The Series Pick: Why the Phillies Will Win in Six
For the past couple of weeks, I've been hearing how wonderful it would have been had there been a Dodger-Yankee World Series.
Everyone would have relived their Reggie Jackson childhood, both coasts would be covered in baseball interest, it's iconic and yada yada yada.
It turned my stomach.
I get that the world hates repeat champions, but honestly? Rooting for Joe Torre and Manny Ramirez (aka, the faces of everlasting Yankee and Red Sox success) while they were wearing the laundry of the team that taught me crushing childhood sadness?
Garry Maddox, sunshine, center field. Greg Luzinski, night, wall, no. Manny Freaking Mota. Crying my eight-year-old eyes out while wondering why God hated my team, and vowing never to care this much about a team ever, ever, ever again.
Why, the Eagles are much more worthy of my devotion! They're sure to win this playoff game against Atlanta...
Anyway, the Dodgers got pounded over the head and shoulders and lost for the second straight year in five short games, and I really hope there's some eight-year-old in SoCal that's learned a good and painful lesson about life and will grow up thinking the same bitter thoughts that I did.
On the other hand, he's probably a Lakers fan. Crap.
Now, is it attractive to savor the tears of a theoretical child? Of course not. But let me speak frankly on the behalf of my hometown, Philadelphia, to the rest of the nation.
We get it. We understand that you don't like us. As a matter of fact, we're completely comfortable with that and respect your opinion. Most of the time, we don't like ourselves that much, either, mostly because we keep hearing our fellow fans on the radio making a complete ass out of themselves.
I've been a Philly Fan living in Philly, Northern California, and now central New Jersey. It's easier in Jersey, and a hell of a lot easier in NoCal.
And for the next four to seven baseball games, a very large chunk of America will be waving the red flag, wishing with all of their hearts for Ryan Howard to be clutch, and rooting for our laundry as if it were their own, simply because we're The Not Yankees.
It's deeply unsettling, really.
This is not how it's supposed to be for a defending champion. You're supposed to be enjoying your Us Against The World status, waist-deep in the glow from last year's triumph. So long as you aren't Boston Fan, you don't write books about it. You just accept the rare respite from disappointment and try to remember as much of the ride as possible, because this is so much better than what normally happens.
Having all of these new people—especially, pah, Boston Fan—on the bandwagon is just wrong. It's our bandwagon. We know you're not going to be on it long. So go screw. (And you thought I was kidding about the Not Liking thing.)
For Philadelphia, this Series is perfectly/awfully designed to legitimize last year's title, not that anyone ever throws these things back. No one outside of town will think any less of this team if they fail to repeat. Having left Jonathan Broxton's career in a dumper, as well as denying TorreManny twice, is more than enough joy for the Hangover Year.
(And oh, Dodger Fan? You just keep sucking on that until it turns sweet. Thirty-year-old revenge is sweet.)
Last year, the Rays fell in five close games that no one outside of Philadelphia watched. This year, they get The Billion Dollar Beasts with the most famous baseball players in the world, and they'll also have the road field disadvantage, thanks to MLB's continued insistence on giving the All-Star Game undue weight.
And yet...I still want to pick them.
The real problem for the Phillies in this series isn't a hitter. It's Yankee ace CC Sabathia, who presents the very first dominant left-handed SP that the Fightins will face in this postseason. As the numbers show, southpaws with stuff turn Ryan Howard into something much less than helpful, and they also don't do wonderful things for Raul Ibanez, Chase Utley, and the two switch hitters at the top of the lineup.
I could easily see Sabathia starting three games in this series and putting his team in a great position to win all of them. Cliff Lee, God bless him, just doesn't have the same vibe. When they were both Indians, no one ever thought of giving Lee the top spot in the rotation, even when he was having the Cy Young year in the AL.
But here's the dirty little secret about both of these guys: The opposing team has smacked them both around. In three lifetime games against the Phils, Big Ceec is 1-1 with a 4.35 ERA. In less happy news, Cliff Lee is 4-4 with a 5.04 ERA against NY. No one else on the starting staffs has a huge chance at dominance, though a lot of competence is likely.
There's also this: New York didn't exactly steamroll through the first two series. They were tight against a Twins team that gave away games and had a spent (hurt) closer. They needed six games and sweat to take out an Angels team with more defense and baserunning issues.
There's no doubt that the Fightins are the best team New York will face this postseason, and maybe they catch the Beasts in a bit of a paper tiger moment here.
The fun part about this Series, at least for those without undue emotional investment, is that it should actually be fun to watch. I don't know about you, but when every single game in October is a four-hour stomach wrecker where the announcers can tell me how a single base hit is indicative of Character, Guts, and Greatness that mortal men rarely achieve, I kinda want to break the television.
In this series, where both teams have pitching staffs that can be had and hitters that don't shrink in the spotlight, we should have 50-plus runs scored between the two teams over the course of the series. It won't be pinball, but it won't be soccer either.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, continuing his run of gutsy decisions that we all hope will continue to turn out aces, is going to go with Pedro Martinez instead of Cole Hamels in Game Two in New York. I love this move, if only for the theater of it; if Pedro can summon the old magic for this start, I think we'd have the perfect walk away moment for the man.
(Don't count on that, BTW. Pedro likes money, and his lifetime win total could use another 20 to 30 more to make his Cooperstown plaque more impressive.)
Speaking of the managers, keep an eye on Yankee skipper Joe Girardi, who has shown a predilection for the overmanage this playoff with his shaky setup men. Luckily for Joe, Yankee Fan is just happy to be here and will cheerfully accept a Series loss so long as the team plays hard.
(I'm just receiving word that, actually, no, this isn't the case. If they lose, Girardi gets vilified as Not Torre forever and ever. No pressure, Joe. Just make a few extra moves with the pitchers and try harder. Much harder.)
I hate the 2-3-2 format as well (what, New York and Philly are too far away? I freaking commute this on a daily basis), which means that the following pick is downright insane to make. But so is this year, where the team with better defense, a deeper bullpen, a much more productive outfield, and a defending championship is a strong underdog.
Phillies in six.
Now, go on out there and win it for Harry Kalas, men. We need to hear him sing some more.
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