Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Round Two

Last night is why I risk delirium that results from sleep deprivation. Last night is why I come to work overly caffeinated and in an odd mood only I can achieve: Pleasantly cranky. I’m cranky because I’m tired, but happy because I saw another great playoff game.

Oh, and the Red Sox won, which helps my mood. Again. And knocked off the big bad Anaheim Angels. Again. Truth be told, I like this Angels team. Not a bad guy on the roster. Vlad has always been one of my favorites going back to his Expo days. Swinging at everything and scaring the shit out of me whenever he comes to bat. I was happy he only walked in the eighth inning last night as I was prepared for one of his patented ‘swing from the heels, fastball at his eyeballs, moon shot over the Green Monster’.

Torii Hunter has always been a likable guy (and seemed to be the one guy on the field showing any sort of emotion), Garret Anderson I actually felt bad for last night. He’s been struggling in the series and looked lost against Lester. Even Mike Scioscia, who seems more inflated every time I see him, comes across as a good guy.

And since that’s out of the way, see you next year, Angels. Is it odd that the two teams with the best records in each league have been knocked out in the first round? Maybe, but remember the Sox are officially the nemesis of Angel fans around the world. 1986, 2004, 2007 and now this year. The Sox are 12-1 against this team over the past 13 postseason games. Shit, that’s not just domination, that’s destruction.

I know many Red Sox haters will talk about how the team can afford better free agents (Dice-K), pay more for trades (Hi, Manny), and seem to have an advantage over most teams (the Angels, for the record, do not fall into this category). But let’s look at who won the game last night for the Red Sox:

Jacoby Ellsbury: grounder to second to score the first run.

Dustin Pedroia: Wall scraping double to score Varitek.

Jon Lester: Seven shutout innings and looked every bit like the ace he’s evolved into this season.

Jed Lowry: Game winning single in the ninth. (Damn straight, Hammen. JED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

What do they all have in common? None have been signed as free agents from other teams. They have matured in the Red Sox system and been seasoned for games just like last night. That these young guys keep coming through in the toughest possible situations; the high pressure, bright lights of playoff baseball says more about the quality of the Red Sox farm system than any regular season statistics ever could.

These guys just have it.

I know, Masterson blew the lead, but he’s more suited to be a starter than a middle reliever, anyway. Hopefully, he’ll pull it together for the rest of the playoffs.

And speaking of the rest of the playoffs. I was 1 for 4 in my predictions (Tampa being the only one I got right), so let’s try this again.

Tampa vs Boston: Forget the worst to first Rays story for a minute and let’s focus on something that will rear it’s head in this series. Namely - bad blood. These two teams fucking hate each other. This goes back years, too, when beanball wars broke out in 2006 and culminated with Coco Crisp taking on the entire Rays’ infield earlier this season.

Things could get ugly very quickly in this series. I couldn’t be more excited!!

As the Angels/Red Sox series shows, the regular season matchups mean jack shit. The Angels were what? 8-2 against the Sox in the regular season? Maybe not that drastic, but it was close.

The Rays are feisty, fast, and fearless and to be honest I have no idea who will come out on top. Figure lots of one run games decided in the last at bat. Both teams have quality starters. Both teams have tough lineups. The Rays seem to have the better bullpen, but the Sox have more clutch hitting.

This is a crap shoot. Let’s figure the games are going to be close into the eighth inning for the most part. That gives the Rays a definite advantage with their bullpen (they were stellar in the White Sox series). But the Rays still have a major, MAJOR problem hitting with men in scoring position.

The only thing I’m sure of is this series is going at least six games. Most likely seven. And when it comes to a Game Seven, experience counts. Only one team in this series has been here before.

Prediction: Sox in seven

In the other league are the two teams I didn’t think would get past the first round. Go me!

Phillies vs Dodgers: I’ll admit it, the Dodgers starting pitching is much better than I thought. OR the Cubs lineup just choked and made them look good. Whichever. This Phillies lineup is scarier and more experienced. Don’t look for them to wilt because Derek Lowe is on the mound.

