Yanks, Red Sox, and the Darkhorses

Josh "Jewce" Cohen

It’s October. We’re finally here. After six long months, multiple trips to the disabled list and heart wrenching losses, (sorry Mets fans) it is once again time to crown the champion of the baseball world. What makes this year so intriguing are the old and new faces that comprise the bracket. We have the perennial favorites in the Yankees and Red Sox, who I believe will meet in the ALCS. There are also a few fresh faces such as the Rockies and the Phillies, two teams who haven’t been in the playoffs since I was in elementary school. And of course there are the Cubbies, who hope to erase the memories of Steve Bartman and reach the pinnacle of the baseball world, something they haven’t done since 1908. In fact, the only playoff team from last year who is still alive is the Yankees. Hard as it is to believe, there are seven new teams to this year’s playoffs. In a league that is often scrutinized for its payroll disparities, 15 different teams have made it to the playoffs in the last two years, a measure of parity and diversity that is unique only to the sport of baseball. So without further ado, here are my breakdowns and predictions for the League Championship Series, starting with the National League.

Colorado vs. Philadelphia

Two weeks ago, it would have been sheer madness to suggest that either of these teams would qualify for the posteason. But of course, as Chris Berman would say, “that’s why they play the game.” Seven games back with 17 to play, the Phillies went 13-4 down the stretch while the Mets lost 12 of their last 17. The Rockies are baseball’s hottest team entering the playoffs, having won 14 of their last 15, including a one-game playoff against the National League’s best pitcher, Jake Peavy, to earn their first ever trip to the postseason. In the last two years, the Tigers and the White Sox have shown that the hottest teams go the furthest in the postseason. This is a matchup that features three of the National League’s best in Matt Holliday, Ryan Howard, and Jimmy Rollins. In the end, I believe that the Phillies bats will be too much for the Rockies’ pitching staff to handle. Between Jimmy Rollins, Howard, Chase Utley and Aaron Rowand, there is too much experience on the side of the Philadelphia. While I am greatly encouraged by the recent play of Colorado, I don’t think fate is on their side. Philadelphia wins in four games.

Chicago vs. Arizona

The other half of the National League bracket matches two teams that have taken very different paths to the postseason. 52 games into the season the Cubs were 22-30 and in disarray. They were losing to teams with less talent and cooler heads were not prevailing in the locker room, culminating in a melee between starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano and then Cubs catcher Michael Barrett in the dugout during a June 1st loss to the Braves. Since then, the Cubs have been one of baseball’s best teams and ran away with the NL Central in the last two weeks of the season. Their pitching, led by Zambrano and Ted Lilly, has been remarkable. Arizona, on the other hand, is a bit of a mystery to most of the country. Blame it on the fact that they place out West and games start at 10 p.m.Led by a predominantly young team including ace Brandon Webb, position players Stephen Drew and Chris Young and a resurgent Eric Byrnes, the Diamondbacks are a legitimate force in this series. But, in the end there is not enough support for Webb on the Diamondback’s pitching staff to deal with the potent Cubs’ lineup. Soriano, Lee, and Aramis Ramirez possess too much talent, making this series much more lopsided than many predict. Cubs win in four games.

Yankees vs. Cleveland

The Yankees have been the best team in baseball since the All-Star Break. Since June 1st, the Yanks are 71-39 and have been doing it in style. With the most formidable lineup in the majors, the Yankees offense has been absurd this year. The soon to be named MVP, Alex Rodriguez, had a career defining year, leading the majors in home runs, RBIs, and runs scored. With support from Bobby Abreu, Hideki Matsui, Derek Jeter and a career year form Jorge Posada, the Yankees offense had little trouble against the Indians in six meetings this year, winning all of them. The Tribe has been the second-best team in baseball the last three months, running away with a very competitive AL Central. Bolstered by the success of three starting pitchers, C.C. Sabathia, Fausto Carmona and Paul Byrd, the Indians have the deepest starting rotation in the postseason. In the end, the empire has too much on its side. After the kind of start the Yanks had, I believe I am among the majority who believe the Yankees will be bringing in home number 27 this year. Yankees win in five games.

Boston vs. Angels

From start to finish, the Red Sox have been the best team in baseball this year. Trust me, no New Yorker can easily admit this, but David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis and the Sox have been riding high all season. They face a very good Angels team, who always seems to sneak into the playoffs and create a ruckus. The Angels are led by their solid rotation featuring Kelvim Escobar, Jared Weaver and John Lackey and a very capable lineup with the likes of Vladimir Guerrero. Normally I’d say that the Angels are poised for the upset, but the Sox are just too good. They breed these kids who come out of nowhere (cue the shots to Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury) and mix them with wily veterans, (Curt Schilling, Ortiz and Manny Ramirez). The Sox provide too much offensive punch to lose this series; setting up the ALCS that everyone is hoping for, the Nation vs. the Empire. Boston wins in five games.