World Series & DFTU

Hello again everybody...

It's a gloomy Wednesday here in Minneapolis weather-wise, but that's okay because tonight begins my personal favorite spectacle in all of sports. That's right, the World Series begins tonight in Tampa Bay.

So today I'll have my World Series Preview and tell you who I'm rooting for and who I think will win. Then it's this week's version of the DFTU. So no dawdling, let's have at it!

"I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him."
- Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), Tuscan physicist, mathematician, astronomer and philosopher

I've talked to several that have called into WCCO radio, but I've never actually met them.

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So tonight it begins. The World Series. Game 1. Though I'm certain the executives at Fox Sports are cursing the fact that it's not a LA/Boston (whom I hate) Series, I'm looking far more forward to the Phillies/Rays match-up that we'll see tonight.

And that's because the teams are so evenly matched. At least on paper. And as we all know these games aren't decided on paper. But paper is all we have to go on at this point, so in that vein, here's my breakdown:

Hitting: Both teams showed the ability to score runs in the run-up to the World Series. For the Phillies, Shane Victorino has been their clutch hitter. Not the source Philly fans would've predicted headed into the post-season, but I'm sure they'll take it. As for their big guns? Ryan Howard and Chase Utley started slowly in the LDS and LCS, but started to come on in the late stages, and are in a position to peak at the most important time.

For the Rays, there hasn't really been a single "clutch" hitter. They've shared the wealth. And that's really the story of their entire season. At any given point, it's been a variety of players that have stepped up to do the job. Their big guns? Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton have all stepped up at various times, though none of them have dominated over long stretches.

Advantage: I give a slight edge to the Phillies here. And I say that because I anticipate big things from Howard and Utley. If they don't track like I expect, then this could change in a hurry.

Starting Pitching: Again the teams are fairly evenly matched. The Phillies rotation looks like this: Cole Hamels, Brett Meyers, Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton. Hamels going in Games 1 and 5 is a natural. Meyers and Moyer have been a touch shaky in the post-season. And Blanton has been a good anchor to the rotation.

The Rays counter with: Scott Kazmir, James Shields, Matt Garza and Andy Sonnanstine. Kazmir was supposed to be the Rays ace coming into the playoffs, but has struggled mightily with his control. Shields has probably been their best starter over both the LDS and LCS. Garza, of course, was your ALCS MVP. And while Sonnanstine was probably the 4th best starter amongst the 4, he's been fairly solid.

Advantage: Gotta give this one to the Rays. While we've seen over the years that dominant starting pitching isn't the end-all/be-all of winning the World Series (Atlanta Braves anyone?), it's a strong component of a champion. And while neither staff is unworthy of winning, I think it's pretty clear that Tampa has the stronger foursome.

Relief Pitching: The closer for the Phillies is Brad Lidge, whom I believe has converted something like 45 of his last 45 opportunities. None too shabby.

The closer for the Rays is... undecided? Troy Percival closed much of the year, but there are questions as to his health. When he was out during the year, Dan Wheeler closed. But as they say, as a closer, he made a heck of a set-up guy. In Game 7 of the ALCS, rookie David Price closed the game for the Rays. So certainly he's an option in the Series, but he is a rookie.

Advantage: Clearly the Phillies have the edge in the bullpen. Their roles are more clearly defined. And as a group they've had more success than Tampa. If the games are consistently close, then Philly has a definite advantage.

Defense: You don't make the World Series if you're weak on defense. That being said...

Advantage: The Phillies have slightly better numbers in the post season. 2 fewer errors. 4 less stolen bases allowed. 1 more outfield assist. These aren't large differences, but taken in totality, they do tip the scales towards Philadelphia.

Managing: Tampa's manager Joe Maddon has a career record of 251-286 and is 7-4 in the playoffs.

Philadelphia's manager Charlie Manuel has a career record of 574-484 and is 9-8 in the playoffs.

Advantage: Push. Yes, calling it even is something of a cop-out, but both of these managers have been pretty terrific this season. Maddon is clearly going to win the AL Manager of the Year award, and Manuel will certainly get consideration in the NL. While Charlie has a slight edge in terms of experience, their playoff opportunities are similar if you consider the time that Maddon spent in Anaheim working with Mike Scioscia. If I was going to look for any crack in either armor, I might suggest that Maddon made some curious pitching decisions in Games 5 & 6 of the ALCS. But I'd also have to point out that he pushed every correct button in Game 7 pitching-wise, so it's hard to find any advantage for either team here.

So if you add all that up, who wins the World Series? I say Philadelphia. Neither team has a distinct advantage over the other, so I expect that this Series will go at least 6 games if not the full 7. And that should create plenty of tension and drama. All of which is good for baseball. But I have to make a pick, so I'm calling it for the Phillies in 7.

