Playoff Predictorama! 2011

Well folks, as the walrus said, the time has come. The MLB postseason kicks off today, which here at The FBB means it is once again Predictorama! time (playoff style.) It is hard to imagine that this year’s postseason could possibly be as awesome as the final days of the regular season, but you never know. That’s why they play the games, and that’s why we watch them.

And now, for the all-important prediculations!

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ALDS

Tigers vs. Yankees: Wait, the Tigers are in these playoffs? When and where did that happen and how did I miss it? I assume that Detroit will be relying heavily on the Justin Verlander magic in this series. I think (and certainly hope) that we will see some heroics from Mr. Verlander, but I don’t think it’ll be enough to save the Tigers. I predict that the Yankees will take the series, and Justin’s (well-deserved) Cy Young award will be Detroit’s consolation prize.

Rays vs. Rangers: I guess I don’t have to go out on a limb to say that one of the two teams I favor the most will be eliminated in the first round, seeing as they’re playing each other. T’isn’t fair, I say. We will soon find out whether or not Tampa used up all their fairy dust in September. I think they’ll have just enough left to take this series from the 2010 AL pennant winners. I say they win it in 5 games and the series clincher comes on an uber-dramatic walk-off suicide squeeze in the bottom of the 14th inning of game #5. I also predict that Sam Fuld will sparkle and that Ian Kinsler will somehow be the goat of this series.

NLDS

Phillies vs. Cardinals: Blech. If there is one series with not a shred of interestingness and with no possible happy outcome, this is it. The Phillies will win it. They will probably sweep it, if I had to guess (which I do.) And it will be super boring, unless Roy Halladay decided to whirl another no-hitter. Even that would be kind of “meh.” Just wake me up when this one is over.

Diamondbacks vs. Brewers: If I know anything about NL Central contenders (and I think I do), Milwaukee doesn’t stand a chance. If history is any indicator, look for another sweep. Of course, I don’t think anyone would be surprised to know that I am backing Arizona all the way on the NL side. If the Brewers did somehow pull it out, I’d throw a hissy fit. Get it? *Nudge* *Nudge*

ALCS

Yankees vs. Rays: A nation will collectively curse beneath it’s breath when the Yankees take it in 5 games, ending the Rays fairy tale run. Yes, that’s right. Unless it’s wrong, which it could be.

NLCS

Phillies vs. Diamondbacks: Since I based my choice for the ALCS on cold, hard reality, I’ll base this one on wishful thinking. I don’t honestly expect the Diamondbacks to win. The Phillies will probably clinch it without breaking a sweat. But since I don’t want that to happen, and because that is what everyone is probably going to say, I’m calling the Diamondbacks in six. There’s a good chance I turn out to be wrong, but if I’m not, how cool am I going to look?

World Series

Yankees vs. Diamondbacks: Oooh, you guys! De ja vu! De ja vu! It’s 2001 again! Only… it isn’t. I don’t think that Mariano Rivera really needs to redeem himself from that Game 7 blown save 10 years ago, but he will do it anyway. I’m givin’ it to the Yankees. In six games. Take that as you will.

Baby sloth: too sweet to pick favorites.

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About last night…

I haven’t much excuse for not posting anything of considerable substance these past few weeks. I can only say that the well of writing inspiration has been bone dry as of late. It’s September… I’m a Cubs fan. (I’m sure the world understands.) In any case, if the events of last night weren’t enough to electroshock me back into a baseball state of mind, I cannot imagine what would be.

Baseball fans witnessed not one, but TWO of the most improbable comebacks/collapses in the history of the game. Pity the Braves and Red Sox nations. I have seen my fellow Cub fans rejoicing all over the place that some of the heat may at last be lifted from our 1969 squad; no longer shall they and they alone be looked upon as the pinnacle of baseball failures! Welcome back to the club, Boston!

The Cardinals comeback/Braves collapse, of course, is the least enthusing of the two. I don’t look on Atlanta with an unfriendly eye, and the Cards are, well, the Cards. There is one circumstance from this that I do look on with utter and jubilant satisfaction. Around a month ago (perhaps a bit more than that) my brother and I made a bet regarding a certain St. Louis first baseman. I thought he would finish out the year hitting below .300 for the first time in his celebrated career. The bro insisted he would finish on top of the mark, as he always has. Initially, my brother suggested we bet a penny on our little disagreement. Feeling confident, I insisted we up it to a nickel. We did not forget our friendly little bet, and would update each other on where it stood several times a week. Going into last night, Mr. Pujols’ average was sitting at exactly .300, or .301 (I don’t recollect.) I am happy to report, he went just 1-for-5 against Astros pitching and has finished 2011 with a batting average of .299. How’s that for drama? How’s that for sibling rivalry? Time to cough up that nickel, brother.

