The Ins and Outs of the ALDS
Baseball; part of our past Ray! It’s like America in that it’s a blackboard…okay I’m about to butcher that line so I’ll stop! Yes we’re talking baseball, mainly because the Major League Baseball postseason has began to kick off the most wonderful time of the year, and not just because I get to watch baseball and lucha libre at the same time. More than any other postseason there’s just something magical about what baseball brings; heroes will be made, goats (of both natures) will be born, curses will be broken and some will live on. You just can’t beat that stuff, which is why I’m breaking down the postseason starting today! Where do we start? Well, with the National League is still in flux thanks to the Giants-Mets wildcard game happening tonight, I’m going to go ahead and break down the American League Divisional Series’ first. And oh boy are these two series’ great on paper; on one hand we have one of the most storied franchises in the history of sports taking on a long suffering Cinderella, and on the other hand we have a blood rivalry renewed one year after it was born in the most spectacular way possible. The only thing we don’t have here is a large amount of Buck Showalter jokes; I know I messed up. I promise I’ll have more tomorrow though! In the meantime, let’s break down the ALDS. Moses, you up for some sports talk?
(3) Boston Red Sox vs. (2) Cleveland Indians
Major Storyline: The Papi farewell tour has a few more dates. For all of you disgruntled Yankees fans out there it’s not quite time to crack open that beer and let “The End” ring through your speakers. David Ortiz will indeed have a few more games to hit some home runs and add on to one of the best legacies in recent baseball memory. It might seem a little odd for this to be the main story of the series when, you know, Boston and Cleveland are fighting for an ALCS birth, which is a testament to how big a star Ortiz has been and still is. All eyes will be on him and whether he can deliver one last unbelievable postseason run.
Secondary Storyline: Is it finally the Indians’ time? Lost in all the glamour of the Red Sox and Ortiz’ retirement tour is that the Indians are looking to end the second longest championship drought in baseball. Remember sports fans, the Indians haven’t won the big one since 1948, which may not be as long a drought as the Cubs have but still has to feel like a lifetime for Clevelanders (especially since they haven’t won anything non LeBron related since 1964). Now they’ve got another chance, armed with Terry Francona, the best pitcher in the American League and a rag tag group of hitters ranging from former top prospect Carlos Santana (no, not the rock star), current top prospect Francisco Lindor and (you won’t believe this) Mike Napoli. Much like Matt Hardy, that’s a man whose career simply will not die. Is it Cleveland’s year to finally break their curse? Or will they once again be foiled by the Red Sox, who always seem to be right there to eliminate the Indians right when they seem to have it all figured out.
Red Sox with the Most to Prove: Rick Porcello and David Price. Yes we’re doing two Red Sox for the price of one! We know this team can rake with the best of them and if you look at what Porcello and Price did on the mound this year you’d say they can pitch with the best too. But let’s hold the phone there. Yes Rick Porcello finally broke out this year with an astounding 22-4 record; he’s also been awful in the postseason in the past, going 0-2 with a 4.48 ERA in 8 appearances, most of which were relief spots because the Tigers couldn’t trust him to start. Yes that was several years ago, but it still proves he’s relatively untested in big spots and isn’t a sure thing. And that’s certainly true for his teammate Price, who frustratingly never has been able to transition his regular season excellence into postseason glory. Considering these two will combine for at least three starts in this series, they have to be the difference makers. The Red Sox offense is good enough to win shoot outs, but that’s a dangerous game to play. If they want to win, Price needs to get over the hump and Porcello needs to prove he’s more than a regular season pitcher.
Indian with the Most to Prove: Corey Kluber. I may not trust the Red Sox pitching, but they at least have two guys (possibly three if you include Clay Buchholz or Steve Wright) you can see having good to great stuff every game. And while Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin and Danny Salazar are okay, none of them hold a candle to the Sox’ two aces or Kluber, the Indians ace and arguably one of the best arms in baseball (and certainly one of the three best in the AL). You could thus argue the guys behind him are more important but I’m going to say the opposite. With the other three guys being a crapshoot it’s VITAL that Kluber wins both of the games he starts and potentially makes an appearance to seal the series in the third win. It’s a lot to ask and it ultimately may not be enough, but Kluber doing his job certainly takes the pressure off to some degree and at least buys the Indians some time. Can he do it? The regular season suggests yes, but like Porcello this will be Kluber’s first big look at postseason baseball; we honestly have no idea how he’ll do. All I know is he has to be the guy who probably will win the Cy Young this year if the Indians even want to consider an ALCS appearance.
Winner: Boston in five. I’m not 100% sold because of the potential pitching woes, but there’s no denying that the Sox offense, armed with four .300 plus hitters (Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Sandy León and Ortiz) and five guys with at least 20 home runs and 80 RBI’s (Betts, Ortiz, Xander Bogarts, the red hot Hanley Ramirez and Jackie Bradley Jr.) is a machine. Even with Kluber at his best and the Indians lineup being no slouches themselves, I see that Sox lineup being too overpowering for Cleveland to hang when it’s all said and done. Sorry Cleveland; at least you still got LeBron!
