A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
BASN’s MLB Playoff Preview (Part Two)
It took 163 games and wins against three different teams in their last three games, but the Chicago White Sox would bum rush their way to an AL Central crown. Jim Thome’s monster homer on Tuesday night was all the Pale Hose needed to eliminate the pesky Twins in their one-game playoff.
The defending world champion Red Sox survived an season of injuries and controversy to gain the AL wild card berth. They enter the postseason with some injuries to Mike Lowell, J.D. Drew and last year’s playoff hero, Josh Beckett. It will take a big effort for them to bring home their third crown in five years.
Evoking memories of the ’69 Mets and ’91 Braves, the Tampa Bay Rays went from worst to first in the AL East. Tampa had never won more than 70 games or finished higher than fourth and had managed finishing out of the cellar just once. But a year later, Joe Maddon’s crew is here with the big boys.
And finally, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim continued their dominance as the best team in the AL West. The Halos seemingly had the division wrapped up by the All-Star break as they won their fourth division title in five years. The September 10th clinching was the earliest in AL West history and the fifth earliest in MLB history in a 162-game season.
These teams make up what appears to be a very interesting gang of four vying for a meeting in the ALCS. Ironically, three of these teams have won World Series crowns within the last six years. Only Boston (2004, 2007) has multiple crowns during than same span.
WHITE SOX vs. RAYS
(Rays won season series, 6-4)
How they got here: Tampa was the game’s biggest surprise as they came from out of nowhere to win the AL East. The South Siders took their second AL Central crown in the last four years.
What to watch for: The ultimate battle between youth and experience. The Rays, with an average age of 27.4 years, are the fourth-youngest team in postseason history. The White Sox are dominated by several postseason veterans, with an average age of 30.4.
Intangibles: The Tampa bullpen. Given the still unknown status of closer Troy Percival (1-1, 6.11 ERA and nine saves in his last 21 appearances), Dan Wheeler, Grant Balfour, J.P. Howell, Chad Bradford and Trever Miller will be part of a pen by committee.
Did you know that: The White Sox and the Rays finished a combined 54 games out of first place in 2007. They lost 186 games between them last year.
Outlook: You have to give Ozzie Guillen’s bunch a lot of credit for persevering to reach this playoff party. But there’s something very magical about what Tampa has been able to do this year. Chi-Town’s World Series pedigree will make this an interesting series, but I really like the karma of the Rays.
Pick: Rays in five.
RED SOX vs. ANGELS
(Angels won season series, 8-1)
How they got here: The Angels took home another AL West crown while the Red Sox had to settle for a wild card berth to reach the postseason.
What to watch for: The Papelbon factor vs. the Halos. Current Angels are a combined 1-for-35 (.029 BA) — the lone hit by Vlade Guerrero — against Boston’s closer. For his career, the Michael Flatley reject has made 11 appearances against the Angels, pitching 17.1 IPs without permitting a single run.
Intangibles: During the Angels’ 2002 championship run, the baseball world was first introduced to Frankie Rodriguez. Six years later, F-Rod had the best season a reliever has ever experienced with his 62 saves. He’s the cherry on top of an impressive staff that has been amongst the majors best this season.
Did you know that: The Angels have been eliminated by the Red Sox in all three of their previous playoff meetings. After blowing a 3-1 lead in the 1986 ALCS, Boston has beaten L.A., Anaheim, Cucamonga, or what ever city you wanna call them twice (2004, 2007) in the ALDS
Outlook: Last year, the Angels limped into the ALDS against Boston and was sent home after a three-game sweep. This week, Boston arrives at the postseason with several key players having some major ouches. With many apologies to Annie Lennox and the Eurythymics, “Sweep dreams are made of this”………..
Pick: Angels in three.