Congratulations to the Phillies

Congratulations to the Philadelphia Phillies and their fans (including my cow-orker Todd, and my sister and her son) on winning the World Series! After a 2-day rain delay (no, really!), they beat the Rays 4-3 in the clinching game, winning 4 games to 1.

The Phillies are a long-suffering team, having existed in the shadow of the Philadelphia Athletics until the A’s left town in the 50s. They’re the only team in existence with more than 10,000 (that’s ten thousand) losses. And they’ve won a single World Series in their 126-year existence, back in 1980. But they’ve been a pretty good team in this decade, and they finally managed to vault past the Mets and Braves and push through the playoffs for the win.

In a sign of my own prognosticative skills, I did pick the series to end in 5 games – but I predicted the Rays would run over the Phillies. Instead the Phils won both of Cole Hamels’ starts, won a close one in game 3 in a wild 9th inning, and brought out the big sticks to club the Rays in game 4.

As for the Rays, well, they’re going to be a good team for years to come, so I don’t feel too badly for them. They’re going to make things tough for my Red Sox. But it ought to make for some exciting games.

And So It Ends

The Red Sox almost did it again, having forced Game 7 after falling behind 3-1 in this year’s ALCS, but it came to an end last night when the Rays beat the Sox 3-1 in the decisive game.

Ultimately, the Sox just had too many injuries to overcome: David Ortiz hasn’t been the same since he hurt his wrist, Mike Lowell went out for the year at the end of the ALDS due to his hip problems, Josh Beckett wasn’t the same for whatever reason (whether his oblique injury or something else). The Sox had – and used – a lot of depth this year, but they just didn’t have enough to cover for all of that. Despite those problems, they nearly managed to pull it out and go to their third World Series in five years, but couldn’t quite get over the hump.

The Tampa Bay Rays are young and talented, and most of their players are locked up at bargain prices for years to come, the product of years of drafting near the top of the amateur draft combined with a front office that finally knows what to do with all that talent. Reversals of fortune can happen suddenly in baseball, but as things stand the Rays could be the class of the American League for the next five years. The interesting question will be whether they can build a loyal fan base in Tampa, or whether Florida just isn’t a baseball state.

They’ll face the Phillies in the World Series starting on Wednesday. The Phillies are a pretty good team, but I think the Rays will dismantle them pretty handily. The National League’s teams just haven’t been as good as the American League’s in recent years, and I think the Rays will tee off the non-Cole Hamels pitchers in the Phils’ rotation, while Rays manager Joe Maddon will deploy his formidable bullpen to take advantage of the Phillies’ offensive weaknesses (expect to see David Price strike out Ryan Howard in close-and-late situations a couple of times).

Of course, in a short series, anything can happen, but Rays in five games looks like a good prediction.

Obviously I think Sox/Phillies would have made for a more exciting series. Not least because I could’ve traded jabs with my boss’s boss all week! 🙂

The Red Sox’ Coming Out Party

The really fun thing about the World Series for me was watching the Red Sox’ young players have their own “coming out party”. While the veterans on the club (Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, and World Series MVP Mike Lowell) all had fine series, the younger players were equally impressive:

  • Jacoby Ellsbury (CF, rookie, age 23) went from playing in AA to hitting 438/500/688 in the World Series, with 4 doubles and a stolen base. It would be a stretch to say that he won Game 3 all by himself, but he was certainly the highlight of the game.
  • Dustin Pedroia (2B, rookie, age 23) hit 278/350/500 with a double and a home run. The potential 2007 Rookie of the Year was even better in the ALCS.
  • Kevin Youkilis (1B, age 28) actually was a rookie back in 2004, but didn’t play in the 2004 World Series. He only batted 222/417/444 in the World Series and missed out on most of the games in Colorado because of the lack of a DH, but he was a total monster in the ALCS, batting 500/576/929 (!) with 3 (!!!) home runs. He also went the whole 2007 regular season without committing an error (and then committed 3 in the playoffs). He’ll probably never be a star, but he’s put to rest speculation that the “Greek God of Walks” wouldn’t be very valuable because of a lack of power. He might have a better career than John Kruk did, even if he is already 28.
  • Jon Lester (SP, age 23) came all the way back from chemotherapy for cancer to pitch 5.2 shutout innings and become the winning pitcher in the series clincher. He’ll likely be the Red Sox’ 4th or 5th starter next year, assuming either or both of Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield head elsewhere.
  • Jonathan Papelbon (RP, age 26) didn’t allow a run in the Series and saved 3 games.
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka (SP, rookie, age 26) isn’t a true rookie, as he was a big free agent pickup from Japan last off-season, but he was nearly the Sox’ “forgotten star” as he faded down the stretch, possibly because he threw more innings in 2007 than he ever had in Japan and just got tired. But he picked up his game in the ALCS and World Series, throwing two good games and getting a key base hit in Game 3 of the World Series. Japanese players often seem to do better in their second year in the Majors, so I fully expect Matsuzaka will be better next year than he was this year. Other than fatigue, I think there’s nothing to worry about here.

