Go ahead. Accuse me of being small. Petty. Vindictive. I can take it. But I don’t want the Red Sox to advance any farther in this year’s playoffs than the NLDS, and it has absolutely nothing to do with a lingering anger over last year’s World Series (I’m a Cardinals guy, for those who might be new to the sight) debacle. Honestly, it was all over so fast last October that I really didn’t get the chance to get emotionally invested in the whole process. No, I want the Red Sox out early- and the Yanks to follow them into winter vacation- for one reason.
When New York and Boston play, the entire baseball world must be adjusted accordingly, at least in the minds of television execs. That means the Cardinals have been scheduled to play games 1 and 2 against San Diego at 1 and 4 pm EDT. If I were the kind of person who had a day job that required me to get to an office (and thank god I’m not), that would be a serious drag. Maybe that’s just a scheduling quirk, and when the Cards head to San Diego, they’ll play at night. But I doubt it. Not if Fox can put a Yankee game on in prime time.
And lord help us all if they get to play each other. I have an enormous respect for baseball tradition. I love rivalries as much as the next guy, and think I appreciate the significance of Boston-NY as much as anyone not from either city. But if they meet in the ALCS, it wouldn’t surprise me if they showed highlights of their games during the NL matchup, assuming they go every other night. Or maybe just cancel the NL, so we can follow Manny and Big Papi around the batting cages or in the training room on their off day. I’m sure if Fox and ESPN had their way, they’d figure out a way to cancel the NL, and let Boston and New York play for the Series.
Was I the only one who was incredibly annoyed at ESPN’s coverage of the weekend series? I understood that the network stuck with the Sox and Yanks through the conclusion. With Boston’s bullpen trouble, I wouldn’t cut away from a 5-3 lead in the 9th, either. But if memory serves, once the game was over the BBTN crew launched into analysis and highlights of that game before they even updated the three other incredibly significant games going on. No highlights? Fine. There are rules about that sort of thing, I think. But at least give me a score. Cut away and tell me what’s going on, then recap the game that 99% of the people tuned in just finished watching and presumably remember.
Call it sacrilige, but the world of baseball is bigger than New York and Boston. There, I’ve said it.
Onto my fearless postseason predictions:
New York vs. Los Angeles: Despite the "Unit-might-pitch-twice-in-a-short-series" factor, the incredible run of Aaron Small, and the success of Shawn Chacon, I’ll take the incredible consistency of Colon, Lackey, Byrd, and Washburn. Mussina isn’t pitching well enough. If the Halos hit at all, they’ll win. We deserve another "Winter of Angry George Steinbrenner." Maybe this’ll be the year he actually tries to toss Brian Cashman out a window for not signing a middle reliever than ends up on Boston.
ANGELS IN FOUR (By the way, every time I’ve written off New York, they win, so this probably guarantees they’ll win the Series. Sorry.)
ChiSox vs. BoSox: Tough to call. Both teams struggle in the pen. Boston can put up more runs, no question, but I’d like to like Chicago’s starting staff more, but I was wrong about the way Schilling and Wells would perform last weekend. If they can keep it up, there’s no reason they won’t match up well with Contreras, Garland, Buhrle and Co. In the end, Chicago has no Ramirez and Ortiz in their lineup. Guys that scare you out of your shoes, and change games just by batting 4 times a night. Plus, Chicago hasn’t won a championship since players routinely had nicknames like "Red Leg" and "Half Face." The make Boston look like, well, New York in comparison.
BOSTON IN FIVE
Cardinals vs Padres: Jake Peavy scares me, but very little else about San Diego does. But in a short series, two dominant Peavy performances could be enough. The back end of their pen is solid. But there’s a reason they were only a .500 team in the NL West. It’s because they’re not very good. Everything in this series that scares me comes from the Cards. The Reyes injury hurts, since Ray King has been unreliable. The starters are slumping at the wrong time, and at some point guys like Abraham Nunez have to hit the wall. But I don’t think it’ll be here. Walker and Sanders are back and rested, providing plenty of protection for King Albert in the 3 spot.
CARDINALS IN FOUR
Atlanta vs. Houston: If Oswalt, Pettitte and Clemens dominate, the ‘Stros will win. If they don’t, they won’t. I don’t think all three will come through. John Smoltz has been begging for this moment- to start in the playoffs- since they made him a closer. Hudson is solid behind him. If Jones, Jones, and Co. can crack one of Houston’s Big Three, I think that’s enough.
ATLANTA IN FIVE