just short of securing the first World Series title in franchise history. Before both of those losses, however, they knocked out the Rays in the ALDS.

    In 2010, it was three home runs from Nelson Cruz and two dominant wins from Cliff Lee that sent Tampa Bay packing. The following season, Mike Napoli and Josh Hamilton delivered the knockout blows in Game 3, and Neftali Feliz picked up a save in all three of Texas' wins.

    Save for Felizwho just this weekend returned to an MLB mound for the first time all season—none of those players will be involved in the series. In Tampa Bay, however, David Price (0-3, 4.66 ERA, 1.29 WHIP) and Evan Longoria (.194/.256/.417, 2 HR) are still in town and hoping to make up for terrible showings in the previous series.

    Sprinkle in the possibility of Matt Garza returning to Tropicana Field to start in a pivotal game against his former team, and we've got all sorts of dramatic storylines for this series.

Atlanta vs. Pittsburgh

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    Ideal Pairing

    Atlanta Braves vs. Pittsburgh Pirates in NLDS

     

    Reasoning

    By the time the postseason begins, everyone born after the last time the Pirates competed in the playoffs will be of legal drinking age in the U.S.

    It's been a long 21 years since we last saw Pittsburgh playing into mid-October. Barring a complete meltdown, the boys in black and yellow will finish above .500 and make the playoffs for the first time since 1992.

    A simple playoff appearance won't be enough to heal an entire city's wounds, but a series win over the last team to beat them in the postseason would certainly help exorcise some demons.

    In case it has slipped your memory, the Pirates held a 2-0 lead in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS versus Atlanta. Doug Drabek was going for a complete game shutout, but allowed the first three batters of the ninth inning to reach base before handing over the keys to Stan Belinda. All of Belinda's inherited runners scored, and Drabek suffered one of the most painful losses in postseason history when Sid Bream slid into home plate.

    Should these two teams square off in the playoffs, prepare yourself for roughly 10,000 viewings of that iconic slide.

St. Louis vs. Texas

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    Ideal Pairing

    St. Louis Cardinals vs. Texas Rangers in the World Series

     

    Reasoning

    I'll accept arguments for the Rally Monkey in 2002 and/or Luis Gonzalez's walk-off bloop single in 2001, but for my money the best World Series of the past 20 years was when the Cardinals and Rangers squared off in 2011.

    Between Game 2's pitching duel of Colby Lewis vs. Jaime Garcia, Albert Pujols' three home runs in Game 3, Derek Holland's gem in Game 4, Mike Napoli's heroics in Game 5, and David Freese's super-heroics in Game 6, just about every game had an exciting storyline.

    And one could very reasonably argue that both teams are better now than they were two years ago.

    In their 53rd year of existence since moving from Washington, the Rangers are the oldest franchise without a World Series title. It would be nice to see them get that monkey off their back against the team that almost helped them do so in 2011.

Detroit vs. Oakland

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    Ideal Pairing

    Detroit Tigers vs. Oakland Athletics in ALCS

     

    Reasoning

    Because they are best-of-five instead of seven and because they are still a full series away from the World Series, division series are rarely remembered anywhere near as vividly as their CS counterparts. That said, last year's battle between Detroit and Oakland was one for the ages.

    The first four games were decided by a total of six runs. Game 2 included three blown leads and a walk-off win for Detroit. Game 4 included a comeback walk-off win in what would have been an elimination game for Oakland.

    Most memorably, though, Justin Verlander gave up one run in 16 innings of work with 22 strikeouts, including a complete game shutout in Game 5.

    It was one of those series where neither team deserved to lose, and we deserve to see them duke it out in a seven-game series this year.

St. Louis vs. Atlanta

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    Ideal Pairing

    St. Louis Cardinals vs. Atlanta Braves in NLCS

     

    Reasoning

    In 2011, the Cardinals bypassed the Braves on the final day of the regular season, sneaked into the playoffs as the wild-card team and went on to win the most exciting World Series of the past decade.

    In 2012, the Braves finished six games ahead of the Cardinals in the standings, but had to face them in a one-game playoff scenario thanks to the new rule admitting two-wild card teams into the playoffs.

    What transpired was the most liberal application of the infield fly rule in the history of a rule that no one has ever properly understood. After a lengthy delay to clean up the trash thrown onto the field by understandably angry Braves fans, the Cardinals went on to win the game, ending Atlanta's World Series dreams for a second consecutive season before the NLDS even began.

    I have a sneaking suspicion that the state of Georgia hasn't forgotten about either of those endings to its recent seasons, and that the first game played at Turner Field in this hypothetical series could be the loudest one ever.

Los Angeles vs. Oakland

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    Ideal Pairing

    Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Oakland Athletics in the World Series

     

    Reasoning

    Kirk Gibson had precisely one plate appearance in the 1988 World Series between the Dodgers and Athletics, and it is easily one of the 10 most replayed at-bats in MLB history.

    Oct. 15 marks the 25th anniversary of his pinch-hit home run off Dennis Eckersley.

    Though Gibson is currently managing the Diamondbacks and Eckersley is currently a studio analyst for NESN and TBS, you're out of your mind if you don't think that Fox is drooling over the possibility of reuniting them in the studio if this World Series pairing takes place.

    Oakland would advance to the World Series in each of the following two seasons (winning in '89), but neither team has made it back there since 1990. They're both long overdue.

Boston vs. Tampa Bay

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    Ideal Pairing

    Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays in ALCS

     

    Reasoning

    In most of these ideal scenarios, we're putting a lot of hope on lingering bad blood from something that happened at least a year ago. Boston and Tampa Bay, however, have had their share of shakeups in 2013.

    On June 10, both benches emptied for an on-field chit chat after John Lackey pegged Matt Joyce. Then on July 30, after a controversial win for the Rays, the official Twitter handle of both teams engaged in a bit of off-the-field mud-slinging.

    In addition to the in-season feuding and the obvious natural divisional rivalry, these two teams also took part in the most recent ALCS to last the full seven games back in 2008.

    Tampa Bay held a 3-1 series lead and a 7-0 lead in the seventh inning of Game 5 before the bullpen completely imploded. The Red Sox stormed back to win in walk-off fashion and took Game 6 as well before Tampa Bay finally advanced to the first World Series in its brief history.

    After spending the past four months jostling for first place in the AL East, another seven-game series might be the only appropriate way to settle the score.