Now that the Oakland Athletics have finished their season, it’s time to get serious about the teams still playing.
Considering that in the last 25 seasons of major-league baseball playoffs the team with the best regular-season record has only won the World Series three times, it’s a common and true assumption that anything can — and will — happen in the MLB postseason.
And in light of what happened last night’s late games that decided the final two entrants into the playoffs, you can bet the next few weeks will be pretty crazy, indeed.
Division winners in the American League include the New York Yankees (East), the Detroit Tigers (Central) and the Texas Rangers (West). Joining this trio late last night, as the final playoff entrant, the Tampa Bay Rays won the AL wild card.
In the National League, the Philadephia Phillies (East), the Milwaukee Brewers (Central), and the Arizona Diamondbacks (West) are the division winners. The St. Louis Cardinals clinched the NL wild card last night as well.
So who is going to win it all?
If only it were that easy to predict.
As last year demonstrated once again, teams that barely make it into the playoffs can suddenly get hot and ride that momentum all the way to the World Series title. And as noted above, being the best team for 162 games doesn’t mean much when it’s a 19-game sprint to the championship.
So here are some feeble, first-round predictions:
- Tampa Bay @ Texas starts Friday, and this is a rematch of last year’s opening-round series that the Rangers won in five games. Every game last year went to the visiting team. While Texas was the underdog last year and won, this year the Rays have to be considered the longshot. But there’s something to be said for momentum, and Wednesday night’s 12-inning victory for Tampa Bay might carry the team a long way: Rays in four games.
- Detroit @ New York also begins tomorrow, and this is a mystery. Both teams have an ace starter, but the Tigers might have better secondary guys. The last time these two teams met in the playoffs, Detroit emerged victorious. They will again this year, too. Tigers in four games.
- Arizona @ Milwaukee kicks off on Saturday, and the Brewers flew under the radar this year. That’s hard to do when you win 96 games. The Diamondbacks have been the feel-good story in the NL this year, after losing 97 games in 2010. This might be the closest of the four series. Brewers in five games.
- St. Louis @ Philadelphia features everyone’s preseason favorites, the five-time NL East champion Phillies and their fantastic rotation of Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, et al. The Cardinals, however, are also an experienced team. But in the end, Philadelphia’s rotation has to be given the benefit of the doubt. Phillies in five games.
Considering how poor some preseason prognostications are, we’ll see how these first-round ideas pan out in the next week.
But if the games themselves are anything like the Wednesday-night circus we all witnessed, baseball fans are in for a fun ride this postseason.