It’s time for the World Series!October 22, 2008 at 1:19 am | Posted in Baseball, Rays, World Series | 13 Comments
It’s time for the most storied and exciting annual sporting event in the world, the World Series! Tomorrow, Wednesday October 22, 2008 at 8:00 PM EDT, it all begins as Scott Kazmir will lead the Tampa Bay Rays and Cole Hamels will lead the Philadelphia Phillies into battle at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. This will be the first World Series in the history of the Tampa Bay franchise, which has only been around since 1998. Philadelphia has been in the National League since 1883, but has only won the World Series once, in 1980. So being a part of this year’s World Series is a major accomplishment for both of these teams.
Both teams are built around their young superstars. The Phillies feature a core of four players, all under the age of 30, that I believe is stronger than any group of four players on any other team. I’m talking about Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins. While the Rays are not loaded with genuine superstars like the Phillies are, they have an even younger core of stars including Scott Kazmir, James Shields, Matt Garza, Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton, and Carl Crawford. This will be the first time for all of these players in the World Series, and I believe that most baseball fans are excited to see so many fresh faces headlining the Fall Classic.
That brings me to a major point that I want to make. There has been a lot of media speculation recently that this year’s World Series will get low ratings. The argument is that fans only want to see the “large market” teams in the World Series. If there’s no team from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, or Boston, the viewing public will stay away. JRJ from the excellent Sports Locker blog recently posted about this. I definitely disagree with this sentiment. On Sunday, Game 7 of the ALCS shattered the all-time record for the number of viewers for a baseball game on cable. Sure, you can argue that it was all because of Boston. But I believe that even more people were tuned in because they wanted to see the underdog Rays bring down the Red Sox empire. I believe that the vast majority of baseball fans, who are not Red Sox or Yankees fans, are tired of seeing the same two teams dominate for more than a decade, and they’re hungry to see new teams have postseason success. Also, don’t forget that Philadelphia is actually the fourth largest media market in the country.
The storyline for this year’s World Series is very compelling. It’s the unlikeliest matchup since the Twins and Braves both went from last place in their divisions in 1990 to the World Series in 1991. That 1991 Braves team was the only team in history that had the worst record in all of baseball one year and went to the World Series the next. They lost to the Twins in 1991, so the Rays have a chance to be the first team that goes from the worst record in all of baseball to World Series champions in one year. And I believe that there are many, many baseball fans who are excited to see if they can do it. On the other hand, the Phillies have some of the most passionate fans in the world, and they’re starving for a championship. It’s been 28 years since the Phillies won the World Series, and it’s been 15 years since the last time they were in it.
The 1991 World Series was one of the most exciting and entertaining of all-time. The games were very close and the series went to seven games. Can the 2008 World Series reach the same level of competitiveness?
First, I must issue a disclaimer. As you know, I’m a huge Rays fan and there is no way that I could pick the Phillies to win. So take my prediction with a whole shaker full of grains of salt. But also keep in mind that I successfully predicted that the Rays would beat the White Sox 3-1 and the Red Sox 4-3.
My prediction is that the Rays will sweep the World Series, 4-0.
I don’t make that prediction lightly, and I really wanted to predict that the Phillies would win a game or two, but I just can’t see it happening. I apologize to all the Phillies fans who are reading this. They really are one of my favorite National League teams to watch. I’m a big fan of Rollins, Utley, and Hamels. I absolutely loved Citizens Bank Park when I saw a game there this summer. But here’s why I can’t see them winning a game:
- Their starting pitching is horrible. Yes, horrible. Cole Hamels is outstanding, but when I look at the other names in their rotation, I wonder how they managed to make the playoffs. Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer, and Joe Blanton are going to be starting in this series. Seriously? I’ve disliked Myers ever since he assaulted his wife on a public street in 2006. But his numbers are appalling too. Guys with 4.55 ERAs and 1.38 WHIPs who pitch to amateur batters 1/9 of the time should not be in any team’s postseason rotation. Jamie Moyer? I know he has fans, and his success at the age of 45 is admirable, but he has gotten shellacked in the playoffs. Upton and Longoria must be salivating about facing him. And Joe Blanton? When he was in the American League, he was one of the guys that you were always happy to see your team face when they needed to end a losing streak. Let’s see, we play Oakland next, and Blanton’s pitching – thank God! He’s terrible, and I was amazed that the Phillies thought he could actually help them in the pennant race this year. When I look at Myers, Moyer, and Blanton, I can’t think of many teams in the entire American League that have worse 2nd, 3rd, and 4th starters in their rotations.
So that leaves Cole Hamels. He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball; there’s no doubt about it. And he’s been great in the playoffs. He’s a lefty, and the Rays tend to hit better against righties, although they did beat Jon Lester twice in the ALCS. However, Hamels is pitching in Game 1 at Tropicana Field against Scott Kazmir, who is coming off a dominating outing in Game 5 against Boston. Kazmir’s slider was more effective than it has been all season, and if he has that going for him again, he’s not going to lose Game 1 at home, even against Hamels. And if the Rays beat Hamels in Game 1, they’re certainly not going to lose to the three stooges that follow him in the Phillies rotation. That’s why I’m predicting a 4-0 sweep. However, if the Phillies do happen to win Game 1, then I believe that they can also win Game 5 with Hamels on the mound in Philly, so my prediction would change to 4-2.
- The second reason why I can’t see the Phillies winning a game in the World Series is the “rest effect”. They will have had an entire week off between their NLCS clinching win against the Dodgers and Game 1 of the World Series. We saw what that did to the Colorado Rockies in last year’s World Series. The Rockies had been unbeatable for about a month before their weeklong rest, and then they were promptly swept by the Red Sox. This isn’t the Phillies fault, and MLB really should try to prevent situations like this from occurring again, but it’s going to be tough for them to recover from it. Let’s face it, no team in baseball has rested for more than 3-4 days (during the All Star break) since March. It’s simply unnatural for a baseball team to not play for 7 days. This isn’t the NFL here. Many Rockies have admitted that the rest hurt them last year, and I believe that it will hurt the Phillies this year. On the other hand, the Rays just finished an extremely intense ALCS on Sunday. They can easily carry their intensity over into the World Series.
So it’s time to get this thing started. I can’t wait! I have to find a Phillies blogger to make a card bet with…