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Major League Baseball Playoff Preview

My birthday just passed and I’ve never been so depressed about getting old. I’m not even that old. I just hoped I’d stay in my early twenties forever. Anyway, instead of sleeping, I threw together a 2,000 word jumbled mess of worthless information pertaining to the upcoming Major League Baseball playoffs. So, if you’re bored…

Texas Rangers (AL West) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (AL East)

Three reasons to watch:
3. Cliff Lee and David Price going head-to-head in game one will be awesome. Lee is a fearless, jump on my back and I’ll take you where you want to go, pitcher. He lives for the playoffs. Last time Price was in the postseason, he was a young flamethrower brought out of the bullpen to battle the Phillies in the 2008 World Series. Now Price is an ace and an AL Cy Young candidate. Pitching wins in the playoffs and game one of a five game series is a must have. This battle shouldn’t be missed. That’s why Major League Baseball decided it would be best to air it at 1:37PM ET. You know, when everyone is available to watch.

2. Josh Hamilton is one of the league’s premier players and more importantly, an amazing inspiration. How many people, let alone professional athletes, overcome a variety of addictions to become an AL MVP candidate and one of the great individuals in all of sports? Not many. Hamilton is coming off injury, so he may not be at 100%. Regardless, he’s the leader of a talented Texas team and a potent offense that led the majors in batting average and hits.

1. I can’t stand their dome or their fans (see below), but I really like the Rays. Carl Crawford is one of my favorite players because he uses his speed to wreak havoc. Not many players can drive in 90 runs and steal 47 bases while being one of the league’s best first-to-third guys. Crawford does it though, and he’s a perfect example of why I love the speedy, energetic Rays. For the third consecutive year, Tampa led the majors in steals. Base-stealing teams are my favorite. It’s constant suspense.

Two nonsensical thoughts:
2. The Tampa Bay Rays should be forced to host all home playoff games in another stadium. Tropicana Field is the worst stadium in baseball. You’d need a media guide to understand the different rules for each catwalk. Even on television, the stadium is ghastly. Not to be forgotten, the Rays had to GIVE AWAY thousands of tickets to get fans to the balldome(?) even though the team was in a dead heat for the AL East title. Tampa should surrender all professional franchises. Retirees don’t have the time or desire to be fans.

1. If Cliff Lee goes 4-0 and puts the Rangers on the verge of the World Series, Cleveland fans should just stop watching television. It’s bad enough that C.C. Sabathia led the Yankees to a title in 2009 and that Lee had the Phillies right there too. Nothing goes right for Cleveland anymore. Even Drew Carey has fallen off the map. (Apologies to those who still watch The Price is Right.)

One team to advance:
1. I want it to be the Rangers, but unless Cliff Lee can knock off the Rays twice (he’s 0-3 vs. Tampa this year), that seems unlikely. Thus, Tampa moves on.

New York Yankees (AL Wildcard) vs. Minnesota Twins (AL Central)

Three reasons to watch:
3. The New York Yankees. They’re the most recognizable team in all of sports. When the Yankees are in the playoffs, I watch. I’m not a fan, but the stakes always seem higher in New York. The history of the Yankee pin stripes and the cool fall air belong together. The playoffs just aren’t the playoffs without the Yankees.

2. Can Derek Jeter erase the memory of what was the worst season of his professional career? In 13 playoff seasons, Jeter has batted less than .300 only four times. If the Yankees are to repeat as champions, they’ll need “The Captain” to find his stroke.

1. The Twins are everything the Yankees are not; small market team, no international superstars, relatively modest payroll. In fact, most baseball fans outside of New York will be rooting for the Twins. Joe Mauer deserves a coming out party and who wouldn’t love to see Carl Pavano’s mustache throughout October? Similar to the Rangers, the Twins can hit. They may not have the pitching horse that New York has in C.C. Sabathia, but the Twins boast a solid rotation that is good enough to send the Yankees home. Justin Morneau’s absence will hurt, but the Twins have made due without him since July. To recap; if you hate the Yankees, you’ll love the Twins.

Two nonsensical thoughts:
2. This has nothing to do with either of these teams, but I would like to acknowledge how much I will miss Matt Holliday in the postseason. Three years ago, in a play-in game against the Padres, Holliday scored the game’s winning run by sliding into home on his chin. (He should have been called out by the way-he never touched home.) Last year, Holliday attempted to catch what would have been a game clinching fly ball with his crotch. Obviously, that didn’t pan out too well for him. The Cardinals lost the game and eventually, the series. We’ll miss you this year, Matt.

1. For whatever reason, I associate cold weather with intense, passionate baseball. Duh, that’s because the playoffs are in the fall. While this is true, I don’t get the same feeling from a playoff game played in a dome or warm climate. Minnesota now plays outdoors – one less dome to ruin the cold playoff atmosphere. I can only imagine how cold it would be in game three of the World Series if the Twins were to advance that far.

One team to advance:
1. Twins. Yankees are dysfunctional and content after last season’s title.

Atlanta Braves (NL Wildcard) vs. San Francisco Giants (NL West)

Three reasons to watch:
3. Pat Burrell. As a lifelong Phillies fan, I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for “Pat the Bat.” Even though he ran to first base as if it were on a 30% incline, he’ll never be forgotten. But that’s not why he’s number three here. Burrell comes through in big moments. He hit the game winning double in game five of the 2008 World Series to give the Phillies the title, and I’ve lost count how many times I’ve turned on Baseball Tonight and learned he came through with another clutch hit. He may strike out too much, but when Burrell connects, his swing is one of the prettiest in the league.

