MLB playoffs finally here
Lafratta and Mark Polishuk
With all of the talk of a strike this past summer, it's a relief just to be talking about the Major League Baseball playoffs. If the 2002 post-season is as good as the 2001 post-season was, we're in for a treat.
AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISIONAL SERIES (best of five)
New York Yankees vs. Anaheim Angels
Mark: In a series with so much metaphorical meaning that
John Milton is spinning in his grave, the Angels battle baseball's version
of Satan. Anaheim has a lot going for them: Angels closer Troy Percival
has dominated the Yanks in his career, Garret Anderson quietly had a terrific
year and if things get really grim, Christopher Lloyd can pull his magic
stunts to turn Tony Danza into a star pitcher. However, even with all
that going against them the Yankees will still win those bastards
Yankees in 666...er, five games.
Anthony: There's no need to consult your literature anthology
when deciding this series it won't be close. Despite their 93-49
record since April, the Angels have only one complete player in Garret
Anderson and he can't win this thing alone. The Yankees have Jason Giambi,
Alfonso Soriano, Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams. Need I continue? The
Angels are in their first playoffs since 1986, while the Bronx Bombers
are going for their fifth crown in seven years.
Yankees in three games.
Minnesota Twins vs. Oakland Athletics
Mark: The Twins like being underdogs their last
two playoff teams (in 1987 and 1991) won the World Series against the
odds. Even still, here's the stat that sums up this series: Minnesota
is 50-25 against their pathetic rivals in the Central division and a mediocre
44-42 against the rest of baseball. The Twins are playing with the big
boys now and they just can't match the A's. In addition to the better
pitching, the A's also have one thing the Twins don't a potential
MVP in shortstop Miguel Tejada. The Minnesota fans and their irritating
Homer Hankies won't get it done this year.
A's in four games.
Anthony: On paper, this match-up is laughable. The Twins were
the beneficiary of a weak Central division and went 40-40 on the road
this year, a bad sign for a team that will be without home field advantage
throughout the playoffs. The A's staged a 20-game winning streak this
season and they're still hot heading into the playoffs. This one ultimately
comes down to pitching, and no one in the AL has a trio as intimidating
as Oakland's Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson.
A's in four games.
NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISIONAL SERIES
Atlanta Braves vs. San Francisco Giants
Mark: The Braves have been the dominant team in baseball for
over a decade and yet have only one world title to their name. It just
feels like this might be their year, however, because they finally have
a strong bullpen led by closer John Smoltz. Offensive stars like the Jones
boys (the unrelated Chipper and Andruw) score the runs, and the elite
Atlanta pitching staff does the rest. The Giants have had a good run,
but expect Barry Bonds to do his usual playoff choke.
Braves in four games
Anthony: In five trips to the post season, Bonds has
never won a series in those 27 games he has one homer, six RBIs
and a sorry .196 batting average. If Bonds and fellow MVP candidate Jeff
Kent can get it going, San Fran has a legitimate shot of making it past
the Braves. Although lacking a proven ace, the Giants' staff boasts the
NL's second best ERA second only to the Braves. Atlanta's pitching
staff is perhaps the best in all of baseball and they will make or break
it for Ted Turner's team. If Bonds shows up (there's no evidence to suggest
he will, yet no reason to believe he won't), the Giants will win. I'll
put my money against it.
Braves in five games
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Arizona Diamondbacks
Mark: This is the toughest first round series to predict, since
St. Louis is the better overall team. Then again, the Yankees were the
better team on paper in the World Series last year, but the D-Backs still
won. Even without Gonzalez, Arizona may only need one run per game with
the two best money pitchers in baseball on the mound. St. Louis needs
their ace Matt Morris to beat Schilling or Johnson at least once and also
need a little luck to come out on top. In my eyes, the Cards won't get
lucky in a short series.
Diamondbacks in five games
Anthony: The Diamondbacks have a very strong team...
err, pitching staff let's cut to the chase and just say Randy Johnson
and Curt Schilling are unreal. In games where neither of their aces took
the mound, the D-Backs were a miserable 51-52. Offensively, the D-backs
are crippled by the loss of All-Star Luis Gonzalez and they don't have
a lot of bats to pick up the slack. The Cardinals boast a ton of power
with Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen, who are complemented by a respectable
pitching staff. The Cards could potentially steal this series. They have
plenty of firepower to scratch a few runs across when one of the "big
two" are on the hill and then only need a decent pitching performance
to hold off the weak D-Backs offense.
Cardinals in five games