As football season kicks into full gear and the leaves begin to change color, another season has begun- the Major League Baseball playoffs. The start of another chapter in October lore has many possibilities. The intensity can already be felt as the Division Series’ are now underway. Now, some things to keep in mind as you watch baseball’s first round.
Cardinals vs. Dodgers: The Dodgers may have just wrapped up home field advantage for the NL, but now face a tough opponent in the division series. The Cardinals have been as hot as any in the second half and have all the key ingredients to make a deep run in October. St. Louis has the best one-two punch in all of baseball with two Cy Young candidates in Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. Complimenting their dominant rotation the Cardinals have the best offensive player in the game anchoring their lineup. Albert Pujols is capping yet another MVP season., one he looks to finish with a new ring on his finger. The Dodgers haven’t seemed to regain their early season magic since Mannywood was shaken by scandal. L.A. has a well-balanced lineup on offense, but their pitching staff is no match for the Cards. Randy Wolf, Clayton Kershaw, and Chad Billingsley are the Dodgers’ answers to the opposing Cy Young candidates. The chess match between two future Hall of Fame managers will be an interesting aside to follow. But, in the end, look for the Cardinals to ride their horses to victory.
Phillies vs. Rockies: The Phillies begin their title defense against a dangerous Rockies club. The Phillies possess a potent lineup featuring four players with 30 home runs and 90 RBIs, just the 12th team in history to accomplish such a feat. The big boppers are aided by a formidable starting rotation. Cliff Lee, reigning Cy Young in the AL, and Cole Hamels, 2008 World Series MVP, combine to form a top-end of a staff as good as any. The lone question mark in Philadelphia is their bullpen. A year removed from 9th inning perfection, Brad Lidge can’t put it together. Will a fresh start help? It will be fun and perhaps scary for Philadelphia to watch. The Rockies come into the postseason following one of the great turnarounds in baseball history. Since Jim Tracy has taken over in Colorado, the Rockies have gone 74-42. Keep an eye on Jimmy Rollins and Troy Tulowitzki, two of the best in the business at shortstop defensively. The Phillies are perhaps the most complete team in baseball, and barring a bullpen collapse should move on in their quest to repeat.
Angels vs. Red Sox: The Angels have quietly taken care of business yet again on the West Coast. In a season marred by tragedy and injury, they have persevered to reach October. The death of Nick Adenhart as the season began could have destroyed the team, but instead it pulled them together. This unity was especially important as the Halos dealt with injuries to starting pitchers John Lackey, Ervin Santana, and Joe Saunders. Meanwhile, outfielders Vladimir Guerrero, Bobby Abreu, and Torii Hunter are all key cogs of the offense. The Red Sox hope to continue their recent postseason success behind the big arms of Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. The lineup has been inconsistent at times, but still boasts the likes of Jason Bay, David Ortiz, and Kevin Youkilis driving in the speedy Jacoby Ellsbury at the top. This one is a toss up, but I give the slight edge to the Angels. They are a more consistent bunch and I feel something special around this team as they push on to honor their fallen teammate.
Yankees vs. Twins: Order has been restored to the baseball world as the Yankees are back in the playoffs. With the best record in baseball, this Yankees club reminds many of the glory days in the 1990s. Can they bring the Commissioner’s Trophy back to the Bronx? With C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and an awesome lineup, many believe they can. Derek Jeter has had yet another brilliant season, while A-Rod has recovered nicely from his tumultuous offseason. But can he do it in October? This remains to be seen as the Pinstripes hope to christen the new Yankee Stadium with a championship. While the memories are just beginning in New York, the Twins are making their final ones in the Metrodome. This October will be the final memory of the famed stadium characterized by deafening noise levels and Homer Hankies. So, for one last time, the Dome will be rocking in Minnesota. But will that be enough? Even with likely AL MVP Joe Mauer, the Twins will have to overcome playing an emotional, extra inning 163rd game to beat the superior Yankees. I like the Yankees to move on, but not without a fight in the Homer Dome.