The month of October gets its meaning from the Greek word "octo," meaning "eight." In Major League Baseball, October has a whole different meaning—playoff baseball.
This year had more storylines than I can remember any season having before, and definitely solidified the fact that, even on the brink of a recession, the USA’s favorite pastime is still going strong.
This year’s campaign saw the opening game played in China, righty Jon Lester’s no-hitter at Fenway, Josh Hamilton bring the movie The Natural to life in the Home Run Derby, a monster trade deadline that saw big names like C.C. Sabathia, Manny Ramirez, and Mark Teixeira pack their bags, and the Tampa Bay—don’t call us the Devil—Rays leading the AL East from start to finish.
Don’t forget Ken Griffey, Jr.’s march into the 600 HR club, Cliff Lee’s unbelievable season on an unbelievably bad team, Sabathia’s play that led the Brewers to a playoff berth, K-Rod’s 62 saves for the single-season record, and Carlos Zambrano’s first no-hitter for the Cubs since '72, which was also the first no-no pitched on neutral ground in MLB history.
Not to mention, the Tigers floundered with a powerhouse lineup, a spine tingling ceremony during the last game to be played at Yankee Stadium, and a season-ending, playoff hope-smashing loss for the Mets in the final game at Shea. And, for the first time in 14 years, the postseason will be without the New York Yankees.
All this, and the regular season isn’t even over yet. The White Sox have to play a make-up game against the Tigers on Monday in hopes of forcing a tie-breaker with the Twins on Tuesday.
If the Sox lose on Monday, the Twins are in against the Rays. If it goes to a tie-breaker, then the winner of that will still face the Rays. The Rays look strong, winning the AL East, and are good enough to beat the Twins, but if Ozzie’s boys can win Monday and Tuesday, they will take out the Rays as well.
The best team in baseball, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will look to prove that the regular season was not a fluke, taking on the defending World Series Champions, the Boston Red Sox, in the other American League Division Series.
The Red Sox will hope that dealing Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers didn’t take too much intimidation away from their lineup. For the Bo Sox to have any hope, they will need Josh Beckett to regain his bionic arm from last year’s playoffs, as opposed to whatever he had this year.
In the NL, the Cubs owned the best record and will attempt to break the curse of the billy goat against the Dodgers. If the billy goat is ever going to die, this may be the year. The Cubs have three pitchers (Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly, and Carlos Zambrano) with 14 or more wins.
Alfonso Soriano leads an offense with six players (Soriano, Derek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Mark DeRosa, Jim Edmonds, and Geovany Soto) with 20 or more homers. The Dodgers are hoping their trade deadline acquisition of Manny Ramirez will be enough to upset the Cubs.
Since his arrival in LA, Manny has a slugging percentage of .793 and is batting .396, but if the Dodgers are to have a chance, their pitching staff needs to be lights out. Will the mixture of Manny and Joe Torre work in postseason? I think so.
Ryan Howard is hotter than hell right now. Howard got off to a rough start early in the season, citing that he was having trouble following the ball all the way in. He must have found a good pair of contacts.
Howard knocked out 48 home runs, had 146 RBI, and helped the Phillies slip by the Mets (again) and clinch the NL East. Howard will be looked to supply the bulk of the Phillies' offense, with Chase Utley and reigning NL MVP Jimmy Rollins. If the Phillies get the lead late in the game and hand it over to Brad Lidge, it's lights out for the Brew Crew. Lidge has 41 saves in 41 opportunities.
With a pitching one-two-punch of Sabathia and Gallardo to go along with the offensive one-two punch of Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, the Brewers will make this the best first round series and will come out on top in the fifth and final game.
The regular season was one for the ages and one that baseball fans everywhere will not forget. Every year the playoffs trump the regular season and, falling in line, the 2008 postseason promises to be a fall classic.