1. Another Disappointment: Once again, the New York Yankees had a great regular season that ended in disappointment in the playoffs. For the third straight year, they won at least 94 games but lost in the first round of the playoffs. Their last playoff victory was back in the 2004 division playoffs. As usual, their hitters were great in the regular season but failed in the playoffs. They only hit .228 in their series against the Indians, compared with a .290 mark in the regular season. Their pitching wasn’t much better, as Chien-Ming Wang gave two awful starts that both resulted in losses. In the decisive Game 4, Wang allowed four runs in just one inning before being pulled. Mike Mussina, who was competent in relief of Wang, did not earn a start in the series despite an excellent performance in September. The Indians won Game 4 6-4, getting a lead early and then holding the Yankees off late in the game.
The loss could mark the end of an era for New York, as the entire franchise could be overhauled this offseason. The biggest question is whether Joe Torre will be fired. It is obvious at least to us that he shouldn’t, considering he has given the Yankees their best era of success since Casey Stengel in the 1950’s. Despite the fact that this move is obviously not wanted by the Yankee players, and that this season was perhaps Torre’s best in bringing the team out of a 21-29 hole to the playoffs, it still shouldn’t be surprising to anyone if he is canned. Also, it is likely Alex Rodriguez will leave the team via free agency and Roger Clemens will retire. If those players both don’t return for next season, it will give New York a lot of money they can spend on rebuilding their pitching staff.
2. It’s Showtime: Now is perhaps the best time of the year for baseball, as only the four best teams are left in contention. In the NLCS, the Rockies and Diamondbacks will be the matchup. This surprising meeting of division foes includes two teams fueled by youth. The Rockies have the obviously superior lineup, with breakout stars such as Matt Holliday, Brad Hawpe, and Troy Tulowitzki. The Diamondbacks lineup, which is carried by youth as well, has struggled throughout much of the season. However, they do improve in clutch situations. They rely on Brandon Webb and the bullpen, with the others starters average at best. The Rockies’ pitching staff is nothing to brag about, but if they can at least be effective, the Rockies should win this series. Prediction: Rockies in 6.
The other series matches up the best two teams in baseball during the regular season, the Indians and Red Sox. Both just beat very good teams very easily in the first round. Both are loaded at the top of the rotation, with Carmona and Sabathia for the Indians and Beckett, Schilling, and Matsuzaka for the Red Sox. If the series goes seven games, Boston’s big three will likely have six starts, giving them a reliable pitcher for every game. Both teams also have good bullpens and solid offenses, making this series very hard to predict. In the end, I think the Red Sox’s prior postseason experience will play a major role against the youthful Indians. They should be able to win close games, with experienced, clutch hitters in David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez as well as a superior closer. Prediction: Red Sox in 7.