Making the Perfect World Series Match
Now that the playoff field has been set, and the bright lights of October have been switched on, I was mulling over the possible World Series match ups I wanted to see the most and what I think would be the most entertaining. I threw out match ups that would fog up Bud Selig’s glasses with excitement and make the networks the happiest because ratings are pretty much all that counts for those two. I also only gave each team one World Series match up, otherwise the teams could present numerous interesting match ups for one another and it forced me to come up with the best ones. I weighed issues like; intriguing story lines; the players and what it could mean to their legacies and team history; and if it would peak the interest of the average fan.
It was not easy because of the history that certain teams have with one another, recent World Series losses looking to be avenged, players looking to get even with their former teams and those same teams eager to show the players that they were not needed to win it all. Do you go with the Yankees and Dodgers in a rivalry that has seen them square off eleven times in World Series play? Granted with the Dodgers moving to LA forever ago and the last meeting between the two occurring in 1981 some of the shine has been taken off the ball. You just know that if they were to go at it once more it would be like old friends just picking up where they left off, especially with former Yankee and future Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre managing the Dodgers. Can you imagine an opposing manager being cheered in the Bronx during the Fall Classic?
How about the Red Sox and Cardinals? The Cards were pretty much used as the Red Sox’s pinata back in 2004 and played the helpless victim in the BoSox’s improbable run. You have to believe that it did not sit well with a proud franchise like St. Louis to be made a footnote in the banishment of the “Curse of the Bambino.”
These are just some of the matchups that I wrestled with and the thoughts that went through my mind. I hope you enjoy what I came up with and the reasoning for each.
Yankees and Phillies: You are looking at the big boys on the block against the kids looking to make a name for themselves. The Yankees have made their mark on baseball but the Phillies think they could be on the cusp of something special. The last team to repeat was the Yanks and the last NL team to do it was The Big Red Machine in the mid ’70s. The Phillies have a chance to do it, so why not take on the last franchise who did?
Players: If you like the long ball then this is the series for you; the Phillies bring the lumber with four players with 30 or more homers while the Bombers answer with seven players with 20 or more. The pitchers in this series add an interesting twist with the Yanks putting together a top notch staff where you add Sabathia and Burnett with some water and mix until you win the AL East.
Not to be outdone the Fightin’s have last year’s October Golden Child in Cole Hamels to complement last year’s AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee. If both teams are able to start the rotation that they want, then this series could present some interesting matchups. Not to mention you have the ageless Mariano Rivera adding another line to his Cooperstown plaque and A-Rod trying to pry the choking hands of the playoffs from around his throat once and for all.
I wonder if the national media would pick up on this small and interesting storyline from back in Marchâ€¦think Derek Jeter would want to prove something with Jimmy Rollins on the other side of the diamond? Jeter would never say it but he had to hear the talk of declining skills and range with J-Roll often getting the nod over him at short in the 2009 World Baseball Classic and himself being relegated to DH. Even if he knows Rollins brings more to the table in the field now, it doesn’t mean the great ones like Jeter will just step into the background. I am sure The Captain would like nothing more than to add another ring to his collection at Rollins’ and the critics’ expense, a silent statement of “not so fast.”
The Cities: Where do I even begin? You have one that has an inferiority complex to Gotham City and now that the Mets have had their hearts ripped out by Philly the previous two seasons the city smells blood and would like nothing more than to kick dirt in New York’s face once more and defeat their beloved Yankees. If you close your eyes and listen you can hear the fans in Citizens Bank Park serenade Alex Rodriguez with chants of “A-Roooooid” and the proverbial roof coming off of Yankee Stadium with the shaky Brad Lidge, or another Philly forced into the closer role, on the mound trying to protect a ninth inning lead. If you are a pitcher lacking confidence then the last place you want to be is in a rocking Yankee Stadium in October. Here is where you experience the difference between Pressure and pressure.
Red Sox and Dodgers: How long has it been since these two historic franchises last met? Try 1916 when the BoSox played the Brooklyn Robins who wouldn’t officially morph back into the Dodgers until 1932 and move to LA until ’58. One could argue that a Red Sox championship would allow them to lay claim to being the team of the decade as this would be their third. Just a few years ago many in Red Sox Nation would have sacrificed a limb to banish the curse and now they could be looking at three titles in six years. The Dodgers have already played in the second most World Series and this would be number 19; another championship here would place them in a tie for fourth all-time, with these same Red Sox, for most championships by a franchise with eight.
Players: Manny Ramirez tends to get all the press for the Dodgers but any team would be foolish to overlook Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier who each have knocked in over 100 runs. Ethier is baseballâ€™s definition of â€œMr. Clutchâ€ with 6 walkoff hits (including 4 homers this year) and he could really break out nationally if he carries this into October. The Dodgers pitching staff leaves a lot to be desired and it will be a challenge for them to get this far so they may have to outslug the opposition to get here.
Boston on the other hand has a bunch of pitchers who can flat out deal. Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz starting and then you bring Billy Wagner, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon out of the pen. Hard throwers can get you through October so Boston has to be feeling pretty good. Boston just needs to get their offense going and they have some nice table setters in the speedster Jacoby Ellsbury and 2008 AL MVP Dustin Pedroia who each have almost 200 hits a piece. It doesn’t get any easier with the meat of their order as opposing pitchers get Victor Martinez and Kevin Youkilis who both hit for average and power, and slugger Jason Bay who led the team in HR and RBIs.
