I’m a huge baseball fan and I have been ever since I went to sleep as a kid listening to the Cubs on the radio (and the Cubs could put you to sleep). I’m such a baseball fan that I resent that the football season has begun, intruding on some great baseball pennant races. There’s about a week left in the Major League Baseball season. It seems like a good time to make some predictions.
I have lived in many cities around the country and usually follow the local teams, so I have many baseball allegiances: Cubs, Red Sox, Twins, Angels, Dodgers, Orioles; and now the Braves. After leading the National League East for most of the season, the Braves have been surpassed definitively by the Phillies, who just swept the Braves at home to post a six game lead in the division. The Braves have languished a bit in September, but they’re still 19 games over .500; others have heated up. The Braves are 1/2 game up on the Giants for the National League Wild Card spot. The Braves are still a statistical favorite to win the wild card thanks to a weak closing schedule that could get even weaker if the Phillies elect to rest their three aces — and a number of ailing position players — next weekend in Atlanta. The Padres and Giants play each other the last three games of the season. It is difficult to see both of them making the playoffs and the Braves falling short (but it could happen).
Now the predictions. First, what I’d like to see happen: Braves and Twins in the World Series, an encore of 1991, except with the Braves winning this time. Long odds on those two teams making it to the Fall Classic.
All season the conventional wisdom has been that the Yankees and the Rays are the two best teams in baseball, and that may be true. Today, the Twins share the best record in baseball with the Yankees. In order for the Twins to have a chance in the post-season, they have to get home field advantage in the playoffs. The Twins will win their division easily, of course; and I think the Yankees will nip the Rays for the AL East. The most important question is if the Twins can surpass the Yankees for the best season record. They have to because they almost never win in Yankee stadium.
It is hard to know how the Rangers will do in the post season because they are a terrific team with Josh Hamilton and an average team without him. Who can predict how his back will be, even sitting out all remaining regular season games.
Assuming the Twins remain hot and secure the best record, here’s how I see it: Twins beat Rays; Yankees beat the Rangers. Twins beat Yankees to go to the World Series. If the Yankees have the best record, I think they’ll end up in the series again.
In the National League, I do think the Padres will win the West because of schedule; the Reds have a lock on the Central and the Phillies in the East. Braves will be the Wild Card.
The Braves rotation isn’t built for the post-season, so I don’t see them taking Bobby Cox any further than the first round, which I think would be against the Reds, in his final season. The Braves have had a magical season, but I’m afraid the pixy dust is gone. Philly crushes the Padres and then the Reds.
It looks like the Phillies and either the Yankees or the Twins in the World Series. Although this looked highly unlikely a month ago, Philadelphia is surging at the right time and with their three-headed pitching monster —Oswalt, Halladay, and Hamel—they have exactly the right rotation to win in the post season. Phillies win the Series. I wish it wasn’t true, and in baseball, anything can happen.