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Major League Baseball 2015 Playoffs: The Stage Is Set
Beginning tonight night Baseball is in its prime time of the year: The Postseason! Ten teams ready to prove they are the very best of the sport, taking on all comers for the World Series Championship. Which of the junior circuit American League teams will step forward? Will it be Toronto and the team of sluggers, a modern day Murderers Row? Or will last season's underdog Kansas City reign supreme? Perhaps perennial juggernaut New York Yankees have one last gasp in the old oxygen bottle for the aging superstars. Or surprising Houston and its own team of sluggers might shine in the spotlight for this wonderful time period. Or will Texas, after coming so close against St. Louis finally break through and be the best?
In the senior circuit National League will the Mets stride onto the centerstage? Or perhaps the Dodgers find a solution to their postseason woes? Will Pittsburgh finally have another winner or will the Cubs make Back To The Future's prediction a reality? Or will St. Louis make it an even dozen rings for this franchise?
Stay tuned, its gonna be great!
The American League
Let's take a gander at the American League first. Kansas City won its division and secured home field advantage for the duration of their stay in the playoffs. They made it to the final stage last year only to fall to the Madison Bumgarner show, he of the untiring arm and unhittable pitches. But MadBum is gone, having fallen just short of another fall finale. So, will K.C. and the Show Me Band overcome all others and make it back to the finals once more? Will Johnny Cueto do what they got him to do, carry them to the promised land? Will Moose supply the oomph and do it all at third, playing sterling defense and be the opportunistic hitter he has been?
The Texas Rangers came oh so close against the Cardinals in 2011. Within a strike of the title if memory serves, only to see it all disappear like smoke from a dying fire. Do they have enough pitching? Is the Prince of Fielder's enough to carry them to the next level? Will they cross the desert of past expectations on the Hamel's hump and arrive in the promised land? First they must pass the Bronx Bombers.
Staying in the Lone Star State we arrive in Houston. To say they are the surprise of the junior circuit would be a fair assessment. To continue and say that they are either feast or famine in their hitting is again, accurate. But they are more than a one dimensional team in that they have a true ace on the hill in Dallas. But is he enough?
Toronto, our friend north of the border, is dangerous to the nth degree. Power, in the words of the Fonz, is on display here in abundance. Followed by power, power, and more power. This is a dangerous team who only needs a slight crack in the doorway to success to bash its way in. And with the Price is Right on the hill, well, the time may be right.
Now we come to the Yankees, they of the retirement home for past All Stars. This is where all the good ballplayers go to live out their days on a pretty good pension. There resides A-Rod, he of the massive contract and minimal return in the past few years. But he has come alive and has hit like a man half his age. Can his creaking knees and hips carry the load in the post season? Can these bald men finish off the upstart Rangers? And can they do it without C.C. rider as he is now in a facility?
The National League
Ah, the senior circuit. Home of the oldest teams in baseball. Not in players years but in team years of course. Here reside some of the more powerful barely beyond Little League players who can hit like no one else. Take the Cubbies, for instance. Kris Bryant is everything they hoped for and a box of chocolates. Power? Oh, yeah he's got power. The question will be can the opposition's pitching figure him out long enough to halt his march towards the sea? Then this guy Arrieta, who thinks he is the second coming of, well, Gibby. His ERA in the second half is so small you need a microscope to see it. They scare me. And of course it is October 2015 which everyone knows means that the Back To The Future II predicted a World Series for them. About our only chance is that there will be no team from Florida opposing them. Whew!
Those Amazin' Mets are back. Pitching? Check. Hitting? Check. They are good, but are they good enough? Personally, I have to wonder.
Way out in Ya Ya land, in the land of dreams and stardust lies the Best Team Money Can Buy, the Dodgers. Two of the best pitchers in the world in Kershaw and Grienke, a couple of all everything rookies, and they defeated last year's champs in their division. Seems like they should be pretty good, right? But Kershaw has demons, they live in the seventh inning and they are mean. Can he get past those demons and thrive?
Back to the Best Division In Baseball, the Central. The second best team there would be the best team in any other division. But they're not and they still have to get by the third best team in baseball, which also happens to live in the Central. The Pirates meet the Cubs in a do or die playoff tomorrow night. Can Cole beat Arrieta? Can the Bucs even score on him? If they do, and Cole gets a lead look out. If not, it's gonna be a long bumpy night.
Then we have the best team in the league, the Cardinals. They wait to see who they meet on Friday and will decide how best to proceed. Will it be the Cubs? Or the Pirates? Will it matter? The Card's have been decimated with injuries this year and yet...
And yet... they survived. Not only survived but thrived. And won their division. And had the best record in baseball. And no one is picking them to get out of the first round.
Well, Yadi's hurt, Tsunami is gone, and their staff is comprised of worn down pitchers who have had to never allow runs to score so the team can put up one or two and win. They're tired, they seem to be running on empty (cue the Jackson Brown song) and no one believes in them.
Quick, clap your hands and say "I believe! I believe!"! I do I do!
So, here's how its going to go down. In tonight's play in game, the youth of the Astros will carry the day against the tried and tired (See how I did that! Switching the letters around!) Yankees. Astros 6, Yankees 2.
Next up, Blue Jays vs. the Rangers. Blue Jays have too much power and just enough pitching. Jays in four.
Astros vs. Kansas City. This will be a good one, folks. Kansas City's pitching will find a way to quiet the bats of Houston and K.C. wins in five.
Then we go to the finals. K.C. and their Home Field Advantage against those visitors from north of the border. But the Jays still have that power and K.C. will be starting their no. 2 in the first game. Jays in five.
So, the Toronto Blue Jays will return to the World Series this year.
Who wins the American League?
Now the National League. Cubs - Pirates tomorrow. Arrieta vs. Cole. Upstarts vs. three time playoff team. I think seasoning wins the day. Pirates win 2 to 1.
Mets vs. Dodgers. Tough call. Can Kershaw shake off the demons and be Kershaw of the summer? Yes. Dodgers take the series in five.
Cardinals vs. Pirates. Hearken back to the last series they played in Pittsburgh. Cards took 2 of 3 in Pitt. With the home field advantage, they win in four.
Now, Cards vs. Dodgers. Will the Cards define Kershaw once more? Or will the L.A. house of Cards finally stand firm?
Cards win in six.
Who wins the National League?
Cards vs. Blue Jays. Pitching vs. Power. What always wins in the post season? Pitching. Who has the best home record in baseball? Cardinals. Who has the best road record in baseball? Cardinals. Who found ways to win that defied the odds all year long? Cardinals. Who took challenges that would have left a lesser team whimpering and crying by the side of the road and rose to meet the opposition time and again?
I can't discount what others are saying about this team, how they are just not good enough hitters, their pitching is tired, they are falling apart at the seams. I understand all of that; but damn! How can you overlook what they've done all year long? This staff has allowed fewer runs than any team in the past 45 years! And they find a way to strike late and score just enough to win games. 100 games! They will survive (cue Gloria Gaynor) and win it all once more. Barring the Yankees they are the team with the most Series Championships to their name and this year they add one more.
At least, I think so. I may be alone, but I stand tall and proud, shouting from the empty yard I call home that they will be the best!!
So, what do you think? Am I delusional? Should the men in white jackets come and find me? Or do you agree? Let me know and Play Ball!!!