Tuesday, October 07, 2003

The League Championship Series

Baseball's Final Four are an interesting group. There's the monolithic juggernaut whom everyone expected to be here (Yankees); a pair of sentimental favorites (Red Sox and Cubs); and a "how the hell did they get here?" representative (Marlins).

Since I went 3-for-4 in predicting the Divisional Series winners, I thought I'd give it a try for each LCS:

Yankees/Red Sox: After the Twins' Game 1 victory, New York pulled itself together and cruised in three straight, looking nothing like the team that got bounced by Anaheim last season. The Yanks can throw a lot of arms out there, and Mariano Rivera was Gagne-like against Minnesota. As everyone will point out, New York is also very rested and not in the least jet-lagged.

As for Boston, it has the market cornered on guts this postseason. Down 2-0 to the A's, the Red Sox rallied for three consecutive wins. Late-inning comebacks have been a Sox hallmark all year, and their ALDS victory was no exception. This is a tight team that believes in itself and never, ever quits.

Boston's incredibly balanced lineup doesn't have an easy out in it. But after Pedro, the rotation is nothing special, and the bullpen juggles lighter fluid and lit matches with alarming regularity. My heart -- which loves the city of Boston, which loves a woman whose parents live near the city of Boston, which loves seeing Yankees fans taken down a peg whenever possible -- wants to give the Red Sox a chance to exorcise its demons; my head says they're too rough around the edges to take four of seven from a rested, focused New York team.

Who Will Win: Yankees in six
Who I Hope Wins: Red Sox

Cubs/Marlins: Watching Kerry Wood completely and utterly school the hard-hitting Braves was a lesson in the value of pitching in short series. Wood and Mark Prior give the Cubs the most overpowering one-two combination this side of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. And Chicago's offense, led by white-hot Moises Alou, did just enough against Atlanta to win. If Sammy Sosa can get his act together, look out.

As for the Marlins, I am so over them already. They knocked my team, the Phillies, out of playoff contention last month, and they had no business at all beating the Giants. I'm tired of Jack McKeon's folksy doddering, I'm tired of their crappy, half-empty stadium, I'm tired of seeing retreads like Jeff Conine and Juan Encarnacion get to soak in champagne, and I'm tired of reading the rah-rah coverage in the Miami Herald. Ivan Rodriguez is the only Marlin I'd pay to watch play. And I absolutely love that the Fish are the only underdog in sports history that nearly everyone hopes loses.

Who Will Win: Cubs in seven
Who I Hope Wins: Cubs


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