Hello again everybody...
Once again, we've made it through another week. It's kind of nice to have that to cling to. No matter how bad your week was, at least there's the weekend at the end of it. 48 hours of respite from breaking the big rocks into little rocks. That's a special thing, and I'm not sure we always appreciate it enough.
But enough of my Friday wistfulness. We've got baseball to talk about dammit! Remember, technically the season opens Sunday night when the Braves face the Phillies. But Monday is truly Opening Day! I'm already starting to formulate my plan. I've got to work, so I can't go to the game, but I'll have it on at work and be surrounded by my ballpark staples: sunflower seeds, peanuts and hot dogs. No, it's not the healthiest of selections (and I'm going to catch some grief for that), but Opening Day only happens once a year, so forgive me if I splurge a little!
Before I can get to Opening Day however, I have to get to the final edition of the 2009 MLB Preview. I've given you my predictions on the six division winners, now I need to talk Wild Cards and tell you who's going to win it all.
Let's get to it!
"Playoffs?! Don't talk about playoffs. Are you kidding me? Playoffs?! I'm just hoping we win a game... another game!"
- Jim Mora (1935 - ), former NFL head coach.
Mora was head coach of the Indianapolis Colts when he uttered this little gem. If you haven't seen the full-on meltdown, you can check it out here. It's a classic.
Unfortunately for Coach Mora, "Playoffs?!" is exactly what we're going to be discussing in today's final edition of the 2009 MLB Preview. So without further ado, I give you...
2009 MLB Preview: the Playoffs
First off, let's review my predictions for the six division winners:
AL East: Boston Red Sox (whom I hate)
AL Central: Minnesota Twins
AL West: LAAAGOCRCUSE
NL East: Philadelphia Phillies
NL Central: Chicago Cubs
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers
That leaves two Wild Cards to discuss. Let's start with...
American League Wild Card: The Tampa Bay Rays, Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers are the three teams that I've picked second in the three AL divisions. Obviously those are the only three teams I can pick for the Wild Card.
The Rangers have the potential for a lot of offense and "not as awful" defense. But they don't have nearly enough pitching to be in the playoffs. The Indians are hard to predict. If a lot of things go right they could win the Central, but I don't think enough will go right to get them to the post-season.
That leaves last year's AL World Series representative: the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have mostly the same squad that got them to the Series last year. They've added power-hitting Pat Burrell in left to boost their line-up a bit. Last year's rookie sensation P David Price is going to start the season in the minors, but never fear Rays fans (whoever you are), he'll be up for good by Memorial Day I'm sure. I've heard people picking the Rays to go to the Series again. I'm not sure that'll happen, but I like them as the AL Wild Card.
National League Wild Card: The New York Mets, the Houston Astros, and Arizona Diamondbacks are the three teams I've picked second in their respective divisions.
The Diamondbacks have plenty of pitching (at least in the starting department) and that will always make a team dangerous. But with the deficiencies in their bullpen and the porous defense they play, I don't see them making the post-season. My Houston pick is already starting to look sketchy with their heart and soul, 1B Lance Berkman, having injury troubles to start the season. I'm sure not going to take a risky pick and put them in the playoffs.
That leaves the New York Mets as my pick for the NL Wild Card. The Mets have decent starting pitching and a greatly improved bullpen. If they play any kind of defense behind those guys, they should be in a position to contend for the NL East and make the playoffs as the Wild Card.
So now that we have our 6 playoff teams, how will the post-season break down? Here's my best guess...
ALDS #1: Minnesota Twins vs. Boston Red Sox (whom I hate).
I expect the Red Sox (whom I hate) to end up with the best record in the AL and the Twins to be 3rd amongst the division winners. Through in the silly rule that MLB won't allow a Wild Card team to face a division opponent in the first round and you end up with Twins v. Sox (whom I hate).
And I've decided to go homer in this series. The final year in the Metrodome. A solid core of pitching. A line-up with some nice balance of speed and power. I think this is going to be a special year for the Twins.
Winner: Twins in 5 games.
ALDS #2: Tampa Bay Rays vs. LAAAGOCRCUSE
I think it's entirely possible that the Rays will have a better record than LAAAGOCRCUSE, but since the Angels will win their division, they'll get home field advantage in this series.
In the end, I don't think it'll matter. The Rays are better in virtually every aspect of the game.
(Aside: Read that last sentence again. If I told you two years ago that I'd be writing that, you'd have laughed at me, and then checked on my medication. That's the equivalent of my telling you that in two years I'll be writing: "The Clippers are better in virtually every aspect of the game." I know I don't write much NBA, but trust me, they suck.)
Winner: Rays in 4 games.
Over to the senior circuit we go...
NLDS #1: New York Mets vs. Chicago Cubs
Much like last year, I expect the Cubs to have the best record in the NL. 15 games against the Pirates? That's almost unfair. And as the Mets are in a different division, we actually get the 1 vs. 4 match-up that should be automatic, regardless of division.
And much like last year, I fully expect the cursed Cubbies to fall flat in the NLDS and lose to a Wild Card club. Sorry Cubs fans, 101 isn't going to be your number either.
Winner: Mets in 4 games.
NLDS #2: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Ryan Howard vs. Manny. Cole Hamels vs. ... Chad Billingsley?!
Yep, there's your difference. The offenses balance out, but there's no question that the Phills have better pitching.
Winner: Phillies in 3.
Time for the League Championship Series.
ALCS: Minnesota Twins vs. Tampa Bay Rays
I've gone homer thus far, why not continue right?!
Tampa Bay's a terrific ball club. I just have this notion that this is Minnesota's year. I may not be able to back it up statistically at the moment, but let's revisit where the two clubs are around the All-Star break. What do you say?
Winner: Minnesota in 7 games.
NLCS: New York Mets vs. Philadelphia Phillies
This is a budding rivalry that can hang with Sox (whom I hate)/Yankees and Dodgers/Giants or any other big baseball rivalry you can think of.
And I'd expect that this series to be an instant classic. If the Mets' offense is as good as I expect them to be, these two teams should be awfully evenly matched.
So what breaks the tie? How about the adage "defending a title is much harder than winning one"? Philly's going to have to work so hard fending off challenges, that they may very well run out of gas by this point.
Winner: Mets in 7 games.
That leaves one more level of the post-season to go...
World Series: New York Mets vs. Minnesota Twins
The AL will win the All-Star game, so by virtue of the dumbest rule in the history of professional sports, the AL representative will have home-field advantage in the Series for the 85th year in a row*.
(* - that stat may not be technically accurate)
The Twins won it all in '87 when they had home-field and repeated the feat in '91. 2009... home-field in the last season of the Metrodome? Yes, I'm going homer all the freakin way. Live with it!
Winner: Minnesota Twins in 7 games.
Now there are those who will tell you that I've just condemned the Twins to a injury-plagued 70-win season. And there is certainly some historical evidence to back them up.
But the weekend before Opening Day is a time for optimism and positivity! So let's be positive people! The Twins are going to win it all! Feel the energy!
That's all for today folks. Enjoy your weekend. Take a peek at the game Sunday night as a warm-up for the real deal on Monday!
I'll be back on Monday to freak out more about the wonder that is Opening Day.
Until then, thanks for reading!