American League West: Texas Oakland Los Angeles, Seattle
As you can easily tell, I am a fan of small market clubs.
I as happy as I am to see Cincinnati make the playoffs after a 15 year drought (1995) and Texas after an 11 year span (1999) it was just as equally disappointing to see San Diego miss, especially at the expense of the boring, overrated Atlanta Braves who have wasted a playoff spot in every one of their last 15 appearances save for the 1995 miracle vs. almost as equally pathetic Cleveland in what I like to call the World Series from Hell.
Besides, its not like they are going to do anything anyway, so why not give San Diego a chance, we all know they could have used the extra cash from the playoff revenue.
Growing up Cincinnati was good (1990) along with the Oakland A's (I'd like to see a replay of that World Series with the Reds playing their role and my Minnesota Twins playing that of the A's even if their 2010 payroll-top ten is significantly higher. Can you imagine Commissioner Selig's face having to go to those small, cold markets? Can you imagine the complaining corporate America would be doing if their precious Yankee$ do not make it, in addition to the Phillie$ getting bounced early? This is what I am hoping for.
ALDS ESPN Yankee$ at lowly Minnesota Twins
My heart wants to say Minnesota in who cares-3, 4, 5, but the fact remains the Yankee$ are the Yankee$ and something about October just brings out the best in some people: Luis Polonia, Scott Brosius, Shane Spencer, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Paul O'Neill, Tino Martinez, not to mention Mo Rivera, Jeter, Pettitte etc.
Reasons the Yankee$ will win: They have the history, they have the experience, they are the defending champions and as much as I hate them, they are who we thought they were. October is their time to shine. Last year they won the World Series their first year in their new building, somethng I am hoping the Twins can copy-if they took good notes.
Swept the Twins last year (7-0) and 3-0 in playoffs. Karma is on their side. Until they get beat, even if Twins somehow take first game or two that's gone good enough until these spoiled elitists are gone.
Reasons they'll lose: Wonder how long it will be before we find out A-ROID juiced in 2009? Someone's gonna talk a decade or two from now, is my guess. He was too good to be true last year. Look how they treated (as I predicted) 2009 hero's Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui who were both given their walking papers despite Matsui (MVP) and Damon .381 BA. Granderson is all or nothing. Pettite's coming back from long injury, Burnett's already out. Jeter's having his worst year. They gotta slow down some time right? Buster Olney (Yankee homer) calls this the "most wide open American League I've ever seen" (yesterday's SportsCenter). Keep telling yourself that, Yankee lover.
Reasons the Twins will win: Went 2-4 against New York this year. While that's not much its light years ahead of last year. Also, the last time they played, the Twins won (in NY) so they have some momentum and that in the back of their minds. Also, Jason Kubel emerged as a legit Yankee$ killer having hit a Grand Slam off Rivera in the game. Also, the last time the Twins played them at home, they too won so this first game is huge.
The bad luck, jinxes, (14-46) in their past 60 head to head have to end sometime right? Why not take a page from the NBA's Suns who had similar woes against the cow-town Spurs before finally beating them. A good friend of mine, Yankee fan, admits "this isn't our year" and "the Yankees aren't going to do anything, they're hurt". I'd like to believe him but until the Twins prove me wrong, they get what they deserve.
Yankee-cowards Morneau, Perkins, and Nathan who I bashed last year relentlessly won't play this year giving me hope. Hey, that's three reasons right there they will win! The same hope that newcomers Hudson, Thome, Capps, and Fuentes don't carry that putrid Yankee$ stink with them like the latter three did. Good riddance. Thank god they moved on from crybaby Morneau. Get over it already and come back next year.
Reasons they'll lose (see reasons Yankees will win) also, I dont like the Twins hosting. Granted the last time they hosted a series they won (2002) but nothing since. These aint the A's. Also, when you are a road team you are hoping for a 1:1 split. Yankee$ should at least do that, we all know Twins won't win 1st two or ESPN will hype-rventilate. I really wish the Twins were going to the Bronx 1st. Less pressure since you aren't defending home field trying to take at least one.
In the end I expect a SOBathia gem 2-0 shutout of the Twins at home in game 1, followed by the usual 3-1 heart-breaker that we saw last year setting the stage for a Yankee$ $weep in New York as always. Petitte is automatic in game 2. Yankee fans want us to think they are the underdogs (0-3 all time as a Wild Card) but there is a reason SOBathia is their ace and Phil Hughes went 18-8. I ain't buying it until I see it. Too many years of expectations so why have any?
Yankee$ in three.
Texas Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Reasons Texas will win: At first I gave them no chance due to their lack of playoff experience. Still Lee's good for at least a win right? Bobby Valentine already picked them in 4 and Chris Singleton thinks they can come out of the AL although he's the only one that crazy so far although I could live with it if and when my Twins lose. They've got the hitting we know that.
