After beginning the season in March in Japan, between the defending champion Boston Red Sox and the Oakland Athletics, and having it stretch to the very last day of September in a one-game playoff for the A.L. Central crown, the playoffs have arrived.
Everyone has now completed 162 games and the AL Central needs game 163 to decide the final American League participant in the postseason. A postseason that doesn’t include the New York Yankees, for the first time since 1994.
This playoff includes four new teams—Tampa Bay, the A.L. Central representative, Milwaukee, and Los Angeles Dodgers—and four returning teams from the 2007 postseason—the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels, Chicago Cubs, and Philadelphia Phillies.
So, who will represent the A.L. and N.L. in the World Series? Who will prevail as the World Series champion?
Not as simple as it seems, but here’s how it will happen, through the non-expert brain I have.
In the ALDS, the matchups feature the two returning teams from the ‘07 postseason in an ALDS rematch, Boston and Los Angeles.
Last year, the Red Sox held home-field advantage and rode that all the way through the playoffs to a World Series title, including a sweep of the Angels along the way. This year, the Angels have the advantage of home field throughout the playoffs.
And, while last year the Angels were facing injuries to derail their playoff chances, the Red Sox have injuries to key players on their roster this year.
Not to mention the Angels obliterated the Sox in their season series. That said, the pitching matchups are great for the entire series. I envision this going five games, with the Angels winning 3-2.
The other series will see the Tampa Bay Rays and their 97-win club battling the winner of the Chicago White Sox-Minnesota Twins game on Tuesday evening. The winner of this game will leave the regular season—a 163-game regular season—with 89 wins.
The Rays have a strong pitching staff, great defense, and a lot of energy in their method of play. Both the White Sox and Twins have gone through many ebbs and flows throughout the season.
And, while the White Sox and Twins having the experience edge over the Rays, their quality of team doesn’t match that of the Rays, at least not in 2008.
The Rays will make this series look surprisingly simple, as if they’ve been here before. 3-1 will be the final series count.
In the National League, the Milwaukee Brewers will make their first postseason appearance since 1982, back when they were in the A.L. East.
They will be matched up against the N.L. East champion Philadelphia Phillies.
The Brewers pose a formidable lineup and a superior pitching staff. The Phillies' lineup is strong top to bottom, complemented by a decent pitching staff. It will be interesting to see whose weaker link will step up to help their team prevail in the series.
With CC Sabathia pitching Game Two and potentially a do-or-die Game Five in the series, I don’t see any way the Brewers don’t advance into the NLCS. Brewers win 3-2.
The other series of the N.L. matches up two teams with rich histories: the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Cubs are the team to beat in the N.L., while the Dodgers won the weak N.L. West division.
However, the Dodgers were beginning to heat up towards the end of the season, with the addition of Manny Ramirez, whom they acquired via a trade with Boston on July 31. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, they got matched up with the team with the most depth and talent in the National League.
If it was any other team, I would say the Dodgers advance; but this is the Cubs. Chicago boasts a better pitching staff, better defense, better bench, and a better lineup. Chicago wins this series, 3-1.
The ALCS then would matchup the 100-win Angels verse the inexperienced A.L. East champion-Rays.
The Cinderella story will end for the Rays here, as the Angels are too strong a team on both sides of the ball for them to succeed.
A good subplot to this story will be Joe Maddon, disciple of the Mike Scoscia family tree of coaches, going head to head with his mentor. Their style of play is the same and their teams are both athletic and have several ways to defeat you.
However, the talent level on the Angels is far superior than that of the Rays. With the spotlight shining on the Rays, as odd as that sounds from a literal sense, they will crumble. Angels advance to their first World Series since 2002, prevailing 4-1.
In the NLCS, both representatives from the N.L. Central will face off.
While the Brewers have a strong pitching staff, the injury to Ben Sheets makes them weaker. And while it’s the pitching staff that advanced them to the NLCS, that was only a best-of-five series, where CC Sabathia got them two wins.
To expect two wins on top of a potential two wins by CC seems too much of a task for the Brewers’ staff, especially with a lineup that puts the ball in play and forces you to play defense. The Cubs make it to the World Series for the first time in over 60 years, winning this series, 4-1.
And while the Billy Goat and Rally Monkey will be the talk of the town in the 2008 World Series, the play on the field will be what we all remember years down the road.
The Angels and Cubs match up very well. Both teams have great starting pitching, good defense, and strong hitters throughout the lineup. Both teams have great benches and managers who have been here before. The bullpens on each staff are reliable.
What this will come down to is home-field advantage. The Angels, thanks to the classic All-Star-Game victory by the American League in mid-July, will have that edge.
Therefore, since the teams are a wash, I see the Angels playing their second seven-game World Series in this decade. They won the 2002 World Series against the San Francisco Giants in seven games with the home-field advantage.
In 2008, they will do the same, with the opponent from Chicago. The L.A. Angels are your 2008 World Series champs, winning 4-3.