(4) Toronto Blue Jays vs. (1) Texas Rangers
Major Storyline: THE REMATCH! Perhaps I’m the only one out there but I’m so happy that the Blue Jays managed to ride Edwin Encarnación and Buck Showalter (too soon?) to the ALDS to face the Rangers yet again. Then again I can’t be the only one because last year’s Blue Jays-Rangers series ended with one of the most memorable baseball games in recent memory thanks to the most bizarre inning in baseball history. How else could you describe an inning that featured Russell Martin botching a routine throw back to the mound that allowed the Rangers to take the lead, the Rangers then committing four straight defensive gaffs to allow the Blue Jays to tie, two near brawls thanks to the world’s biggest buzzkill in Sam Dyson and then this!
This series would already be must see if that was the only back story; naturally it’s not. The Rangers stewed over that loss the whole winter and then struck back against the Blue Jays and Senor Batflip Jose Bautista. How? By having future Lucha Underground Champion Rougned Odor cold cock Bautista with one of the greatest punches thrown in Major League Baseball history. Granted the competition wasn’t fierce but still; look at that punch!
And now here we are again with the Rangers and Blue Jays about to lock horns in what may be the most anticipated match up of the postseason barring a Cubs-Red Sox World Series. The best part is everyone from last year is practically returning; Odor, Bautista, Dyson (hopefully after having received a fun transplant), Martin, the list goes on. In other words, this series should have more heat than a Arena Mexico main event and should be every bit as wonderful as we all hope. And don’t worry you out there looking for a baseball fight; the question isn’t whether the Jays and Rangers throw down, it’s how many times they throw down. Get excited!
Secondary Storyline: Is there enough pitching on either side to prevent these games from being shootouts? Seriously folks; you could be looking at several high scoring games in this series and maybe a blow out or two. Outside of Cole Hamels the Rangers aren’t exactly a great pitching team, while the Blue Jays best pitchers this year were Aaron Sanchez (still unproven as a postseason starter), Marcos Stroman (who won’t pitch till Game 3 at least and isn’t always reliable anyway) and J.A. Happ. You read that right folks; the Toronto Blue Jays are going to be depending on J.A. Happ to be a frontline pitcher for them this postseason. I know he won 20 games this year but come on; HE’S GORRAM J.A. HAPP! I’ll believe he’s a postseason mega star when I see it. That pretty much goes for everyone other than Hamels, which means you should expect lots of home runs and a few high scoring affairs. Frankly that should be help make this series even more exciting than it already is; even more exciting than the fact that J.A. HAPP is a postseason ace. Can you believe we live in a world where Happ and Rick Porcello went a combined 44-8 this year?! If that’s not a sign the Cubs are taking the World Series home then I don’t know what is.
Blue Jay with the Most to Prove: Bautista. You can’t get sent to the showers like Bautista did in that fight with Odor and then not be the player named for this section (though in fairness to Bautista, we should note he wasn’t actually knocked out or really fazed by that punch. If nothing else he has a stronger jaw than Jose Aldo). It goes beyond that though; Bautista is the heart and soul of this Blue Jays team, their emotional leader and a man coming off a down year with free agency looming. The stakes are (Mike Francesca voice) YOOOGE for Bautista and he’s got to rise to them. Will he? You can be he’ll try; nothing motivates you like playing for your pride, the entire country of Canada and potential money you can make. It’s just a question on whether the now 36 year old Bautista is still capable, or if this season was a sign that the best days of Joey Bats are behind him.
Ranger with the Most to Prove: Odor, or as I’m going to call him from now on the Fenix to Joey Bats’ Mil Muertes. All that’s missing is Catrina, who would probably beat down both of these guys if we're being honest. No I'm not biased.
In all seriousness, much like his nemesis, Odor is the heart and soul of this Rangers team and in my opinion their best player. Yes his On Base numbers are the opposite of Batman (only .296 this year and .302 for his career, numbers that will make the advanced stats peeps rightfully lose their heads), but everything else, most notably his power (33 home runs this year) is top notch. Most importantly is that Odor reminds you of Pete Rose in that he’ll do everything and anything to get that win, including showing off hand to hand combat skills that will make him Lucha Underground Champion one day. He’s the tone setter for this team even at the age of 22, and this will be his first big test as a leader. Last year he was a cog in the Rangers machine; now it’s time to see if his play can motivate the Rangers over their hated rivals.
Winner: Blue Jays in four. I know, and after all those nice things I said about Odor! In the end this merely comes down to whose offense I like more and that’s the Jays; they can rake all the way down to the nine spot whereas the Rangers have a few gaps here and there. All the games will be fun and it wouldn’t shock me if the Rangers stole it in the slightest, but in the end the Blue Jays bats, the magic of the Skydome and yes, J.A. Happ, will be enough to get them to a date with the Red Sox. Somewhere, MLB executives are praying to Cthulhu that I’m right so they can swim in that postseason revenue like a couple of Scrooge McDuck’s.
That’s it folks! I’ll return to the baseball tomorrow with a preview of the NLDS series’; who knows, maybe “Gamblin” Matt Mortensen will even join me for that! I’ll also have some more lucha content today, with a Lucha Tribute sometime in the afternoon and a review of Lucha Underground tonight. Till we meet again, how about another Odor-Bautista meme?!