Volume 96, Issue 19
Tuesday October 1, 2002

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MLB playoffs finally here

By Anthony Lafratta and Mark Polishuk
Gazette Staff

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 always win.

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

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