What to Watch For in the World Series, and why I Won’t Be (watching)
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Major League Baseball got what they wanted in this World Series match-up: they got the defending champs against the franchise that has won more titles than any other in history. They got all the storylines and the intrigue that October, er, November baseball is supposed to be about. When you consider that this league has had to suffer through (in recent years) Tigers-Cardinals, Red Sox-Rockies, and the intriguing but still terrible Rays-Phillies matchup, these two large market franchises playing each other are good for baseball.
What’s good for baseball is not always good for the national fan though, and I simply do not care about Phillies-Yankees. I wish I could, but I’m thinking if I’m sitting around on Thursday night, I’ll be more inclined to watch the college football or UFL games than the World Series.
And that’s just the way it’s been for me in most years. I love baseball. I just haven’t gotten caught up in the playoffs since, oh, I’d say 2005. I lived in the Chicago locality when the Cubs made their NLCS run in 2003, and when the White Sox won it all in 2005. I lived in Michigan when the Tigers made their 2006 run. As a fan of a team who hasn’t been to the postseason in my lifetime, I’ve had every reason to get caught up in the baseball postseason despite not ever having a dog in the fight. It’s just never been all that importnant to me. And now with the Yankees and Phillies matching wits in the Fall classic, it’s going to be just another off-season where I won’t be able to tell you off the top of my head who the world champion was.
Which does not mean I don’t have an opinion on what will transpire. I’ll tell you this: the best pitcher in this series is not CC Sabathia, it’s Cliff Lee. I don’t think the Yankee’s line-up is appreciably more dangerous than Philly’s. And I don’t think you can say at this point that the Philadelphia bullpen is a liability. It may not come down to it, but how much better of a job has Charlie Manuel done in the playoffs that Joe Girardi?
In my mind, the key players in this series are: Yankees outfielders Johnny Damon and Nick Swisher, and Phillies LHP Cole Hamels. When the Yankees have had prolonged hitting slumps, it’s because they’ve been lacking in production from their outfielders, as you would expect. I certainly don’t see a pitching advantage for the Yankees, maybe a negigible defense advantage, but if both Damon and Swisher have big series, they’ll be tough to beat.
Cole Hamels was great in the playoffs last season, but his up and down regular season (exemplified by a very good 1.29 WHIP, but a pedestrian 4.32 ERA), has led to three relatively disappointing playoff starts. In this series, all he has to do is provide more production for the Phillies than Andy Pettite can give the Yankees. If he does that, the Phillies have the stronger rotation, a very competent bullpen, and the edge in the series.
I’m picking the Phillies over the Yankees, in seven games.