Reasons they'll lose: Read a stat that Texas is 0-12 against the rest of the AL competition. Also, only one of the American League teams (Atlanta in the NL) to have a losing road record. You get the feeling like the Reds of the NL, they are simply happy to finally be here after years being out, never mind the fact they've never won a playoff series in their history. The only active team to say that. Lots of reasons to not like them, still its good to see them back, can't say that enough. Rusty Greer, Roger Pavlik, Mickey Tettleton, Johnny Oates, Dean Palmer, guys I grew up watching the last time they made the playoffs would all be proud.
Reasons Tampa will win: Forget their bandwagon home crowd full of converted Red Sox fans who just plain hate New York, or the transplants, or the fake fans who only started following the team in 2008. The team makes Tropi-crapa field their home and use it to their advantage. Honestly the atmosphere is great there. I've been there as a pseudo Rays "fan" (until Baltimore gets back). They have the experience. Many see this as a final run with Rafael Soriano, Carl Crawford, and Carlos Pena although I think only Crawford will depart. The Rays if they lose are still going to be a threat in 2011.
Reasons they'll lose: Overconfidence. Underestimating their competition. James Shields and his crap 5.18 ERA, Jeff Neimann fading down the stretch (largely due to injury)Matt Garza can't possibly duplicate 2008 can he? They won't be able to sneak up on anyone this time. 27th in hitting (BA) has to come into play at some point, right? Pressure to keep Crawford around a bit longer.
Rays in 4 (although nothing would surprise me and if the Twins actually win (hell freezes over) I want to play Texas, so Go Rangers, conditional o the Twins winning, otherwise, go Rays! Easily the x-factor series of the 1st round (best one). Could see several games going into extra innings.
NLDS Atlanta Braves vs. San Francisco Giants
You know the saying "If you don't have anything nice to say...." That's how I feel about the Braves who I still don't forgive them for wasting all those opportunities in the '90s and denying other teams Pittsburgh chances to do something which may have created parity.
Forget the fact Atlanta is either one big ghetto (depending on where you are) or a cosmopolitan city full of snobbish transplants and "old money" and there are a lot of reasons to hate Atlanta as I do. Overrated Bobby Cox, the damn annoying "chop" that still rings in my ears having to suffer many an October with that droning. Won't matter though, they won't be staying long.
Reasons Atlanta will win: Annoying rallying around Bobby Cox and his impending retirement, same for Chipper Jones. They can't choke every time they are in. New faces immune to 1990s failures.
Reasons Atlanta will lose: Typical loser franchise come October. Seriously, 14 division titles should have got the Yankee$ of the NL at least 3-4 rings. They went 1/5 in the Fall Classic with my Twins starting them out in the right foot. In 2006 28,000 fans showed up for game 1 of the NLDS. It was explained that "In Atlanta you expect to make it past the first round".
Tickets were going for $6 on StubHub for this team of fickle followers. I know-I checked. If there is an excuse in the book for failure, this team, this city, and their blind-loyal announce teams will find it. 0/4 in NLDS since 2001. I can't wait until they go away. Remember the Padres should be the Giants rally cry!
Reasons the Giants will win: (see reasons Atlanta will lose, above!) Seriously, just by playing this annual disappointment, they got the luck of the draw. Can throw Tiny Tim (Lincecum) twice if they actually have to). Have momentum now.
Reasons they'll lose: Tim can't do it all. New generation of Braves fans, yet to be disillusioned could bring a new 1991-like excitement. Braves have to snap jinx sometime right? Honestly, this is the least intriguing series by far of the first round and I really don't care for either team so I'm done.
Giants in 5 (Braves always make 'em interesting)
Cincinnati Reds vs. Philadelphia Phillies
In 2008 when the Phillies made the playoffs it was cool. When they won the World Series that year, while I wanted the Rays, I felt good for the city. Now its just getting old. Like Boston fans of 2004 and 2007 they act like its their birthright. Phily fans are lame in general but it was fun when they were just happy to be in the playoffs (2007) or 1993 which I have fond memories of.
Reasons the Phillies will win: ESPN wants them to. Seriously, get ready to hear the Halladay-Oswalt-Hamels love fest ESPN Bias. Playoff experience. Embarrassing whiffle ball park that benefits the home team. Just remember Phillies fans, I know when you sucked. Do you?
Reasons they'll lose: Maybe the Reds have a 2008 small-market mentality like the Rays did. Maybe the Reds will sneak up on them and steal an early game or two swinging the series. Too many stars and too much expectations? Seriously, that's all I got until the Reds show me something.
Reasons the Reds will win: At the risk of repeating, maybe they can sneak up on someone seeing how they should have no pressure having no experience. Chapman could be this year's David Price x-factor, rookie phenom. Still seems like a team just happy to be there, despite the fact I picked them as a pre-season Wild Card.
Reasons they'll lose: Just repeating the same things, so I'll refain, Prove me wrong, Reds, I want to play you in the Series!
Phillies in THREE (see 2008 Brewers) Just happy to be there.
Stay tuned for next round picks when it gets closer.