I love seeing young players do well, and it’s additionally encouraging that the Sox have a solid core of young players to build around for the next 2-3 years (if not longer). This doesn’t even count other “under-30-somethings” on the roster, like Beckett, Clay Buchholz, and Manny Delcarmen.

The Red Sox’ future is already here, and it just won a World Series.

Champions Again!

Amazing – the Red Sox have won the World Series again!

It seems like only yesterday that they won for the first time in my lifetime. They went into a rebuilding phase after that, so I didn’t imagine they’d win it all again so soon, yet here they are on top of the heap once more!


Heading into the playoffs I thought either the Red Sox or Indians would go to the World Series, and probably steamroller the NL champion, and I was right as the Sox swept the Rockies, winning two blowouts and two one-run games. Mike Lowell won the MVP award, although there was plenty of credit to go around: Nearly every Sox hitter had a great Series, and some were simply insanely great.

Truth to tell, it was a pretty boring postseason: Only 5 of 7 series were sweeps, and only 1 went the distance, as the Sox overcame a 3-1 deficit to beat the Indians in the ALCS in what was a pretty good series, but the Indians’ pitching collapsed in the last three games.

What really made the Sox’ team click this month? Well, I think the Sox managed to rest their tired and injured players in September and fielded a healthy team which was hitting on all cylinders in the playoffs: David Ortiz’ bad knee didn’t hinder him, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima got some rest and were good enough to help (Okajima faded in the Series, though), and even Jon Lester pitched a great game tonight in the clincher. With a strong pitching staff and an overpowering offense, only Cleveland really had a team which could stand up to them.

So I guess the Sox are now the new Evil Empire, having won more championships in this century than any other team (a mark they also held in the 20th century until 1937 when the Yankees passed them). And despite Curt Schilling and Mike Lowell heading to free agency, they still seem well-positioned to contend for several more years, with plenty of young talent on the roster. And they have the financial resources to take big risks on big free agents without compromising the core of the team – a luxury few other teams can afford.

So it’s a nifty end to a nifty season. It feels a little anticlimactic because the Sox have been a leading contender since April, and only the Yankees’ late-season run at the division title and the ALCS really added much drama. Still, it’s nice to come out and win as favorites rather than as long-suffering underdogs. It made this a championship to enjoy rather than claw our eyes out in anticipation (as 2004 was at times).

Looking forward to next year!

It’s Rox vs. Sox!

Tonight the Red Sox completed their improbable comeback to win the ALCS, beating the Cleveland Indians 4 games to 3, after being down 3-1 a few days ago. I didn’t think they could do it, so color me amazed.

Now they’ll face the equally-improbable Colorado Rockies, who are going to their first World Series in team history, and who made it through an amazing winning streak to close the season before dumping the Phillies and Diamondbacks in two sweeps.

Go Sox!

(P.S.: If the Sox win the Series, they’ll have the most championships of any team in this century. That’s a distinction they held early in the last century, too, winning 5 of the first 15 World Series. The Yankees passed them when they won their sixth World Series in 1937.)

It’s The Long Dark Time

The Cardinals won the World Series, thus making my uncle Mike and my friend David happy. They also became the World Series winner with the worst regular-season record in history (beating out the 1987 Twins), although they’re only the second-worst team to ever make it to the Series (behind the 1973 Mets).

Congratulations to them! They did just about everything right, and took advantage of several mistakes by the Detroit Tigers. Despite this, it was a good series with 3 of the 5 games decided by 1 or 2 runs. The Cards’ surprisingly strong pitching kept them in position to take advantage of Detroit’s errors.

And now it’s the “long dark time”, as Syd likes to say. T.S. puts it succinctly as well.

I just say: Four months ’til spring training!

World Series Preview

I was chatting with Subrata yesterday about this weeks’ World Series, where his Detroit Tigers face the St. Louis Cardinals for the third time in history. I think the Tigers are pretty clearly the favorites, but I think the Cardinals can win if they accomplish two things:

  1. Their front three pitchers – Carpenter, Suppan and Weaver – pitch well.
  2. Their hitters beyond Pujols and Edmonds can manage to hit Detroit’s pitching.

Suppan has been on a tear for the last 3 months, and Weaver has been decent while pitching for the Cardinals, and good in the playoffs in particular. But neither are sure things. Both men need to continue to dominate for the Cardinals to have a real chance.

I think if that happens and the Cardinals’ legion of also-ran hitters (plus Scott Rolen and his bum shoulder) can step it up, then they should win. Otherwise, I think the best they can hope for is a close series that anyone could win.

But really, the Tigers have better pitching and better hitting (no surprise, since the Cardinals I think had the world regular-season record of any World Series team in decades – maybe ever), and they play one more game at home (the dubious “home field advantage” which barely exists in baseball), so it’s quite possible that they’ll just dismantle the Cardinals (like the Red Sox did to a much better Cardinals team in 2004).

Mainly, though, I think it will be a fun series. Which, when your team isn’t in it, is what we all wish for anyway, right?