The Tampa Bay Rays comeback, and the Boston Red Sox ultimate demise is, in my opinion, the most exciting thing. Of this year. And… of a lot of additional years. A few weeks ago, the lowly Rays were nine games behind in the wildcard standings. Everyone was talking about how dumb and unfair it is how the Yankees and Red Sox have a stranglehold on the AL East and wildcard. Something must be done, people said. Well, something was done. And the Rays did it.

Last night around 10:00, it looked like it was just going to be one of those disappointing almost-great-stories after all. With Boston up on Baltimore late in their game, and Tampa trailing by 7 to the Yankees in the 8th, I supposed the whole thing had come to nothing. I don’t know about anyone else, but I was thinking things like, “Oh well, they made it interesting” and “They should be proud of themselves, they put up a great fight” and all that. And then, all of a sudden, BOOM! 7-run deficit… gone! I was still listening to the Cubs (who, appropriately, fell 9-2 at the hands of the Padres) at that point and it was amusing to hear the updates and reactions from Pat, Keith, and Judd. I think everyone was more interested in what was going on in Florida than in San Diego. Who could help it?

As the Rays and Yanks headed into extra innings, I switched over to watch them on MLB.tv, keeping tabs of the O’s and Sox on the side. Moments after Jonathan Papelbon imploded, allowing the Orioles to score 2 runs and snatch the win, my Twitter feed exploded. And then Evan Longoria sealed the deal with a walk-off homer for the Rays and it exploded some more.

I think everyone had the same reaction: “Did that just happen?” The chances, according to this article on Yahoo? One in 278,000,000. One in two hundred and seventy eight million. Think about that for a second.

If anything outnumbered the outcries of, “Can you believe it?!?!”, it was “This is why I love baseball.” This is, indeed, why we love baseball. If I may quote from the one and only Dirk Hayhurst (who Twittered much last night, to the delight of all), “What’s great is, this is what you play for all season: a moment to decide something, to feel destiny in you hands and touch its consequences”, “Tonight is baseball magic, the tangible, palpable kind that reminds you why you love the game—for feelings like this, perfect and timely.” Truth.

I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did. Who’s ready for some postseason baseball???

I like looking at this picture and thinking about it out of context. The Orioles celebrate their last place finish after the final game of 2011, Etc.,

Tee hee.

Movie Monday: “I really feel like the reason I throw hard is just cause I throw hard.”

Happy President’s Day, guys! I am celebrating by offering you these two videos that have nothing whatever to do with the presidents. Or even America.

First off is a little clip from the Tampa Bay Rays fan fest, featuring David Price and FBB-favorite Dirk Hayhurst. Both guys made me laugh. For completely different reasons.

For good measure, and because I was put in a happy hockey mood yesterday when my two favorite teams won back to back games on NBC, here’s this:

 

Saying Goodbye: Sam Fuld

You didn’t think I was going to forget, didja?

Others may say what they wish about Sam Fuld. I always liked him. The moment he made that brilliant leaping catch into the ivy, back in ’07 when he was first called up, I said to myself, I said, “I like him.”

I continued to like him for the same reason. That first gem wasn’t just some sort of fluke. It was practically an everyday occurrence when Sam was in the field. His bat may not always have been there, but there is no denying the magicalness of his glove.

Say, are the outfield walls padded in Tampa? Because, if they are, Sam Fuld’s life expectancy just rose by a couple of years.

Here’s wishing you even more abundant web gems and such with your new team, Sammy. I salute you.

UGGHH! (Oh… and welcome to Chicago, Matt Garza.)

So much for my dreams of a Cubs organization based on the development of promising young players from within.

Trading away the farm (and I mean that in a very literal sense) ain’t the prescription for success, in my opinion, and that is what my darling Cubbie bears have just done. The Rays (who are probably laughing liking bandits about now) will send Matt Garza and 2 nameless minor leaguers to Chicago, while the Cubs will send a package of prospects ripe for the plucking to Tampa. The deal includes pitcher Chris Archer (our #1 prospect, according to Baseball America), infielder Hak-Ju Lee (#3 according to BA), Brandon Guyer (#10) and the well-regarded Robinson Chirinos. Not to mention Sam Fuld, who, while obviously not the most important piece of our puzzle, has always held a place in my heart. That strange sound you’re hearing right about now is me gnashing my teeth.

I mean no disrespect to Matt Garza. He is a fine pitcher, and I will almost certainly end up loving him. Heaven knows I can’t resist a baseball player with a muppet face. It is not my intention to deride his merits. I have nothing against Matt. I welcome him to the Windy City. I will cheer for him when he pitches. Etc., etc.,

But I can’t help thoroughly grieved at the loss of these young, promising farmboys. Mr. Archer and Mr. Lee, in particular. I had very high hopes for the both of them. Never got the chance to even do a Farmboy Files write-up for Hak-Ju. *Sniff*
I wish all four the best of everything in the Rays organization. I have no doubt they’ll flourish into well-rounded players who will help their team win ballgames.

