So far the MLB playoffs have not disappointed unless you are a Cardinals, Twins, Red Sox or Rockies fan. There was a lot of drama, great play, and miraculous comebacks and for the shear sake of humanity some bad calls by some of the umpires. But that’s why baseball is so much better than football; it is human and not clouded by the artificial attempt to impose “fairness” by reviewing up to 12 plays a game at the request of coaches and more for “mandatory” reviews. These four series plus the one game
The human drama of baseball was played out before our eyes. The stories were amazing and every game had stories within the story of players and teams doing amazing. As my readers know I made predictions about the divisional series over at http://padresteve.wordpress.com/2009/10/05/padre-steve%E2%80%99s-mlb-divisional-playoff-picks/ So far with the exception of the Cardinals being swept by the Evil Dodgers, the divisional series went pretty much as I expected as to the winners though I did not expect all of the sweeps. I gave the Twins one game and thought the Angels and Red Sox would go five with the Angels winning. The Phillies and Rockies series went very much as I expected and the Rockies almost brought in back to Philly.
In this Divisional series six games were decided by one run. Five games were decided in the 9th inning or extra innings. Six games were comeback wins where the winning team gained the lead in the 7th inning or later. With a few exceptions the games were close even late in the game. There were a number of plays that the umpires blew the call on, sometimes badly, oh well, humanity strikes again. That is no reason to implement the insanity of the NFL’s replay policies or anything like them.
Let’s go back to my picks. I picked the Cardinals in four over the Dodgers. The Cardinals, who were not even picked for the playoffs dominated the NL Central but Tony La Russa, one of the outstanding managers in the game has a way of making things work. My expectation was that Chris Carpenter and Jonathan Wainwright would shut the Dodgers down at Chavez Ravine and then go back to St Louis where their hitters had been awesome throughout the season. Their major weakness was their bullpen. A lot broadcasters and experts predicted a Cardinals sweep. Having seen the Dodgers perform miracles in past playoff series, including in 1981 and 1987 I did have a sense of unease in picking the Cardinals, but I went with logic and this time it failed. The Cardinals pitching was shaky and their hitting died. The turning point was in game two where with two outs that the Cardinals up 2-1 Matt Halliday lost a fly ball in the lights allowing a runner and the Dodgers then finished them off. I think that it was a finish that could only happen with the Dodgers in the playoffs. I owe my Dodger fan nephew Joe a beer the next time I get to San Diego as I promised in my prediction of the Cardinals lost. What is more interesting now for the Cardinals is what happens in the off season as Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan’s contracts expire at the end of the month. If I had my choice Billy Beane would bring him back to Oakland a move which would be good for him as La Russa has many connections and business interests in the bay area.
The Angels and Red Sox were a tough call. I picked the Angels in five because the Red Sox have not been the same team as they were the past few seasons. Some of their key players are showing the signs of age and losing a step or two. Additionally their starting pitching staff was inconsistent during the season and had some key injuries. I also picked the Angels because they are a better team than they have been the past few years and there was the “X” factor of Angels’ pitcher Nick Adenhart killed after his first start in the second game of the season. The amount of unity on the team was something that I have not seen in a long time. In their sweep of the Red Sox the Angels pitchers shut the Red Sox down until game three when Boston made a got out to an early lead which they reinforced in the bottom of the 8th. What was surprising was the manner in which the Red Sox lost. Jonathan Papelbon gave up not only his first ever run in the playoffs but blew the save and got the loss. Previous to this he had pitched 27 innings of shutout playoff baseball. The Red Sox have some decisions to make during the off season to see if they can get their edge back.
The Twins and Yankees series was the classic “David versus Goliath” story. The Twins came from nowhere to overtake a Tigers team that faltered at the end winning the one game playoff at the Metro Dome. The Yankees played all year with a chip on their shoulder and won 103 games, the best in the Majors. They had an attitude and played all year as a team, they had very few injuries and every part of the team was strong. The Yankees have played all year like they wanted to win the whole thing. I didn’t think that the Twins had a chance; they had lost all seven games to the Yankees including three in a row at Yankee Stadium on walk off hits. The Yankees clubbed the Twins in game one and C.C. Sabathia got his first playoff win and like Rodriguez shook off the demons of playoffs past. In game two the Yankees had to come back to beat them as usually reliable closer Joe Nathan blew the save when Alex Rodriguez hit a two run homer in the bottom of the 9th. Mark Teixeira hit a walk off shot in the bottom of the 11th. I thought that the Twins might win one in the twisted hell of the Metro Dome, but the Yankees came back to win there with Alex Rodriguez Jorge Posada teamed up in the 7th with single homers off former Yankee Carl Pavano and Mariano Rivera closed out the game. Throughout the series Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and a host of other Yankees played solid baseball getting the key hits and making the key plays to win the series. The Twins had a remarkable season but were simply outmatched by the power, pitching and speed of the Yankees. Even so the final two games were dramatic as the Twins led by Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer played a great series.
The defending World Series Champion Phillies and amazing Rockies series was great. I expect the teams to go to five games with the Phillies winning at home in game five. The Phillies won game one in a walk, but the Rockies showed great character and surprised the Phillies in game two. Game three had one of those only in Denver moments when it was postponed due to winter weather and snow. Why the heck the Rockies wouldn’t have built Coors Light Field with a retractable dome like Milwaukee beats the hell out of me. The game was made up Saturday and the Phillies won a nail biter in which the lead changed often and the Phillies winning on a Ryan Howard sacrifice fly. Game four tonight looked like the Rockies had the Phillies reeling when in the bottom of the 8th they scored three runs to go up 4-2. The Phillies came back as Ryan Howard had a 2 RBI double with 2 outs in the top of the 9th and was driven in by Jaysen Werth for the winning run. Beleaguered Phillies closer Brad Lidge saved both game 3 and 4, Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley and big Ryan Howard were all clutch hitters for the Phillies. The acquisition of Cliff Lee by the Phillies