Friday, September 15, 2006
-The Yankees will win the AL East. That is as much of a lock as the Mets winning the NL East. I was laughing at Fox's promos where they talked about the Red Sox "jump-starting their playoff chances" this weekend against the Yankees. That is a done deal - there is no chance for the Sox. This will be the twelfth year in a row that the Yankees make the playoffs and their ninth consecutive division title. It is depressing to see the Yankees win because it convinces you that the system is stacked against the little guy. Speaking of the Little Guy…
-The A’s are in control in the AL West. Yeah, I know that the Angels are still in striking distance, but I don’t think they have much of a shot. The A’s are playing their usual great baseball and are well-poised to make the playoffs for the first time since 2003. I also think that this will be the eighth consecutive season that the A’s win 87 or more games, a phenomenal streak by such a small-market club. The A’s continued success since they dealt away Mark Mulder and Tom Hudson certainly flies in the face of Braves GM John Schuerholz’s argument that the A’s succeeded solely because of the Big Three.
-Two of the three teams in the AL Central will make the playoffs: the Tigers, the White Sox and the Twins. Wouldn’t it be astonishing if the Tigers collapsed at the end and finished their storybook season with a collapse? … I personally don’t think that will happen. I’d bank on the White Sox as being the odd team out.
-I can’t say enough by how impressed I am that the Twins are poised to make the playoffs. Back in the middle of June they were mired in fourth place behind the Indians, White Sox and Tigers and have stormed back to get into the race. Even losing Francisco Liriano didn’t slow them down. These guys are going to be tough to beat. Imagine facing Johan Santana in a three game series …
-This will be the first time since 2002 that the Red Sox failed to make the playoffs. I anticipate the Red Sox really storming back with a vengeance in ’07, but this is still pretty humiliating for them.
In: Yankees, A’s
On the bubble: Tigers, Twins, White Sox
Out: Indians, Royals, Angels, Rangers, Mariners, Blue Jays, Devil Rays, Orioles, Red Sox
Assuming that I am correct and that the playoff teams are the A’s, Twins, Yankees and Tigers, there are some interesting matchups there. Specifically, I’d love to see the Yankees and the Twins tangle in the first round because I think that the Twins have the kind of pitching to put the Yankees down. If the Yankees falter in the playoffs this will be a tremendous victory for the down-markets in the American League: the Tigers have been a laughingstock historically and don’t play in a major market, while you can’t get more small market than with the Twins and A’s. I think the A’s are the most likely to advance to the World Series, followed by the Twins, Yankees and Tigers.
On to the National League …
-We know for a fact that the New York Mets are in the playoffs.
-We can safely say that the St. Louis Cardinals will make the playoffs. The Cards don’t have a lock on it yet and have struggled, but there is no way for the Reds and Astros to close that gap.
-The NL West is fluid. But with the Diamondbacks and Rockies falling out of the race, the winner is going to be the Dodgers, Giants or Padres. My money is on the Dodgers. They have been streaky, but they are playing decently good baseball at the moment and are my pick to win it.
-The runners-up in the NL West and the Phillies and Marlins will battle for the wildcard. I don't see one team running away, so it will probably go into the final weekend of the season. I really can’t see the sagging Reds and Astros getting back into this race, but never completely count them out.
-I think that the Reds, Giants and Astros will quietly fade from the picture this week and leave us the Padres, Marlins and Phillies. I also think that the close competition between the Marlins and Phillies – they play six of their final ten games against each other – will probably work in the Padres favor and give them a leg up because the Marlins and Phillies will probably split their games.
In: Mets, Cardinals
On the bubble: Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Phillies, Marlins, Reds, Astros
Out: Diamondbacks, Rockies, Pirates, Cubs, Brewers, Nationals, Braves
So let’s assume that I am correct and say that the playoffs feature the Mets, Cardinals, Padres and Dodgers. The Mets have to be feeling pretty good about themselves then because the Cardinals are far too weak to mount a serious challenge, while the Padres lack the offensive firepower and the Dodgers are too streaky. Honestly, I think that the Dodgers are the sole team with a shot at beating the Mets and even then, the Dodgers will have to have everything click to make that work. No, the NL playoffs are the Mets to lose. And I bet they won’t.
Wildcard Watch! … Last night was a fairly disasterous loss for the Phillies. I sat there gritting my teeth as Chase Utley grounded out weakly to end the game because the Phillies needed to sweep the Braves to hang in the playoff hunt. This weekend the Phillies match up the Astros in Houston and play them just one more time, a makeup game in Philadelphia on September 25th. Now is a golden opportunity to knock the Astros out of the hunt and make up a little ground on the Pads. The Padres play the Dodgers in L.A. and could make things interesting be either sweeping the Dodgers and taking control of the NL West, or by getting clobbered by the Dodgers and allowing the Phillies to creep back into the race. I guess we’ll see …
1. San Diego: 76-69
2. Philadelphia: 74-72 (2.5)
3. San Francisco: 74-72 (2.5)
4. Florida: 73-73 (3.5)
5. Cincinnati: 72-74 (4.5)
6. Houston: 71-74 (5.0)