While we discuss managerial tendancies and upcoming free agents, other teams are preparing for the greatest three weeks of the season. The playoffs may not be the best way to determine the best team or to reward a season of excellence, but there are few things in sports as exciting as October baseball, and this should be a fun year to simply enjoy the games. Here’s my gut feel on how the playoffs will shake out.
ALDS, Minnesota vs New York
Johan Santana is tremendous and Brad Radke is pitching better than anyone on the Yankees, but this still looks like a big mismatch to me. The Twins are in the playoffs because they play in the saddest division in baseball, not because they are one of the four best teams in the American League. The Yankee offense is still fearsome, and a rotation of Mussina-Hernandez-Brown-Vazquez, for all its struggles, is still ridiculously talented. Yankees in 4.
ALDS, Anaheim vs Boston
An interesting pairing that should make for a fun series. The Angels bullpen is trying to carry a poor rotation, while the Red Sox starters are trying to carry the rest of the roster. A contrast in styles, with neither team having a clear advantage, and a series that could go either way. I’ll take Boston in 5, but with little conviction.
NLDS, Los Angeles and St. Louis
The Cardinals are the best team in baseball. The middle of their line-up is unprecedentedly awesome. Their rotation, despite not being full of all-stars, is very good. They play great defense. There aren’t many things that you can point to as flaws. Meanwhile, the Dodgers have a shaky rotation, a questionable offense, and are dealing with a lot of question marks. Cardinals in 3.
NLDS, Atlanta vs Houston
The most surprising team in baseball against a team that was left for dead six weeks ago. Phil Garner versus Bobby Cox in a match of bunting madness. This is probably the least interesting of the four series’ to me, but also the one that I feel like I’m just totally guessing on. Atlanta in 5, but I wouldn’t even shrug if the Astros swept all three games by 10 runs.
ALCS, Boston vs New York
Prepare yourself for 842 shots a day of Aaron Boone. Expect to hear the words “Pedro Martinez” and “Daddy” in the same sentence every fifteen minutes. Gear up for an 8,000 word column from Bill Simmons and an assasination attempt on Terry Francona. Despite all the annoying hype that goes along with a Red Sox-Yankees playoff series, it’s also great baseball. Red Sox in 6, sealing the fact that Pedro will be wearing pinstripes next spring.
NLCS, Atlanta vs St. Louis
Remember all those things I said about the Cardinals? They still apply. Cardinals in 5.
World Series, Boston vs St. Louis
The series where Albert Pujols officially becomes the new face of baseball. People know he’s good in a reverant, those-are-some-gaudy-numbers kind of way. But he’s never had the chance to shine on the big stage, showing people that he’s legitimately one of the best hitters they’ll ever see. It isn’t the curse of the Bambino or the hated Yankees that will doom the Crimson Hose; it’s the sticks in the St. Louis order. Cardinals in 6.