This is not 1986. This is not 2004. This is not 2007. The 2008 Halos are 100-62 and, on paper, the most complete team in baseball. Orange County limped into last year’s fall classic and got swept by a Red Sox team that outscored them 44-16 in three games, the biggest abuse of power this side of Sarah Palin.
In the offseason, they acquired all-star Torii Hunter who hit 21 round trippers and stole 19 bases while playing a consistent defense. Then, at the trading deadline, the 2002 World Champions pulled the boldest move of the Arte Moreno era by acquiring switch-hitting Mark Teixeira, who has only hit .358 with 13 HRs in 54 games. What is it with Scott Boras clients, they love being traded, don’t they?
The offense still revolves around Vladimir Guerrero, who led the team with a .303 average while hitting 27 homeruns, 91 RBIs, 85 runs, and his league leading 12th straight year of not having a strike zone. The free-swinging, hard-hitting Guerrero still puts the most fear into the opposing pitching staff. Best of all, unlike last year, the team is healthy and deep, 13 players played in over 79 games this year.
Pitching has always been the strength of Orange County and this year is no different. Their starters have all been consistent, winning 17, 16, 13, 12, and 11 between Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana, Jon Garland, John Lackey, and Jered Weaver respectively. Their set up pitching, led by the electrifying Jose Arrendondo, Darren Oliver, and Scot Shields is virtually unhittable. Of course, every game begins to end with K-Rod, Francisco Rodriguez and his record setting 62 saves this season.
The local nine will counter with Jon Lester, who was last season in the post-season pitching 5 2/3 shutout innings to clinch the World Series in 2007, to face Lackey in game 1. Dice-K Matsuzaka versus the unhittable at home Ervin Santana in game two, and are hopeful October legend Josh Beckett will be able to pitch game three against staff ace Joe Saunders in game three at Fenway Park.
This year’s Sox are last year’s Halos. Boston is banged up and bruised, and without any feared hitters in the lineup. Since the trade of Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz looks more and more like David Arias. Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia have done their best MVP impressions, but neither can make a pitcher’s lip quiver like the mere presence of Manny in the batter’s box could.
It would put a false sense of hope into the fans to reminisce about the last three times Boston faced off against Orange County in the playoffs. It would put a false sense of hope to remind people that the wild-card team has won three of the last six playoffs. It would put a false sense of hope to stress that all the pressure is on the 100-win Halos, a team clearly built to win this year. It would put a false sense of hope to point out this writer still believes Boston has enough talent to win it all.
So I won’t do or say any of that, I’ll just leave you with this: Boston 3, Orange County 2. See you in the ALCS.