Wednesday, October 8, 2008

2008 ALCS/NLCS preview

By Rick Morris

First-round predictions were 1 for 2 in each league
. I hit on Tampa, although in all modesty they were the biggest gimme in the first round since they were playing the offensively all-or-nothing White Sox the Angels, until belatedly shaking their Boston fear at Fenway in the latter half of the series, did not in any way resemble the best team in baseball (which they were during the regular season) or my preseason pick to win the World Series. So now the Red Sox, who carried along their own nonsensical "Curse" for lo those many years, now have some type of edge many consider supernatural over the Angels. And so the world turns ...

Speaking of curses, the Cubbies now enter their second century of championship futility wondering what it will take to make it up to the spirit of that old billy goat. Their collapse was even more shameful than that of the Angels and now two consecutive postseasons of complete futility will be weighing down on the Cubbie Nation this winter. Meanwhile, Philly got by Milwaukee in a series that nobody will be confusing with an all-time classic anytime soon.

Onward to the second round ...

RAYS-RED SOX: You don't have to be a "sports entertainment" fan to appreciate the wisdom of the one and only Ric Flair in regards to this series: To Be The Man, You've Got to Beat The Man (WHOOOOOOOOOOO!). Personally, I loathe the Sox and their "Poor Man's Yankees" dynasty and their jerky bandwagon fans and ... ahem. Okay, back to the subject at hand. By decisively vanquishing what was baseball's best team over the course of 162 games in 2008, Boston proved that, completely healthy or not, they are still the team to beat until proven otherwise. If Josh Beckett comes to resemble the Josh Beckett of Octobers past, they are a prohibitive favorite. Tampa has got to make the most of their home field advantage, including utilizing their speed offensively and defensively on the turf. The problem is, the Sox have been adding some fleet young legs to their lineup over the last two years as well. The Rays have to win the first two games at home to have a chance, for that insurgent vibe to take over and give a sense that the big-market bullies are getting punched in the mouth -- similar to what Florida managed vs. the Yankees in the '03 World Series. My assessment is, though, that it's unlikely, especially with Jon Lester's excellent pitching in the ALDS. If Tampa loses, they've got an entire winter to bemoan not going out and getting a strong right field bat at the trading deadline. Red Sox in 6.

PHILLIES-DODGERS: This brings back a lot of memories for me, watching these two epic late '70s monsters battling it out as a wee tyke back in 1977 and 1978 on this stage. I'm going to be waiting for Greg Luzinski and Ron Cey and Shake'n'Bake McBride and Steve Garvey and Larry Bowa and Bill Russell and Steve Carlton to come on my screen! Deciding a series based on feel can be extremely deceptive. Having said that, here's the feel of these two teams right now: after their shockingly one-sided first-round win, the Dodgers look like a repeat of their squad from '88, a team of destiny -- while the Phillies merely look like a good team that dispatched another good, slightly less experienced team in Milwaukee. When I said that the Dodgers would rely heavily on their pitching, I was underestimating their postseason hitting -- not trusting the health of Rafael Furcal, not trusting Casey Blake to continue to hold off his long-overdue resumption of journeyman status, not trusting Blake DeWitt to be able to hold his own at this point in his career, not trusting James Loney to show enough pop. I was wrong, and the Dodgers aren't going to lose any remaining series because of a lack of offense. Philly got big-time production out of Cole Hamels and Brett Myers in the first round and those two will have to be huge again for the Phils to get by. Derek Lowe and Hiroki Kuroda are enigmatic to say the least, but they've been on lately and on the whole, LA's pitching looks more dependable. Just think, in addition to the Dodgers getting past Philadelphia 30 and 31 years ago to get to the Series, the economy was also in brutal shape back then as well! The more things change, the more they stay the same. Get ready for Manny and Nomahhhh's return to Beantown. Dodgers in 6.

And if Charlie Manuel wins the World Series as a manager, I will eat (some) dog food on the air on

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