MLB 2009 Postseason: Top Storylines

Nino Colla@TheTribeDailySenior Writer IOctober 6, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - SEPTEMBER 30: Closing pitcher Brad Lidge #54 of the Philadelphia Phillies winds up on the last pitch of the game beating the Houston Astros 10-3 and winning the National League East on September 30, 2009 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

We're still waiting on one last playoff contender for this year's postseason festivities, but the story machine is already churning for most outlets. Can you see the possibilities?

I'm pretty sure big media markets like Boston, New York, and Los Angeles can.

Every year the MLB postseason can provide some of the most intense drama you'll ever witness. What makes it so special is the storylines that surround these moments.

Questions are answered when all is said and done, but the fun is seeing how they are answered. Storylines are fulfilled, but the intrigue is seeing in what way they are fulfilled.

So here are the top ten storylines you should be following as the playoffs unfold.


10. How Dangerous Are the Tigers in a Short-Series? How Far Will "Dome Magic" Take the Twins?

Coming in at tenth to start the list off, is a tie between storylines involving two teams that are not officially in the playoffs as of this article being created.

Let's start with the Tigers, who've got that label some teams get before the postseason starts.

"The most dangerous team in a short series."

This is often given to the team that has two dominant starters, and nothing more. If the Tigers make the playoffs, the attention will turn to Justin Verlander, and the hope that Tiger fans will put on him being dominant.

If the Twins face the Yankees, then the dome lives on, for at least another game.

They'll play two games in New York, but the Twins are guaranteed one more game at the storied Metrodome before they move into Target Field next year.

And if they get one more game in the dome, they have the opportunity to work its magic into more.


9. The Angels Battle with the Boston Monkey

King Kong is jumping around Anaheim, and he's got a big giant hat with a "B" on it, especially at this time of the year.

The last four Los Angeles playoff appearances have ended with elimination. Three of them have come at the hands of Boston in the ALDS.

And here we are again, Boston and Los Angeles, in the ALDS.

Will the Angels finally breakthrough and defeat Boston in the postseason, something they've failed to do this decade?

In fact, the Angels have only won one postseason series since winning the World Series in 2002. They've managed to make the playoffs regularly, but have had numerous shortcomings, especially in the past few years when they've had talented teams.

Teams that have been talented enough to win it all in my opinion. Last year was their best shot as any after wrapping up the AL West relatively early.

However, this year they are flying very low under the radar, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if they finally knocked the monkey off their back, and put on an extended postseason run.


8. How Will Rotations Shape Up?

I don't think I can remember a year in which there was as much discussion as to rotation alignment and situation as there has been this year.

Starting in Boston, where you have Daisuke Matsuzaka coming back at the best possible time to let the Red Sox know they can count on him. Sure they're going to pitch Beckett and Lester, but who do they go with behind them?

Clay Buchholz has struggled the past few times out, a few weeks ago it looked like he was a lock for one of the spots. But, now Matsuzaka being healthy provides the Red Sox with an interesting choice to make, or a very good backup plan.

Moving onto New York, if they Yankees were to advance, is Joba Chamberlain going to be in the rotation or the bullpen? And with still not knowing their opponent, they've yet to select which series they want, and that will ultimately decide how they assemble their rotation in this series. So there is still some unknown there.

In Colorado, the injury to Jorge De La Rosa provides some issues to the Rockies plans. Do they rest him and not risk putting an injured pitcher out there in a short series? Ubaldo Jimenez has thrown in a few clunkers in the month of September, while Aaron Cook's freshness is a big bonus for the Rockies.

Philadelphia has solid arms, but in what order do they line them up? Do they give Pedro Martinez the third spot behind Cole Hamels or is it Joe Blanton? Is JA Happ, who co-led the team in wins, bound for the bullpen?

Just about every team has a deep rotation, and the Angels are not excluded. In fact, they may have one of the deepest rotations. With the acquisition of Scott Kazmir, they've got a plethora of options.

And, of course, the Dodgers have everyone coming together at the right time. Where do they go for their first series? Billingsley, Garland, Padilla, Wolf, and Kershaw are all viable candidates, but not all of them can start.

And whoever faces the Yankees already has a mangled rotation, they just have to go with who's fresh. I don't think the Tigers will be happy about having to use Porcello just to get into the playoffs, but that's their own fault for not clinching sooner.

So many questions and intriguing issues to resolve, as far as the rotations go.


7. Not Your Mother's Boston Lineup

This isn't 2004, it's not even 2007.

It's 2009, and this Boston lineup is drastically different from the ones that won World Series titles back in 2004 and 2007. Manny Ramirez is gone, David Ortiz is not a central figure, and middle of the road players like Coco Crisp and Gabe Kapler are not pieces of this puzzle.

In fact, it may be a more balanced group of Red Sox hitters than in the past.

From top to bottom you've got skilled players like Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Jason Bay, and newly acquired Victor Martinez.

Ortiz is just a player, not the man in the lineup, but he's still dangerous. The world might open their eyes to just how good of a pure hitter Martinez is. Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis have had their postseason moments in the past.

Many don't realize this, but it was Jason Bay that did a lot of the heavy lifting in the postseason last year. JD Drew has suddenly gotten hot to end the season and this team's bench, not half bad compared to others.