Postseason Roundup, Round One

2010 has certainly lived up to its billing as “Year of the Pitcher” in the first round of the playoffs. Roy Halladay did his thing. Cole Hamels: complete game shutout. Tim Lincecum: complete game shutout. Jonathan Sanchez: 7.1 innings, 1 run. Tim Hudson: 7 shutout innings. Phil Hughes: 7 runless innings. Cliff Lee: 16 total innings, 2 runs. CJ Wilson: 6.1 scoreless frames. Strikeouts are comin’ out the wazoo, and bases on balls are an endangered species. You know guys must be doing pretty well when you can make fun of Matt Garza’s 1 run in 6 innings. The only stinky pitching came from the quarters of Minnesota and Cincinnati. Even that wasn’t all stinky. Bronson Arroyo did alright. Seriously though, if this continues I expect the remainder of the postseason to be all kinds of delicious. (A Barry Zito-CJ Wilson World Series pitching match-up is still my ultimate dream.)

But how did my predictions hold up through round one? Behold:

Philly over Cincy in the battle of red-colored NL teams I can’t stand? Check. Kooky, quirky San Francisco over Bobby Cox’s Bravos? Check. Yankees over the Twins? Obviously. And the nail-biting down to the wire Rays-Rangers series? RANGERS TAKE IT!!! * Fist Pump * On a side note, if you are interested, tomorrow’s winning lottery numbers are: 10 14 23 26 31 and 42.

Here are some photographic highlights from the opening round series (one for each team):

Texas celebrates its series win with ginger ale so as to include Josh Hamilton in the festivities. A commendable decision, to say in the least.

You can cut your hair now, Mr. Longoria.

The San Francisco Giants offer a salute to Atlanta’s Bobby Cox after their series win. Classy.

Bobby says goodbye

……

No October smiles for Brandon Phillips.

Is it cold, CC?

See you next year, Mr. Mauer.

Post Season’s Greetings!

Well, my friends, the post season is upon us. What twists and turns lie in store for the eight best teams in baseball? I hope everyone will be watching to find out, even if the none of the eight teams in question hold a special place in your heart. There are still plenty of teams worth rooting for… and against.

I have collected a thought or two to share for each team, and list them here in order of least-to-most likable.

8. Philadelphia Phillies

I am ready for the Phillies time of greatness to be over. The team is so old that I have to think it soon will be. If their glorified pitching staff and punchy offense do end up carring them as far as is generally expected, it will be to my chagrin.

7. Cincinnati Reds

Call me a bitter Cubs fan, but I simply cannot wish the Red any success. The only thing I like about this team is Brandon Phillips’ smile, and I am sure that if they went all the way, it would break his face.

6. New York Yankees

I am not a rabid anti-Yankee person, I just think they should let someone else have a turn this year. If they were to repeat, I would be truly happy for one solitary reason (Kerry Wood, of course.)

5. Atlanta Braves

Sure, it’d make a great story for the Bravos to win it all in Bobby Cox’s final season, but… meh. It’s a good enough story that they made the playoffs, in my book.

4. San Francisco Giants

I am willing to let go of the Cubs-Giants grudgery of ages past (I can be a forgiving fan, see?) We did humiliate them in 1908, after all. Besides, they’ve got Little Babe Ruth now. And Buster Posey is fun to watch. And Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, and Brian Wilson are fun to laugh at.

3. Tampa Bay Rays

The [Devil] Rays spent just long enough being the laughing stock of the major leagues as to give me pleasure in seeing them experience some success. I also like Carlos Pena and Ben Zobrist.

2. Minnesota Twins

Jim Thome has played in the post season eight times without ever having won a World Series. I like Jim Thome and this fact makes me sad.

1. Texas Rangers

I do not, in fact, like the Rangers any more than the Twins. But Minnesota won a championship in 1991. In Cubs years, that’s like yesterday.

~

And here are a few bonus thoughts/opinions!

Match-up that would disgust me:

Yankees vs. Phillies

Match-ups that would bore me:

Yankees vs. Braves (The ’90’s are over.)

Rays vs. Phillies (So is 2008.)

Match-ups that I would watch with interest and pleasure:

Rangers vs. Giants (Think of the pitching match-ups! Cy Young winners Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee! Mimbos Barry Zito and CJ Wilson!)

Twins vs. Braves (Think of the catching match-up! Joe Mauer and Brian McCann! Actually, a Twins-Giants [Mauer-Posey] contest would be almost as agreeable.)

Actual Predictions:

If I get this right, everyone owes me a jar of Nutella. To form these guesses, I used equal parts common sense and wishful thinking.

NLDS- I think that Philadelphia will dispatch Cincinnati. San Francisco will edge out Atlanta.

ALCS- I think that the Yankees will beat the Twins, and the Rangers will upset the Rays.

NLCS- The Phillies will come out on top of the Giants.

NCIS- I don’t know, I don’t watch that show.

ALCS- The Rangers will triumph over the Yankees.

World Series- I predict the Rangers will somehow defeat the Phillies. They already beat the Rays and Yankees, so why not? Like I said, wishful thinking.