How ’bout them Red Sox? How ’bout them Braves? Yes, you would be correct in noting my interest in baseball’s playoff push and absolutely crazy falls from glory of the Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves. It has been a wild month, and for good reasons.
Baseball is perhaps the sport where momentum in the moment matters the least. Good teams rarely find themselves in long ruts (unless you were the Pittsburgh Pirates after the all-star break losing 11 in a row). Bad teams may have a good week or two, but rarely put together good months or good long stretches. Baseball teams are built for long seasons and consistency, not catching fire during one stretch.
That’s what makes this postseason run by these two teams so unbelievable. Both teams were built to last, to be consistent. The Braves were more or less consistent until this last month. But the Red Sox? They started the season dreadful with many Red Sox fans wondering if the team would win 80 games, let alone make the playoffs and World Series (they started 0-5 and I think 2-11). After that, the Red Sox were unbelievably white hot and looked like one of the best if not the best team in baseball. But it is important to remember that they have had their ups and downs. But up 9 games with a month to play? When baseball teams are built for consistently good play with great players like the Red Sox (mostly a deadly lineup with Gonazles, Pedroia, Ellsbury, Ortiz, and Crawford with a couple top notch starters) and Braves (mostly starting pitching like Jurrjens, Hanson, Hudson and Kimbrel but with solid offensive players too), you expect them to find their way after a down stretch. And they never did. They never recovered and never found consistent play throughout September. The lack of consistency for the Red Sox was seen in their losses, where there were days where they scored runs but couldn’t close games with Papelbon and Bard, or days when their offense couldn’t score at all. The Braves mostly couldn’t score but also ran into trouble because their bullpen couldn’t close games after all the innings they pitched.
But the September collapses are both collapses and accomplishments. The St. Louis Cardinals and the Tampa Bay Rays were consistent this year. Now they were phenomenal in the month of September, but they consistently plugged all year long and put themselves in a position where a couple of good weeks would give them a shot. I love Albert Pujols, who got himself back in MVP consideration (though it should be Matt Kemp’s) with his hard work and focus in spite of a terrible month. The Cardinals withstood injuries galore and just played as well as they could every month. The Rays were the same and had that gritty style of play even though they aren’t significantly deep or pitching stout (after James Shields and David Price). But both those teams accomplished something because they called for consistency and all year long played consistently. Great months where teams play out of their minds are there for the taking, but bad months are avoided. I love these two teams and what they bring to the table. And they both bring playoff experience and moxie- and they deserve to credited for their comebacks, grittiness, and consistency- and perhaps I need to add confidence because the Red Sox and Braves played without it with empty facial expressions and odd mistakes. As an Angels fan, I remember our prodigious collapse back in ’95 when the Mariners made us look like fools and then in an extra playoff game Randy Johnson scared the crap out of us in the Kingdome. It is painful to be a fan of that team but it is part of sports- because with a collapse comes teams that played well and did their part.
But it was an exciting run though. My eyes were glued to whatever I could watch and I loved watching the baseball last night. It only leads to a great postseason- I expect great things from the Phillies and their Trio of starters (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels). I expect great things from the well built Texas Rangers. I hope Detroit has a magical run in them with the vaunted Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera. And what about the continuing magic from Tampa Bay and St. Louis (I am hoping to see Pujols bust out big in the playoffs)? And maybe even some surprises like Arizona? And what about the awesomeness of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder in Milwaukee- that is a difficult matchup for any Arizona pitcher.
Anyway, for predictions.
Tampa Bay vs. Texas —- Texas 3 games to 1
Detroit vs. New York —- New York 3 games to 2
Arizona vs. Milwaukee —- Milwaukee 3 games to 1
St. Louis vs. Philadelphia —- Philadelphia 3 games to 1
NL Championship: Milwaukee vs. Philadelphia—- Philadelphia 4 games to 2
AL Championship: Texas vs. New York —- (very hard to pick) New York 4 games to 3 (home field advantage!)
World Series: New York vs. Philadelphia —- Philadelphia 4 games to 2.
I can’t pick against the trio of starters in Philadelphia- they are so good, so consistent, so tested and unfazed. Texas is a sleeper and could get to the World Series, but I don’t think they have a shot at the Phils. My preferred World Series matchup would be St. Louis/Philadephia and Detroit, but I don’t think that is going to happen. Those are my thoughts? Who is your favorite? What are your picks?
For your information, I have been reading a book called “The Moral Underground: How Ordinary Americans Subvert an Unfair Economy” recently and I will write a post on it as soon as I give it the reflection it is due. It’s worth a read because our economy really puts the poor, marginalized, and lower classes in difficult spots with work, family, health and education.