Well, well, well, the World Series is finally here. If, at the beginning of the season someone told you that the Rays would be in the World Series, you probably could have had that person taken away in a straightjacket.
But the truth is, the Rays and the Phillies are the best teams in Major League Baseball right now. After one of the most intense Game Sevens in recent memory, I could not wait to get right into my first World Series article.
In this article, I will be breaking down each team, position by position, seeing who has the advantage. I will be taking into consideration the player's regular season, their postseason, and their history. I don't know about you, but I'm ready, are you? Here we go.
C-Dioneer Navarro/Carlos Ruiz: Without a doubt, I give the edge to the Rays. Navarro has developed into a legitimate everyday catcher for Tampa Bay. During the regular season, he hit .295 and in the postseason he has hit .268. These numbers do not jump out at you, but that is the case with the majority of catchers in baseball. Ruiz has hit just at the Mendoza line this postseason, batting a minuscule .200. That is not going to get it done against the Rays.
1B-Carlos Pena/Ryan Howard:Wow, here is an interesting matchup. Neither man hits for a high average, but both can absolutely crush the ball. Howard has struggled throughout the playoffs, but we know what he is capable of. Pena, on the other hand, has been red-hot this postseason. He is hitting .333, compared to Howard's .258 average. This is possibly the toughest matchup to call. I am going to give the edge to the Pena, but as I said, it could go either way. I think the momentum and adrenaline are on the Rays side.
2B-Akinori Iwamura/Chase Utley: Chase Utley is the best overall second baseman in the game, hands down. He was the front-runner for the N.L. MVP in the first half of the season, which would have given the Phillies three-straight MVPs. Iwamura has been a solid player for the Rays, but he really cannot even be used in the same sentence as Utley, which I just did, and I apologize to all you Phillies fans.
3B-Evan Longoria/Pedro Feliz: Hard to believe that Longoria is still a rookie. This kid shows no fear and is going to be a beast for years to come. He has hit six home runs already this postseason and has been an RBI machine. Feliz has struggled and has only hit .192 thus far. Greg Dobbs may get the majority of the playing time, but I chose Feliz because he had more at-bats in the NLCS. No matter which way you look at it, Longoria is better than both Feliz and Dobbs. Hell, he's better than both of them put together.
SS-Jason Bartlett/Jimmy Rollins: Tough decision here. Rollins is an MVP while Bartlett came close to getting crucified had the Red Sox capitalized on his error in Game Seven. There really is no comparison here. Some people may give the defensive edge to Barlett, but guess again. Rollins made only seven errors all year and is most likely going to win a Gold Glove. I have already given Bartlett too much credit by talking this long.
LF-Carl Crawford/Pat Burrell: This is a pretty good matchup. Crawford has been a huge part of the Rays' organization for years, whereas Pat Burrell has been somewhat underrated out in Philly. They have two completely different styles of play. Crawford relies mostly on his legs, while Pat "The Bat" relies on, you guessed it, his bat and hitting the long ball. Do chicks still dig the long ball?
Well if you are Burrell, then you hope so, because they would be the only ones giving you some love. I give the edge to Crawford because of his speed and the ability to change a game in the blink of an eye.
CF-B.J. Upton/Shane Victorino: These two men could arguably be the reason that both teams have made it this far. "Bossman Junior" Upton, yes that is what B.J. stands for, has hit seven home runs this postseason after hitting only nine during the regular season. He has played very good defense and robbed the Red Sox of extra-base hits on several occasions during the ALCS.
"The Flyin' Hawaiian" Shane Victorino has been solid for the Phillies so far. He has picked up the slack for the big bats in the Phillies' lineup, namely Howard and Feliz. However, with that said, I think B.J. Upton means more to the Rays than Victorino means to the Phillies. Not to mention, I'll take a guy named "Bossman" any day.
RF-Rocco Baldelli/Jayson Werth: Both men have not performed up to their fullest so far in the playoffs. Baldelli is hitting .214 while Werth is hitting .243. Baldelli did however, come up with a clutch hit against the Red Sox in Game Seven to give the Rays a lead that they were able to hold...cough, Game Five, cough.
I still do not think that gives him the edge, as Joe Maddon needs to lift him in just about every game for a defensive replacement. I give the advantage to Werth because of the power that he brings to the lineup and the fact that he plays stellar defense. Oh, by the way, he is a 20-20 guy. Yeah, that surprised me, too.
