At last, it is time for me to unveil the 2008 World Series.
Before I do so, let me just say that it’s been especially tough this season, trying to come up with a World Series pick, given the fact that there are so many good, evenly-matched teams out there.
Just take a look at the standings right now—every division (with the exception of the AL West) still has two or more teams, in most cases three, with a shot at winning it.
No club, except for the Angels in a weak AL West, can separate themselves from the competition.
It’s great for the sport, as this season has put Major League Baseball back into an upswing (or maybe it’s just the whole post-Barry Bonds era?).
Of the eight teams that I’ve got in the playoffs, I can honestly see any of them going to the World Series and winning it all.
Lastly, before I make my final predictions, here is a recap of my other picks:
AL EAST – Red Sox
AL CENTRAL – White Sox
AL WEST – Angels
WILD CARD – Rays
NL EAST – Phillies
NL CENTRAL – Cubs
NL WEST – Diamondbacks
WILD CARD – Brewers
And with that…
First of all, I know that it’s lame and unoriginal to go with the two teams that currently have the best records in their respective leagues when it comes to making your World Series pick, but unfortunately, that’s what I’ve got to go with.
In other words, the Chicago Cubs (68-46) and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (70-43), baseball’s two most consistent winners all season long, have a date in October.
I, personally, think that an all-Chicago World Series between the Cubs and White Sox would be awesome, but I just can’t see the White Sox hanging around that long...or maybe it’s just that I like the Angels a little bit more!
If all goes according to plan, the Cubs and Angels will garner the top seeds in each league, which actually means next to nothing.
Look back at the last SIX World Series matchups, what do they all have in common? All six have featured a wild-card team!
Three of those teams, the Anaheim Angels of 2002 (when they were still just the Anaheim Angels), Florida Marlins of 2003, and Boston Red Sox of 2004, went on to win the World Series.
So, as it turns out, owning the best record in your league does not automatically translate to a world championship.
Now, with that being said, I’m sure a lot of you expect me to declare either the Tampa Bay Rays or Milwaukee Brewers (my two wild-card picks) a lock to make the World Series.
Obviously, this highly-unusual streak that has come to be will end in 2008, only because the Cubs and Angels are so darn good!
The biggest strength that they both have going for them is starting pitching.
I can’t reiterate the following statement enough: Pitching wins championships!
For example, let’s refer back to the past again and glance at the last five World Series champions – ’07 Red Sox, Cardinals, White Sox, ’04 Red Sox, and Marlins.
Every single one of these teams had dominant, slam-the-door-in-your-face starting pitching.
Not one was able to win because they outslugged their opponent.
Getting good performances on the mound should not be a problem for either of these teams.
The Angels have the deepest pitching staff in the American League, if not in all of baseball, while the Cubs possess a lethal one-two punch with Carlos Zambrano and Rich Harden, in addition to two other formidable starters.
The Angels’ rotation is led by John Lackey, a reliable veteran that they can give the ball to and count on a quality start.
Lackey’s postseason experience is yet another intangible—he started and won Game Seven of the 2002 World Series for the Halos; not to mention, they are a club that makes the playoffs year-in-and-year-out, so obviously their longest-tenured starting pitcher knows what it’s like to be in the middle of a playoff atmosphere.
Beyond Lackey, Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders are two young guns that have really come into their own in 2008.
Santana boasts a record of 12-5 with a 3.38 ERA and 143 strikeouts; Saunders’ numbers are outstanding as well: 14-5, 3.03.
There has been intense speculation that both Santana and Saunders are in the running to be Barack Obama’s VP…I mean, the AL Cy Young recipient. The same goes for Francisco Rodriguez, who’s having a decent year at closer for the Angels.
At the bottom of their seemingly endless rotation are Jon Garland and Jered Weaver, two guys that would be solid No. 2 starters on most teams in the majors, but on this team, they’re rounding out the rotation!
It’s almost ridiculous to think any club could have a starting rotation that good!
Did I mention the Cubs don’t have bad starting pitching themselves?
Zambrano and Harden make the Cubbies one of the few teams in Major League Baseball with two No. 1 starters.
Both of these guys make opposing teams afraid that they’re going to get no-hit.
Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly, the "second tier" pitchers within the Cubs’ rotation, have a combined 23 wins. Not too bad!
So, if it’s true that starting pitching is the key to winning championships, I think it’s safe to say that the Cubs and Angels are built to win.
In addition to having the best starting pitching in their respective leagues, the Cubbies and Halos exhibit scary lineups.
A year ago, the Angels were manhandled by the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS, simply because they could not generate enough runs to keep up with the high-powered Sox.
That has changed dramatically.
Even though manager Mike Scioscia is still the master of "small ball", the Angels’ new-look lineup has a lot more pop to it than it did last season.
Three through six in the batting order looks like this: Mark Teixeira, Vlad Guerrero, Torii Hunter, and Garrett Anderson.
Talk about a minefield for opposing pitchers to maneuver through!
The trademark of Angels baseball in recent years has been not giving up many runs; hopefully now they can actually score a few.
With the recent acquisition of Teixeira, the Angels have done more than enough to address their past offensive issues, but I would still give the Cubs a slight edge on offense in this World Series matchup.
Leadoff man Alfonso Soriano is such a dynamic threat, as he has been known to frequently hit ‘em out of the park and steal bases…over and over again.
Derek Lee and Aramis Ramirez, two all-around solid hitters, provide the big bats in the middle of the Cubs’ dangerous lineup and drive in a ton of runs.
Then there’s catcher Geovany Soto, who has suddenly morphed into a very potent offensive force.
There’s definitely a reason why the Cubs rank first in the National League in both team batting average and runs scored!
It’s not unusual to see two teams that mirror one another like the Angels and Cubs meeting in late October. They both possess a winning formula: masterful starting pitching, complete with lots and lots of hitting, and maybe even a few big-name sluggers.
Well, I’ve told you who is World Series-bound and why, so the only question that remains is which team will win this thing: the Chicago Cubs or Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim?
I just have this eerie gut feeling that, after 100 years of pain and agony, the time has finally come for the Chicago Cubs to be crowned World Series Champions.
Let’s be honest, it’s their turn to win. The Red Sox "reversed the curse" four years ago, and then a year later the White Sox watered their World Series drought. It’s time that Cubs fans throw the black cat, Steve Bartman, and the Curse of the Billy Goat out the window!
They can think to themselves, with a sense of satisfaction, "Why not us?"
This year presents the Cubs with as good of an opportunity as any to break through and do it.
Nevertheless, please don’t bet your mortgage on my predictions! I don’t want to be retrieving dirty emails a year from now when everything doesn’t turn out just as I had imagined.