Still, neither one of these teams has fantastic starting pitching (Hamels excluded and even he didn’t look great in round one) which most likely means the bullpen and hitting will decide this matchup.

The Phillies bullpen is ok. At best. The Dodgers looked fantastic over the last month of the season and in the first round. Advantage, Dodgers.

The Dodgers’ lineup pales in comparison to the Phillies’. Hell it pales in comparison to Ryan Howard. Manny obviously helps, but he’s the only one in Dodger Blue that you need to be careful with. Advantage, Phillies.

So who wins? Hell if I know. On paper the Phillies seem to be the better team, but there is something about this Dodgers team that is entrancing. They are having fun, getting the right hits at the right time and seem to be the one team left that seems to gel.

Prediction: Dodgers in six. I know! This means Manny will be coming back to Boston for the World Series. How fucked up would that be?

Please keep in mind that my last round predictions were totally wrong.

My question for the day, which I already commented on in Hammen’s blog: What do you think the Fenway response will be if Manny returns as a Dodger for the World Series?

Wifey and I talked about this and she thinks he’ll get booed mercilessly by the Boston crowd. I think he’ll get a standing ovation. When she asked me to explain I pointed out two things:

1: Manny made the right PR move by thanking all the Boston fans during his LA press conference. It was the first thing out of his mouth.

2: I don’t think it’s possible to hate Manny. He’s a harmless goofball that just happens to be a great hitter. He’s like that stoner friend you had in college. He was useless, stood you up constantly, and would forget his wallet every time you went out. But, he’s also the funniest guy you know, charming to everyone around him and seems to attract all the hot chicks.

Manny note: He was being interviewed during the Dodger celebration after they beat the Cubs and he was asked by the reporter ‘What do you have to say to all the fans in Boston?’ He says ‘Nothing! I play for L.A. now’. Then laughed and ran back to celebrate more. You know what? It was a perfect answer from an imperfect person. As a Sox fan I wasn’t offended at all. I even laughed.

I think Manny should be a color guy in baseball when he retires. Can you imagine how entertaining listening to him would be. He’d be the Barkley of baseball. Sure he probably would forget to show up half the time or think his mike was off when he started cursing, but that’s half the fun! Do it, Manny. Take over for Tim McGarver.

Let's not forget Manny also won 2 World Series with the Sox over the past 4 years. There's always that.

One more baseball note:

During the game last night on TBS, there was an advertisement for raising llamas. Or some kind of llama/sheep hybrid. I shit you not. This is the major league baseball playoffs and you can’t get Budweiser to spring for another ad? Fucking llamas? If I were Bud Selig and saw this I would have yanked TBS’ contract on the spot.

While we’re here, is this really the best broadcast team you could pull together for the Sox – Angels series? One color guy sounds older than my great grandfather (who’s long dead). Although I did love the pre-game shot of all three of them crammed closely together while they talked about the game. Looked like a gay threesome was about to break out.

Gay threesomes! Catch the fever!

Today’s distraction: Some Angel reaction regarding last night’s game. Apparently John Lackey’s Fenway experiences have turned sour. What’s the big gripe about the Varitek play? He had the ball in his glove, tagged the runner out, then fell on the ground at which point the ball came loose. It didn’t come loose when he tagged the guy, therefore he’s out. Enjoy your winter.


Hammen said...

I think the Manny/Barkley comparison is perfect. Both of them can say pretty much whatever they want, and no one gets angry at them.

But I do disagree with the Angels being all good guys. I can't stand Scioscia, and every time Lackey screams at an infielder he's showing what kind of teammate he is.

BeachBum said...

Really? I haven't seen him on a day to day basis, but he seems like a stand up guy. Said all the right things last night, too (from what I heard).

Lackey's Fenway history finally got to him after last night's game, I think. Or he's just a complete douchebag. Let's go with a combination. 60/40 douchebag.

Hammen said...

I don't think he's a bad guy, per se, just that he's kind of egotistical, like he has to put his managerial mark on the game somehow. Kind of LaRussa-esque.

Lackey is at least 80/20 douchebag.