Dodgers over Cubs....with Manny going full-out, the Dodgers are a much different team. I can see the Cubs having a letdown given that they've had a playoff spot clinched for a while now, and while it sounds goofy and superstitious, they're the Cubs. Remember, this is pretty much the same team that folded like a cheap suit against the D-Backs last year. LA seems to have the momentum going right now, so I'll grit my teeth and pick LA in five.
Phillies over Brewers....CC can't pitch every game, thus leaving the Brewers' fate in the hands of Jeff Suppan, Yovani Gallardo and/or Dave Bush. Yikes. I could this series something like last year, when the division-winning Phillies were wiped out by the red-hot wild card team, but I dunno, I think the Brewers may have blown their wad. Phils in phour.
Red Sox over Angels....Boston just seems to have LAA's number in the playoffs. Call it the curse of Donnie Moore. Boston has had loads of problems with injuries, but they've still got to be considered the favourites. If Josh Beckett is healthy, then Boston wins in four. If he isn't 100 percent, the Angels have a chance.
Rays over White Sox....Tampa beats the tired Central champs. One might think that picking the inexperienced Rays is crazy, but I've learned not to underestimate playoff teams from the state of Florida. The parallels to the 1969 Mets are too hard to ignore. Does this mean James Shields is the next Tom Seaver? Well....probably not. It's funny, Nolan Ryan was a reliever and spot starter for the Mets team, so maybe that means Jason Hammel is the next Nolan Ryan. If this means Hammel busts out the headlock and noogie-punch during his next bench-clearing brawl, I'm all for it. Now, this pick is by far the one I'm least sure about, since the ChiSox could definitely pull the "hey, we're not tired, we've got the momentum" trick that so many teams in late-season pennant races have rode to victory in recent years. Just to say one good Sox-related thing, Paul Konerko will have a monster series. Bank it.
LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIESESESES
Phillies over Dodgers, seven games. This series could go either way, who knows. My biggest hope is that Vin Scully is allowed to call one of the playoff games in Los Angeles. Seriously, who would rather listen to Buck/McCarver over Vin Scully? Maybe five people in the whole of North America?
Rays over Sox, seven games. Boston suddenly gets another hated rival in the AL East. This may seem like an odd pick, but I really don't want to see the fucking Red Sox win another World Series. It's bad enough that the Rays vaulted past the stagnant Blue Jays like they were standing still, but I'd rather see Tampa have a shot at the ring than put up with more Massachusetts sporting glory. I'll predict that Pedroia is suspended for the series after rushing the mound against Jason Hammel, who proceeds to headlock and noogie-punch him into submission. The loss of Pedroia is a bigger blow to Boston than losing Hammel is to Tampa, and thus the Rays capitalize. I'm also slightly biased by the fact that Joe Maddon was probably the nicest guy I had a chance to interview two years ago. Just a gregarious, easy-going, all-around good guy.
Philadelphia over Tampa Bay, six games. I like Joe Maddon, but c'mon, even I don't quite think the Rays have enough. The City of Brotherly Love finally gets a pro sports title for the first time in 25 years. Philadelphia sports fans next start moaning about their teams' misfortunes by...oh, let's say the spring. That's a few months of respite at least.
Keep in mind that I'm the same guy who picked the Tigers to win the World Series this year (and once went an impossible 0-for-4 one year in predicting the playoffs in a newspaper column), so whatever you do, don't put money on these predictions. You'd probably be better off putting your cash on an Angels/Brewers Series, given my track record.
The above were predictions, but these award picks are how I would vote if I could cast my lot for baseball's major player awards.
NL MVP: Albert Pujols. If someone like Delgado or Howard wins it based being good for just two months out of the year, that's ridiculous. It is also ridiculous that Pujols has just one MVP award. It's perhaps a sign of how underrated Pujols is that even those us who grew up in the Pujols Era can still look at his career stats and be blown away at just how good this guy is. Here are his 10 closest 'age 27' comparisons on Baseball Reference...Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Frank Robinson, Ken Griffey Jr., Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Hal Trosky, Vladdy Guerrero, Lou Gehrig, Orlando Cepeda. Yikes. That's a lot of all-time greats on that list. That's seven HOFers, two eventual HOFers, and Trosky, who might have gone Hall if it weren't for injuries.
NL Cy Young: This one is a real head-scratcher. You could make a case for Webb, Lincecum or Johan Santana, but I'm going to have to swallow hard and pick the guy who wasn't even in the NL for the first half of the year, C.C. Sabathia. I would've gone with Lincecum if CC had come in and merely been very good, but instead CC was flat-out unbelievable and single-handedly carried a team into the playoffs. That's hard to ignore.
NL ROY: Geovany Soto, no doubt.
AL MVP: Some years there really shouldn't be an MVP. There's a lot of guys who had good seasons, but I'm not sure there's one that really stands out as a clear favorite. You could still make a pretty good case for Carlos Quentin even though he missed the last few weeks but, in the end, I think Joe Mauer should take it. Am I biased since Mauer was on my fantasy team? Maybe. He had a great year, he's a catcher and without him, the Twins definitely don't go anywhere. Hell, the fact that they ended up losing a one-game playoff in a season where they were supposed to be the dregs of the American League is a testament to Mauer's awesomeness. Justin Morneau, of course, also played a part, but he already has an MVP trophy, so let's spread the wealth. Mauer it is!
AL ROY: In spite of missing time to injury, I think this still has to be Evan Longoria. Hopefully Jesse Carlson gets at least a couple of top-five votes.
AL Cy Young: Roy Halladay. You can recite all of Cliff Lee's numbers at me until you're blue in the face. The fact is that if I could only pick one pitcher from the AL to win a game for me, I'd pick Roy Halladay. Not a doubt in my mind. Halladay's strength-of-opposition has been much harder (multiple starts against New York, Boston, Tampa), and it really rubs me the wrong way that the Tribe tried to arrange Lee's starts so that he'd mostly avoid stronger-hitting clubs in the latter part of the year. Not that Lee should be punished for a coaching decision, but in the end, I'll still take Halladay over him. If the Jays had given Halladay any kind of run support, he would've had at least five more wins. BTW, if Frankie Rodriguez wins this, it'll be one of the five worst selections of any major award ever, arguably even the single worst ever.