6. How Far Can Two Very Good Pitchers Carry the Cardinals?

The idea of the Tigers' danger in a short series with Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson, pales in comparison when you stare down Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright in a five game series.

Carpenter and Wainwright have dominated the opposition this year, plain and simple.

The last time we saw Wainwright in the postseason, he closed the door on a World Series title. You don't think he can't handle the pressure of the postseason?

Chris Carpenter was 3-1 back in 2006 in the Cardinals last run.

And these two guys are pitching at least three out of the five games in the first series if it comes down to that?

Thanks, but no thanks.


5. Dodger Potential World Series Matchups: California Series, Manny vs. Boston, Torre vs. Yankees

No one is rooting for the Dodgers as much as FOX is right now.

There are odds of having a marketable storyline go through the roof if the Dodgers make it to the World Series. You can create just about any sort of storyline with them involved.

If they face the Angels, then you've got an in-state rivalry. It might not be incredibly appealing to the East Coast, but its way better than Dodgers-Twins.

Then you've got two current Dodgers with the possibilities of facing their old teams and re-visiting their old stomping grounds.

Joe Torre back in New York? Manny Ramirez makes his long-awaited return to Boston?

FOX and ESPN couldn't ask for bigger matchups to promote and talk endlessly about.


4. The Struggles of CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez in the Postseason

The highest paid position player in the major leagues is a career .279 hitter in the postseason.

The highest paid pitcher in the major leagues has a career postseason ERA of 7.92.

That isn't what the best money pays for, and the Yankees shouldn't expect it to. So you can bet with every pretty penny they've spent on both players, that both need to come up at some point in this year's postseason run.

If Sabathia goes out and lays an egg in the first game, and Rodriguez strikes out twice and goes 0-for-4, there will be no end to the talk of disappointment. They need big performances more than anyone.

Rodriguez now has Mark Teixeira hitting next to him, which should surely make things easier for one of them, and it seems as if there is very little talk surrounding Rodriguez this year, which will make things easier from a pressure aspect.

Sabathia doesn't have the excuse of being exhausted to hinge on like he did last year. He was dead-fatigued by the time Milwaukee got to the postseason in 2008. They used him as their workhorse just to get there, and when they finally did, he was done.

This is Sabathia's chance to show everyone that 2007 was just a fluke and he can pitch in the big games.


3. Rocktober Again in 2009?

When it was the Colorado Rockies making a postseason run in 2007, many fans were shouting, "Welcome to Rocktober."

Is it going to be Roxtober again in 2009?

What is Rckxtober?

It's basically any time the Rockies go on an incredible run and streak into the postseason, and play meaningful October baseball.

And then run through their on-comers with the same perseverance they did for the past few months of the regular season.

This team has been on a rip since they fired Clint Hurdle and it doesn't look like they are slowing down for anyone.

Consider first phase of Roxtober done, and the second phase underway. The Phillies are going to be a tough opponent, but they are far from flawless. Pitching and hot play can carry any team, and the Rockies certainly have the first, and the capability, to do the second.

There isn't a more surprising aspect of the 2009 postseason than the fact the Rockies are in it, despite being left for dead a few months into the season.


2. Nick Adenhart's Impact on the Angels

This is the most emotional storyline in this year's MLB postseason, by far. Last year it was the story of John Challis and his impact on Joe Maddon and the Rays.

This year, it's the Angels taking the memory of their fallen teammate and seeing how far it can emotionally push them.

Maybe it will even be enough to get the aforementioned monkey off their back.

There was some controversy over the way the Angels celebrated with Adenhart's jersey after they clinched the AL West. I personally don't have a problem with it, and think it was truly a special moment.

I can only anticipate what they would do to honor him if they advance at each level of the postseason, and I hope I get to see it. This is one story, I'd be glad to root for.


1. The Brad Lidge Situation

To me, this is the biggest storyline going in baseball right now.

For one, if it's Brad Lidge and both the Phillies and Cardinals advance, you can expect overdrive by the media's intrigue vehicle.

There is a lot riding on who will be closing for Philadelphia. They've got all the other pieces in place. They've got dual aces in Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels atop their rotation, a stellar lineup from top to bottom, and good pieces in the pen leading up to Lidge.

But the one constant in Philadelphia’s team last year, is the one non-constant this year. It's mind-boggling how far he's fallen and had he just been half as consistent as he was last year, the Phillies would be the hands down favorite to take it all.

So is Charlie Manuel going to stick with the guy who can be great, and toy with the very real possibility that he could be burned very badly, or does he try something else?

Ryan Madson hasn't worked out and who knows if Brett Myers can step in with just a few games under his belt since his return. Had they took the time to convert him into the role, I'd almost suggest throwing Pedro Martinez's name out there.

If Lidge is the man though, and both the Phillies and Cardinals make it to the NLCS, Lidge's worst nightmare is lurking. You know he'll have to face Albert Pujols with the game on the line at some point, and that alone will be worth the price of admission.

Oh, and if Lidge were to somehow miraculously regain invincibility and lead the Phillies to a repeat? Then that's just what the postseason is all about: unpredictability.


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