October is upon us—which means we should focus on the possible matchups we could see in the postseason and their accompanying storylines (or lack thereof).
This is a FOX executive’s dream and probably the most likely matchup to happen—two highly publicized, highly-hyped teams in huge media markets. A rematch of the 2009 World Series, this would feature Yankee-killer Cliff Lee once again. So many storylines, so much intrigue, so much MONEY. If the gentlemen over at FOX can cross the plane of a church, they will go on Sunday to pray for this to happen.
This is the opposite of the Phillies vs. Yankees series. Smaller markets, smaller payroll...and not a lot of Vegas bets. Hell, FOX might show Family Guy reruns instead. I would argue this is a story with more intrigue, as it would ensure one team wins its very first World Series. But then, how could HBO air a special on how Derek Jeter wears six rings on just five fingers?
A decade ago, the Yankees and Diamondbacks faced off in an emotional World Series played in the shadow of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that shook America. The resulting series was arguably the most exciting fall classic of all-time; it featured two Yankee ninth inning comebacks and a Game 7 comeback against Mariano Rivera. The Yankees are still retaining the services of three gentlemen from that series: Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera. The Diamondbacks don’t even have the same uniforms.
In 2008, the Rays led the American League East all year long, cruising to a division title with 97 wins while the Phillies sneaked in thanks largely to a collapse by the New York Mets (their second choke in as many seasons). This season was the reverse, with the Phillies marching to a division title every day since about January 1st. The first World Series matchup between these two teams lasted just five games but included a multi-day rain delay started during Game 5.
Edwin Jackson has actually pitched for four of these playoff teams, including the Rays and now Cardinals. The Tigers included him as part of a three-way deal with the Yankees and Diamondbacks in order to acquire starter Max Scherzer, relievers Daniel Schlereth and Phil Coke and center fielder Austin Jackson. The Diamondbacks then flipped Jackson to the White Sox for Daniel Hudson, who went 16-12 with a 3.49 ERA for the NL West Champs.
After helping the Rangers to a pennant in 2010, Cliff Lee turned down an offer from Texas so that he could pitch in a super-rotation in Philadelphia with Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. Turns out, the Rangers didn’t need him, winning the American League West for the second year in a row. Their Lee-less rotation featured 5 pitchers (C.J. Wilson, Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis, Alexi Ogando and Derek Holland) who had at least 29 starts with above-average ERAs. Cliff Lee’s new team did pretty well too.
…at least market-wise.
New York, of course, plays in the largest media market in the game, compared to the Brewers, who play in the smallest (yet still regularly draw over three million fans). This would be a rematch of the 1981 special division series (when Milwaukee was an American League team). In the strike-ridden season, the Yankees won the AL East in the first half, and the Brewers won the AL East in the second half; the two teams squared off in the first ever division series, with the Yankees winning in five.
In the book The Last Real Season, by Mark Shropshire (a must-read for any baseball fan, in my opinion), he explains that the Cardinals were the favorite team of many Texans before the Astros and Rangers came around (thus explaining why Stan Musial was showing up as a “fan-favorite” in Arlington). This was just because the Cardinals, who play slightly below the Mason-Dixon Line, were closer than just about anyone else, and thus Cardinals broadcasts were received in Texas. So, for the Texas Rangers fans who are senior citizens, this series would be a can’t-lose!
The two paths for these two teams could not have been more different. Both teams had their inaugural season in 1998, but the Diamondbacks found themselves in the 1999 playoffs (with 100 wins) and had their first ring in 2001 after just four years of existence. The Rays toiled under poor management for their first several years before being taken over by Wall Street gurus, and have since made three playoff appearances in four years. Neither team was expected to compete this year, which would make the Quinton McCracken Bowl that much more interesting.
The other storyline, of course, would be the matchup of two brothers, Justin and B.J. Upton.
Two teams found themselves 8.5 games out of the Wild Card in September. Both teams went on an absolute tear while the Red Sox and Braves choked. On one of the most exciting days in baseball we have ever experienced, the Rays and Cardinals overtook their Wild Card foes and found themselves in the postseason. This would be the second matchup between Wild Cards—the seven-game thriller in 2002 between the Giants and Angels was the first.
The Brewers and Tigers played in the same division for 22 years, from 1972 to 1993, but didn’t engage in any major bitter playoff races. They also shared a manager, Phil Garner, but he had his biggest/only success with Houston. Perhaps this Middle-America series will be better known for its association with what’s shaping up to be an interesting NFC North race between the resurgent Detroit Lions and the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers.
Politics does not belong in sports writing, but these two teams have pretty much nothing in common, so I’ll point out that the states they play in both share a border with Mexico and are at the forefront of the immigration debate. Really, that’s it.
Oh, just thought of something else—they’re both named after states, not cities, which is kind of silly. How do the Rangers represent the state of Texas if there’s another
Major League team playing in the state?
The Yankees have dominated the World Series like no one’s business, winning 27 contests. The Cardinals are a far cry from that with 10, but are actually the only other team with double digits (the Athletics are third, with nine). The Cardinals and Yankees have faced off four times in the World Series, with the Cardinals winning three. The most notable was in 1926, when a hungover Grover Cleveland Alexander came out of the bullpen on about 24 hours rest to deliver a seven-out save. The series ended with Babe Ruth being caught stealing.
Doug Melvin was the general manager of the Texas Rangers from 1994-2001, earning MLB Executive of the Year honors in 1996. He should arguably win the award again, having acquired starting pitchers Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke before the 2011 season (along with the always hilarious Tony Plush). Usually, it’s best to home-grow your own starters, but in this case the Brewers would prefer the out-of-towners—who weren’t around when Rangers pitching coach Mike “The Other” Maddux coached in Milwaukee.
Roy Halladay has two Cy Youngs (2003 and 2010) and Cliff Lee has one (2008). Both have a shot at winning another this season, whereas Justin Verlander certainly has one in his future. If you miss the two-hour game, this could be your series!
In 1968, the Tigers and Cardinals played in the World Series after a season where pitchers absolutely dominated. Everyone expected that the hero of the series would be a pitcher—either Bob Gibson of St. Louis or Denny McLain of Detroit, both of whom were named MVP. Instead, Mickey Lolich was the man who won three games, including a Game 7 duel against Gibson. The pitchers that everyone would be focused on this time are former Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter and future Cy Young winner Justin Verlander. Detroit’s No. 2, Doug Fister, went 8-1 with a sub-two ERA after being acquired by Detroit…perhaps he will be the hero this time.