Game 1 is tonight at 7 pm (if the first pitch gets thrown before 7:25, I'll be shocked). And remember, in the last 11 World Series, 10 times the team that won Game 1 won the the whole thing, including the last 5 in a row. Yet another reason to favor the Phills. Cole Hamels is the best pitcher the Phillies have. The same can not be said for Scott Kazmir and the Rays.

The final question is, "Who's Dan rooting for?" Believe it or not, it's also the Phillies.

I know many of you would think that I'd root for the Rays. And there are plenty of reasons to like Tampa. If they won the Series, they'd become the first team in baseball to go from the worst record one year to World Series champion the next. And I likes me some history. And then there's the fact that they beat the team I despise more than any other. Both wonderful reasons to pull for Tampa.

But I have far more personal connections to the Phillies. My former radio employer and one of my best mentors, Mike Sullivan, is a big-time Phillies fan. And one of my closest female friends has a good friend who's father is a scout for the Phillies. Sure that's kind of convoluted, but this friend of mine is seriously attractive, and if you don't think that counts for a lot, you're kidding yourself!

So in the end, the personal ties won out over the "good story" element and I'm pulling for the Phills! And in saying that, I really hope I haven't put the whammy on them.

We'll see how it goes!

Finally today, it's time for everybody's favorite segment: Dan's Favorite Teams Update!

Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers are 3-4 (0-4 in the Big Ten).

I said on Monday that I needed advice as to how to deal with your college football team sucking the bag. And there can be no question at this point that the Badgers are pretty awful. Fortunately, my good friend and loyal ST reader, Lon in Forest Lake, came through with flying colors. If you didn't see the comment he attached to Monday's column, here it is:

Lon said...

Counseling from a Husker fan, on how to get through a season where your team sucks the bag:

1. Once conference play starts, start reciting, "Well, there's always next year."
2. Get a hobby. One with no sharp instruments (woodworking = not so good...knitting = marginal...coloring books = good)
3. Follow the local small-town papers in the state, who tout their local talent as "Ready to help the College team next year."
4. Become fans of your conference's biggest rival. Then, after you cheer them to victory, you can say, "We beat the stuffing out of them 30 years in a row, you know."

...I really wanted a 5th, for 5 years of Coach Alienation (Callahan), but other than "learn how to mask weeping with hysterical laughter", I couldn't come up with anything.

Solid advice I think. So I guess I have to start reminding myself, "There's always next year!"

And let's see... hobbies? I haven't played much poker lately. I suppose I could pick that back up.

Helping the team next year... I hear there's a freshman quarterback they like a lot.

Fan of the rival... I really have to root for the Gophers?! Okay, I guess I can find some sort of middle ground there. So enjoy your season Gopher fans. You're playing really well and I hope you beat Purdue this week. And I'll even grant that you're likely to beat the Badgers on November 15th. Of course, that'll be only the 4th time you've won "Paul Bunyan's Axe" in the past 15 years.

You're right Lon, I'm feeling better already! Thanks!!!

Minnesota Wild: The Wild are 4-0-0, 8 points, and tied for first place in the Northwest Division.

Since I last wrote about the Wild, they finished off their 3-game road trip by beating Florida and Tampa Bay (shootout win). They haven't played since Saturday and will take on Buffalo at home tomorrow night.

But the story that's been dominating headlines lately is the contract status of winger Marian Gaborik. It appears that Gaborik and the Wild have hit an impasse in contract negotiations, which means that trade talks have begun in earnest.

This sucks.

No, Gaborik isn't on the same level as Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, but he isn't that far behind. And he's also the only remaining member of the first ever Wild line-up. He's by far the best player the Wild have ever had, and losing him would create a gaping hole in thier offensive production.

All that being said, if he doesn't want to sign here, then there's not much choice for general manager Doug Risebrough but to trade him. Sadly, when you trade a superstar player, you're never going to get equal value for him (unless you're Dallas trading away Hershel Walker). So the prospects that the Wild get in return won't do much to mollify the fans who'll be sorry to see Gabby go.

But what can you do? Personally, I trust Risebrough to get the best deal he can.

The only question is when does a deal get done? Technically the deadline for deals is March 3rd, so this could definitely drag on for a while. My hope, however is that if a deal has to get done, that it gets done sooner than later. 4-0-0 is a great start to the year, and I'd hate to see such a good start get spoiled by having this cloud hanging over the club all season long.

The Wild are on a 3-game home stand as they host Buffalo tomorrow night, Columbus on Saturday and the Blackhawks on Monday.

That's all for today folks. I'll be back tomorrow with the 5th edition of the college football poll as well as my Week 9 picks. Until then, thanks for reading!

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