The Cities: Boston gets a huge nod here where you have the rabid fans of New England and the “we’ll get there by the third inning and be out by the eighth” fans of LA. It would be interesting to witness the whole Manny Ramirez dynamic in play. On the one hand, you have the Dodgers fans who are unfazed by his aloofness and positive steroid test and the X-factor of a return to Beantown. Would the Boston fans remember him as the player who helped win two world championships or the self centered player who essentially gave up on his team so he could help orchestrate his exit and get a new contract? I actually think he would get a warm reception in Boston, though I think it is the last thing he deserves.
Angels and Cardinals: If for no other reason, I would love to see this happen so that one of the most under-appreciated managers in my opinion, Mike Scioscia, can have a chance to beat one of baseball’s most overrated ones in Tony LaRussa. Don’t get me wrong, it is not easy to win two World Series rings but let’s not forget that LaRussa lost two others with the Athletics where his team was heavily favored. Yet so many writers and reporters want to throw roses at his feet. I believe that with the Cardinals he has continued to ride his unwarranted “genius” moniker and another Fall Classic loss for him would take the chill out of the October air for me as it would warm my heart.
The Cardinals themselves have quite an impressive World Series resume with their ten titles, which is the second most by a franchise. The Halos only have one title but they have to be considered one of the most consistently solid teams over the last decade.
Players: The Cards have arguably the best hitter in the game in Albert Pujols and now that Matt Holliday can play the Robin to his Batman it makes Pujols even tougher. With Holliday’s bat waiting to dole out punishment to those pitchers who want to pitch around Pujols, these two are creating managerial headaches when men get on base. Having three pitchers with at least 15 wins in Adam Wainwright, Joel Pineiro and Chris Carpenter, some would say they are the team to beat in the NL.
The Angels offense can create runs better than any team in the playoffs and doesn’t need to live and die by the long ball. Vlad Guerrero, who will swing at anything remotely close to the plate, is probably their best known player but they have a scary group of hitters in Chone Figgins, Kendry Morales, Bobby Abreu, Erick Aybar, Maicer Izturis, Howie Kendrick and Torii Hunter who all hover around the .300 mark in batting average. The lineup is like a hitting clinic from top to bottom. The Angels pitching staff is equally unheralded with Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver each with 16 wins along with Scott Kazmir who apparently found his mojo once again since the trade from the Rays (1.73 ERA in his six Angels starts).
The Cities: Yawn. Playing for the Red Birds may be likened to “baseball heaven” but the politeness of the fans does nothing for me. In the post season you want a crowd that can help deliver the knockout blow to a rattled pitcher or nervous hitter. Keep in mind that former Phillie Scott Rolen wanted to play here because there was hardly any pressure—enough said. The Halos faithful aren’t too much better. It is not a good sign for the fan base when you are most identified with a monkey from 2002.
Twins and Rockies: If you saw this one coming back in April you are a liar. This is the series that wakes Bud Selig up in the middle of the night screaming. From a ratings perspective this is Selig’s worst fear. It is a shame because as a story line no series is better. On the one hand you have the Rockies, who at one point were ten games under .500 and somehow pulled it together to make their second mind blowing playoff run in three years. The other side has the remarkable Twins. Does any team in baseball do more with less? They trade away the best pitcher in baseball in Johan Santana two years ago and all they do is lose the AL Central tie-breaker in 2008 and win it in 2009 while the Mets and Santana are on vacation. The job Ron Gardenhire does is unmatched given his resources as he has won five division titles in the last eight years. If he walked on water or turned Gatorade into wine would it surprise you?
Players: In 2007 they were labeled as “Todd and the Toddlers” and Helton is leading the pack back once again. The 36-year-old Todd Helton is at or near the top in just about every offensive team category for the Rockies. The Rockies are unique in that Troy Tulowitzki, their shortstop, leads the team with 32 HRs and 92 RBIs which are some serious power numbers coming out of this position. Ubaldo Jimenez, Jason Marquis and Jorge De La Rosa all bring at least 15 wins to the mound and former A’s closer Huston Street is a solid 35-for-37 in save chances.
Having the perennial 2009 MVP in Joe Mauer sure doesn’t hurt. No other AL catcher had ever won a batting title before and Mr. Mauer just took home his third one. Most teams would not be incapable of handling the loss of a Justin Morneau from their lineup but the Twinkies promptly went 17-4 with a wild September comeback without him. Players such as Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel taking their game to the next level and the pure guts of their pitching staff got the job done.
The Cities: Is there a more deafening or tougher place for an opposing team to play than the Metrodome? The fans are loud enough as it is but now add in a World Series, the frenzy of the final games before the place closes and where every ball hit into the air with that white roof being a recipe for disaster and this place can quickly turn into a house of horrors. The Twins fans are top notch and will want to be heard from one last time.
It’s the return of Rocktober once again to the city of Denver and despite being a franchise that came on the scene only back in 1993 the fans really can make their presence felt. Unless you play for the Rockies, the last place you want to be playing baseball in November is Colorado so that could be a nice psychological edge if they make it that far.
Dedicated fans can start looking for Denver hotel coupons just in case.