Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Final Four

Baseball's 2008 divisional series are complete now, and three of the four survivors that I predicted last week have advanced to the next round.

The surprise entrant, at least as far as my predictions are concerned, is the Boston Red Sox. I predicted they would lose to the Los Angeles Angels. But they didn't, winning a 3-2 ballgame at Fenway Park last night to eliminate the Angels.

And they will go on to meet the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Championship Series. That series starts on Friday.

If Tampa Bay defeats Boston, that will make two consecutive seasons in which a team that has never been in a World Series before wins its league's title and advances to the Fall Classic. The Colorado Rockies played in their first World Series last year, but they failed to win a game against the Red Sox.

It would also be the fifth time in this decade that a team has played in its first World Series. The others were the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Anaheim Angels and the Houston Astros.

Playing for a World Series berth is nothing new for the Red Sox or their fans. Only the Yankees (who have more World Series championships — 26 — than any other team) and the Athletics have represented the American League in the World Series more often than the Red Sox.

Both the Dodgers and the Phillies have been to the Fall Classic before, but the Dodgers have been there more frequently. In fact, the Dodgers have played in the World Series more often (18 times) than any other National League team. By contrast, the Phillies have been in the World Series five times with only one title to show for it — the fewest of non-expansion teams.

But numbers from the past — even the recent past — really don't mean anything in the playoffs. Already, the teams with the best records in both leagues (the Angels and the Cubs) have been eliminated.

In fact, Scoop Jackson of ESPN speculates that the Cubs' meltdown against the Dodgers was their worst ever. If he's right, that's a pretty impressive achievement, considering the Cubs' record of failure in the playoffs.

Here's my prediction:
  • In the National League, I predict the Dodgers will defeat the Phillies in five games.

    The first game will start at 7:22 p.m. (Central) on Thursday. It will be televised on FOX.

  • In the American League, the Rays may be the sentimental favorite, but I pick the team with the postseason experience — the Red Sox — to win the championship in six games.

    The first game starts at 7:37 p.m. (Central) Friday. It will be televised by TBS.
Fasten your seat belts. It could be a bumpy ride.

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