Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It’s just one indulgence on top of another

If my predictions are right (for once), among the sights I'll be missing this month is Ubaldo Jimenez once again pitching against the Red Sox in the World Series.

Earlier sunsets, crisper air and Columbus Day approaching on the calendar: I’ll try not to bore you too much with the details, but damn, does this week ever remind me how much I miss covering the playoffs.

It was a challenge for various logistical reasons—the access is terrible, the interview room is a breeding ground for clichés, I worked for companies that didn’t pay for travel and there was the nightmare before Game One of the 2007 World Series, when I almost bought a new laptop at the Best Buy outside Fenway Park because a speck of dust in my hard drive completely shut the computer down—but the payoff was well worth it.

What I love about the regular season is it tests those who follow and chronicle it. It’s a challenge to not get lulled by the monotony that is inescapable at some point during a 162-game season. For entirely different reasons, the postseason also provides quite the test. You never know when the defining moment of the series and season will arrive, so full attention must be devoted to every pitch.

The playoffs symbolize baseball’s beautiful unpredictability. The anonymous are thrust on to center stage and superstars are reduced to underachieving understudies (cough, Alex Rodriguez, cough cough).

Baseball’s critics have a field day with the marathon games, and Bud Selig cannot be hammered enough for these ludicrous starting times, especially come the World Series. But there is nothing like the building suspense of a taut playoff game, nothing like the buzz increasing from the time the catcher throws the ball back to the pitcher and turning into a deafening roar before the next pitch is thrown.

Damn do I miss it. Email me if you need coverage. I’ll work cheap!

You probably didn’t want to hear some exiled writer waxing poetic/pathetic about the good ol’ days. You REALLY probably didn’t want some more playoff predictions from a guy sitting on his couch (well, I’m actually away at the moment, so it’s my wife’s best friend’s coach, but I digress), but…I’m so good at predictions, I figured I’d try again!

AL Division Series
Red Sox over Angels in 4. The Sox look more vulnerable heading into the playoffs than they have since 2005 and the Angels are nothing if not due to finally beat the Sox. The Angels’ speed should wreck havoc with the Sox, whose catchers have thrown out a meager 13 percent of opposing base stealers this season. All logic says I should pick the Angels. But Jon Lester and Josh Beckett easily provide the best 1-2 punch in the AL, and once again, I’ll take Terry Francona every single time over Mike Scioscia.

Yankees over Twins in 3. Remain quite skeptical of how CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett will handle October—not to mention Rodriguez as well as the super high-strung Joe Girardi—but this could be a historic thrashing. All the momentum in the world doesn’t change the fact the Twins’ starter tonight is Brian Duensing, who was bumped from his must-win start in the regular season “finale” Sunday in favor of Carl Pavano. That’s not good, and neither is this: Pavano, the most loathed Yankee in generations, would seem to be in line to start Game Two at Yankee Stadium. Oh well, at least the Twins have last night.

NL Division Series
Cardinals over Dodgers in 3. Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright is an even better duo than Lester and Beckett and Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday are a modern day version of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. Speaking of Ramirez, he’s been awfully quiet since his 50-day suspension, hasn’t he (.269-13-45-.492 SLG in 260 at-bats)? Another postseason fade for Joe Torre.

Rockies over Phillies in 4. As noted last week, the concept that the team that is hottest entering the playoffs is the most dangerous is pretty much bunk. But the Rockies were the hottest NL team two years ago, and look where they ended up. This team, too, seems to be bursting with positive karma, and it has the lockdown ace (Ubaldo Jimenez) the ’07 team lacked. The Phils did everything they could to make the NL East interesting down the stretch and their lack of stability at closer will haunt them at least once this series.

AL Championship Series
Red Sox over Yankees in 6. Lester/Beckett vs. Sabathia/Burnett, at least in October, is a no-brainer. Teixeira proves to be a lot like A-Rod when it counts most and John Henry returns to Tweeter to gloat about it.

NL Championship Series
Rockies over Cardinals in 7. A classic series and the Rockies get the last laugh on Holliday.

World Series
Rockies over Red Sox in 7. Three straight deep October runs catch up to the Sox and Jonathan Papelbon finally has his Mariano Rivera moment.

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