2. New Blood. The Braves haven’t reached the postseason since 2005, while the Giants last appeared in 2003. I know it’s not as drastic as the Pirates or Nationals making an appearance, but the National League returns only one playoff team from the last five years. Also, McCovey Cove. It won’t have the same feel as it did in 2002 when Barry Bonds was littering AT&T Park with baseballs, but watching a walk-off home run sail into the cove as the Giants crowd around home plate would be special.

1. Playoff debuts. Jason Heyward is only 21, but it’s always intriguing to see how rookies perform under playoff pressure, especially talented rookies like Heyward. Legends are born in the cool nights of fall. In 1996, his first full season in the majors, Derek Jeter led the Yankees in batting (.361) en route to the franchise’s first World Series title in 18 years. The reigning two-time NL Cy Young winner, Tim Lincecum, will also make his postseason debut. Lincecum struggled at times throughout the year but rebounded in September, winning five of his final six appearances. Who wouldn’t love to see Lincecum pitch twice in this series?

Two nonsensical thoughts:
2. San Francisco’s fan base is head and shoulders above Atlanta’s. One of the reasons I loved the Giants’ run in 2002 was their crowd. Every time Bonds would step to the plate, the place would go nuts. If you’ve watched the playoff run closely, you’re aware that Atlanta has been playing in a stadium that is 2/3’s empty (with the exception of the season’s final weekend). Playoff baseball crowds are some of the best in sports. San Fran’s will put Atlanta’s to shame.

1. This will be Bobby Cox’s last appearance as major league manager. As a Phillies fan, I was never an admirer of Cox, mostly because his Braves steamrolled my Fightins for so long. However, it will be sad to see such a familiar face leave the division. His tirades set the bar for arguing. So long, Bobby Cox. Before you go, maybe one final run-in with an umpire? I know it’s the postseason, but do it for the fans. Thanks.

One team to advance:
1. Giants. Please be the Giants. I need a west coast team in the playoffs so I have something to watch at one in the morning. If the Giants go down, I’ll go to bed around midnight, and then it wouldn’t feel like playoff season.

Cincinnati Reds (NL Central) vs. Philadelphia Phillies (NL East)

Three reasons to watch:
3. The Phillies playoff rotation of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels. When your third starter was the World Series MVP just two years ago, you’re in pretty good shape. As we all know, this will be Halladay’s first postseason. While I certainly don’t expect the stage to intimidate him, it will be fun to see if he feeds off the rowdy crowd at Citizens Bank Park like Cliff Lee did throughout the Phillies’ 2009 run. Also, Brad Lidge provides suspenseful drama that no prime time television show could match. When was the last time NCIS or Fringe made you pull out your hair and cry into a pillow? Not that I’ve ever done either of these things. I hear stories.

2. The Phillies defied logic this season. Somehow, Charlie Manuel’s crew won more games than any other team in baseball despite a season long battle with significant injuries. In fact, the playoffs will be the first time we’re treated to the lineup we expected out of spring training since early summer. This isn’t good news for the Reds. I think.

1. The Reds are an overwhelming underdog. I haven’t found a significant media source picking the Reds to advance. While this may prove how dominant and talented the Phillies are, it will only motivate Cincinnati. I absolutely hate being the heavy favorite. Obviously, the Phillies won’t buckle under the pressure because they’re a team that has thrived under pressure for the past four seasons. What I don’t like is that this takes the pressure off the inexperienced Reds and allows them to play loose. Loose teams are often the toughest to beat. What happens if the Reds shock the Phillies? Well, I have my own ways of dealing with what I call “sportastrophes.” For the last year, whenever something horrible happened to one of my teams, I’d access my DVR menu and watch Jimmy Rollins’ two out, two run double in the bottom of the ninth of game four of the 2009 NLCS. I watched Rollins’ climatic game-winning double after the Phillies fell to the Yankees, the Eagles’ playoff collapse, the soft Chicago goal that clinched the Stanley Cup, and every time I mistakenly watched a Sixers game. It’s been a wonderful coping method these past 12 months. My point it this: If the Phillies don’t beat the Reds, even Rollins’ double won’t take away the pain.

Two nonsensical thoughts:
2. I’m borderline colorblind as it is, so it’s going to be tough separating the two teams as both the Phillies and Reds sport red and white. As a result, my cheering may be delayed briefly so that I can first confirm that it was indeed the Phillies who made the significant play. I’m nervous about this already.

1. I love rally towels. I know they’re cliché and unimaginative, but nothing says “big game” to me like rally towels. When I turn on the TV and see the towels, I say to myself, “I better sit down, this is important.” Not even a live broadcast of a President’s speech on the major networks qualifies for, “I better sit down, this is important,” status. Unless, of course, I see rally towels.

One team to advance:
1. Phillies. Please don’t make us pay too much attention to Kevin Kolb yet.


  1. danielle

    did you know drew carey lost 70 lbs? saw the price is right at my neighbors the other day. he looks holster but in a bob barker suit. very bizarre. and go phillies – even though facebook now makes me nauseus with all its fair weather fans posting constantly.

  2. Ryan (Author)

    Totally agree. Most Phillies fans (myself excluded of course) have begun to rival Red Sox and Yankee fans on the annoying scale.

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