Calling a regular season game, match, or series the preview of that respective sport’s championship is a cute little thing that all sports fans do.Whenever a fan, the press, or whomever says something like that, they usually doom themselves to being wrong. The World Series is practically never what we all think it’s going to be.
The critical consensus picks for this year’s Fall Classic were the Boston Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies.
On paper, it makes total sense. Philadelphia has a modern day murderer’s row of ace pitchers. What’s that old adage? “Don’t buy tickets from a scalper wearing a police badge?” Oh wait, sorry. It’s “pitching wins championships.” My bad.
The Philadelphia offence has struggled a bit lately, but as soon as Chase Utley finds his sea legs and Dominic Brown proves he’s worth the hype, the Phillies will be a finely tuned machine. They pretty much have the NL East won already (the Braves are only 4.5 games back, but Philadelphia is just a better team than they are), so it’s strictly maintenance from here on out.
The Red Sox have a fair amount of pitching, good defence, and a decent bullpen, but their offence is what makes the bagels. The BoSox lead the majors with 409 runs scored, a .277 team batting average, and a team OPS of .799. Adrian Gonzalez is well on his way to becoming the AL MVP, and Josh Beckett’s name has come up in the Cy Young conversation. Boston is a half-game back of the Yankees in the AL East, but they should be expected to earn a playoff spot.
These two teams are exceptionally talented, and of course there is a chance they both could end up in the Series, but the odds of both of them getting there aren’t good.
In 2010, the popular picks were the Phillies and the Yankees. No one picked the Rangers and the Giants. No one.
2009 was the season the Red Sox and the Cubs were supposed to finally meet in the World Series. The Yankees and Phillies ended up making it which wasn’t exactly a shock, it just wasn’t what most people thought would happen back in April. More shocking was that the Sox lost in the first round and the Cubs didn’t make the playoffs at all.
The 2008 Series was Tampa Bay and Philly. No one saw that coming. The Red Sox won in 2007 (not a surprise) against the Colorado Rockies (total surprise). Did anyone think the Cardinals would win in the 2006 World Series thanks mostly to David Eckstein? Highly unlikely. The Astros making it in 2005, the Red Sox coming back in 2004, the Marlins shocking the Yankees in 2003. The 2002 World Series consisted of two Wild Card teams, and Arizona winning it all in 2001 seemed about as likely as Luis Gonzalez getting 50-seven home runs in a season (which he also did). The Subway Series of 2000 between the Yankees and the Mets was probably the last time a reasonable amount of people were correct about calling a regular season series a “World Series preview.”
So, these types of predictions have been mostly wrong of late. This particular three-game series is no exception. It cannot possibly be a World Series preview since so many key players are sitting this one out.
Boston’s Carl Crawford is missing the entire series due to a hamstring injury, and Clay Buchholz will not be making a start since he is on the DL with a lower-back strain. Jed Lowrie, the young Boston shortstop who looks about ready to emerge as a shortstop worthy of a few All-Star votes, is also on the shelf.
Philadelphia doesn’t have a closer at this point in time. Brad Lidge started the season the DL and he’s still at least a few weeks away from coming back. Lidge was originally replaced by Jose Contreras to close out games. In May, Ryan Madson took over the closer’s role and excelled at it, but he was very recently placed on the DL for inflammation in his pitching hand. Contreras couldn’t take the role back over since a forearm strain has him sitting out as well. Philadelphia won’t have Roy Oswalt either since he is nursing a back injury, but his season to this point has been disappointing.
So, we’re looking at two rosters with major holes that will likely be filled by the time October rolls around. We’re not going to be looking at anything remotely close to the final expected product over the next three days.
As for the Red Sox and Phillies meeting up in the World Series, Philadelphia seems like more of a lock to be participating in the Fall Classic since the NL doesn’t have much in the way of teams that are able to give Philadelphia much of a run for their money. The Giants have done well since losing catcher Buster Posey for the season and they lead the NL West by two games, but their offence is going to need some serious beefing up to stand a chance against the Phillies. Milwaukee may provide more of a challenge, but their offence first, infield defence last mentality may be stopped cold by Philly’s Phantastic Phour. The Cardinals big offence will also need to be watched if and when Albert Pujols’s broken forearm heals. Those are the only teams that actually have a shot of stopping Philly short of the World Series, and they are all subject to their own ‘ifs.’
Boston has tougher road. Their division is in no way a mortal lock, and neither is a wild card birth. Even though they will likely grab a playoff spot somehow, the question marks around Buchholz, Lackey, and even Jon Lester (who hasn’t been his normal self this season) may end up resulting in tough answers come playoff time. Teams like the Yankees and the Rangers feast on average pitching, and the Red Sox hurlers have had trouble with consistency.
All this doesn’t mean the series shouldn’t be enjoyed; these are clearly two of the best teams in the league and it’s a classic match pitting a great offence against a great pitching staff. There’s a lot to like here, but don’t book your hotels in Philly and Boston quite yet.
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