SP-Rays Rotation/Phillies Rotation: The Rays' rotation was almost untouchable against the Red Sox. Outside of Game Two, in which Scott Kazmir surrendered five runs in four-and-a-third innings, their starters were spectacular. I mean, their worst nightmare came true when the greatest pitcher in their history (yes, a 24-year-old pitcher is the greatest pitcher in the Tampa Bay Rays history) got shelled, and they still won!
Matt Garza looked like the second-coming of Roger Clemens, minus the steroids. "Big Game" James Shields was solid but lost both of his starts. Andy Sonnanstine pitched great in his only start going seven-and-a-third, allowing three runs at Fenway Park.
The Phillies rotation was not as impressive, with the exception of Hamels. Cole Hamels was 2-0 with an ERA of 1.93 in two starts and struck out 13 in 14 innings. Jamie Moyer got rocked in his only start, allowing six runs in one-and-a-third innings. He did not look like the "Ageless Wonder" that we saw win 16 games during the regular season.
Joe Blanton was decent, as he pitched five innings and allowed three runs, not great but the Phillis pulled out the win. Brett Myers took some time away from his domestic disturbances to pitch in this series, and not well, mind you. He did get the win, but he went five innings and allowed five runs.
RP-Rays Bullpen/Phillies Bullpen: The first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Rays' bullpen is Game Five. They had a 7-0 lead in the seventh inning and lost. That just goes to show you that the Red Sox are a great team and that you can never assume a game is over.
However, the Rays now know they have a go-to guy in David Price as he showed no fear, going right after the Sox in Game Seven. He threw fastball after fastball, as he got the save in the series clincher. The Rays had the best bullpen in the A.L. during the regular season, but until J.P. Howell and Grant "Ball Four" can take the mound in a big situation and not soil themselves, I am not sold on those guys.
The Phillies' bullpen was outstanding against the Dodgers. Their bullpen allowed a total of two earned runs in the NLCS! Somehow, the Phillies turned other teams' trash into their treasure, as the majority of their bullpen is made up of other teams' rejects.
Brad Lidge was never the same in Houston after Albert Pujols took him deep in the playoffs a few years back. A change of scenery and the guy does not blow a save all year. J.C. Romero, if you remember, was traded to the Phillies after he struggled in Boston. He has yet to allow a run this postseason. Scott Eyre signed a hefty contract with the Cubs a couple years ago and was awful. Like Lidge, all it took was a change of scenery and he started to produce.
Manager-Joe Maddon/Charlie Manuel:Well, these are most likely your Manger of the Year winners. Maddon is without a doubt the winner in the A.L. and Manuel will probably win the award in the N.L.
Maddon adopted the saying, "9=8." This means, "9 players will make you one of the 8 teams in the playoffs." I know that math goes against everything I have ever learned in school but, hey, none of my math teachers ever coached a team to a World Series.
Charlie Manuel took a different approach than Maddon. On at least two occasions, he benched MVP Jimmy Rollins for not hustling. This showed that everyone is equal and that everyone needs to play their hardest. This method worked as well, now that the Phillies are representing the N.L. in the World Series. All season, people have doubted Joe Maddon and the Rays, and I cannot make that mistake again.
Bench-Rays Bench/Phillies Bench: This is another interesting pick. The Rays bench will most likely consist of Willy Aybar, Fernando Perez, Ben Zobrist, and Gabe Gross. Aybar can be a threat at the plate as he owned the Red Sox. Aybar hit .421 with two home runs against the Sox. Perez is on the roster because of his speed and the havoc he can wreak on the basepaths. Zobrist is the utility player of the group as he can play just about anywhere. Gross will be getting some at-bats against right-handed pitchers, but most of his time will be spent as the defensive replacement for Baldelli
The Phillies bench will consist of Greg Dobbs, Eric Bruntlett, So Taguchi, Geoff Jenkins, Chris Coste. I am not counting Matt Stairs as he will most likely DH or play first while Howard DH's. Dobbs has faired much better thus far than Pedro Feliz and Charlie Manuel may not be afraid to let him get a few at-bats. Bruntlett is there more for his versatility than his bat. Taguchi provides a decent bat off of the bench and he can play all three outfield positions. Jenkins has not gotten many at-bats but is a good player and may see a decent amount of time in this series as a pinch hitter. I think the Phillies have the edge here, especially with Jenkins and Taguchi.
As you can see, I give the Rays the edge in 7/12 categories. I think the momentum is on their side, as they dethroned the champion Red Sox. I am looking forward to seeing how the young Rays respond to being on the biggest stage of them all. Feel free to comment and tell me what you think.
Rays def. Phillies 4-2