As promised, I’m going to be featuring some guest writers here on The Honestly Blog. Our first guest writer is an old favorite and prior contributor, baseball enthusiast Tripp Williams. Tripp did me the immense favor of offering up his post-season predictions from all the way across the pond. At press time, the first round of play-offs are under way, and current results will be included below. As always, content has been edited for space, grammar, and Yankee bashing.
Yesterday, it seems, we were waxing poetic about the hopes that each baseball fan enjoys in March and April, when Spring intoxicates us with “Up and coming prospects!” lists and “Top Ten Reasons why your team will make the playoffs this year” adverts. Now, at the other end of the proving ground that is the regular season, most of us find our proverbial team ships of hope battered and wind-blown, scuttling back to the harbor for a winter overhaul. Only the lucky few – yeah, Tyler, you’re one of them – get to see if a turn on the open ocean will bring post-season glory. But who will last?
ALDS: New York Yankees vs. Baltimore Orioles
I expect the Yankees to compete in their series, like they normally do. I have a sense that the Yanks have been looking over their shoulder for a good part of the season, eyes widening as the Orioles kept pace right until the bitter end. The Pinstripers won’t be intimidated, of course, but then again I don’t think the Orioles will be either. The O’s are young enough to not know any better than to think they’ll win the whole thing this year – kind of like the Rays in 2008. This will be an intriguing match-up, but I’ll go with the Yankees by way of their knowing how to win. I’ll be more than happy to admit the error of my ways if the Orioles advance, though, and will likely cheer for their exuberance and passion as long as they’re in the playoffs. I mean, honestly – who doesn’t like to root for a team, and a city, that’s been irrelevant for over a decade, the roster of which is made up of kids who play their hearts out? Except for Tyler. Prediction: Yankees in 5.
(The Yankees currently lead the series, 1-0. So, suck it.)
ALDS: Oakland Athletics vs. Detroit Tigers
The Oakland A’s have pulled off one of the sneakiest division title victories in quite some time. Buoyed by all the talk of Moneyball, and the acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes (you be the judge which had more of an impact), the A’s carried the banner this year for mid-market franchises and go into the postseason, one would think, pretty darn confident. I like the A’s… but the firepower of the Tigers is tough to ignore. Detroit seemed to do just enough throughout the year to make it into the playoffs, and now, like an experienced marathon runner, seem ready to let loose the kick they saved for the last stretch of the race. I think the A’s still have a good shot, considering their consistency throughout the year and their grit and toughness. This will be a good matchup, especially in the middle games of the series. I admit it – I saw that the Tigers won Game 1. All the same… Prediction: A’s in 5.
(Detroit currently leads the series, 2-0.)
NLDS: Cincinnati Reds vs. San Francisco Giants
The NL presents a Reds-Giants match-up that is a little bit off the radar, if for no other reason than because the Reds had a sneaky great year and are a darn good team. They ended up just behind the Nationals with the second best record in baseball, which isn’t an accident. With playoff experience from last year, their young lineup will likely be well positioned to make a run this post-season. The Giants come into the playoffs off of a strong finish to the regular season, but they have some uncertainties in their rotation. If Timmy had had a good year, like any of his last four, I would be quick to explain that the Giants present a nasty playoff pitching rotation. But that assertion doesn’t ring nearly as true when Matt Cain is the number one, instead of the 1A, and Timmy is dropped down to the starter for Game 3. Without the confidence in the pitching staff going into the playoffs, the Giants are vulnerable. Both offenses can hit the ball; like in every series, this one will come down to pitching. Loyalty requires that I go with the Giants. I have no misgivings. Prediction: Giants in 4.
(The Reds currently lead the series 2-0. This could be a tough deficit to surmount; but if anyone can be a hero, it’s little Timmy.)
NLDS: Washington Nationals vs. St. Louis Cardinals
The Nationals and the Cardinals will be fun to watch. DC has been playoff baseball deprived for decades, and the atmosphere in National’s Park will be electric. The Cardinals are making their 2012 run in defense of their World Series title from last year. They decided, consciously I suppose, to follow the script from last year – make the playoffs by a razor-thin margin – because it worked so darn well. They are a crafty bunch, seasoned professionals way ahead of the Nats in terms of experience. The Nationals are a good team, and they play with an energy that will only be amplified by the playoff atmosphere. I expect they’ll get off to a quick start and stay ahead. They will miss Mr. Strasburg. How the Nationals managed to work it so that their number one pitcher would miss the playoffs is still just a little bit baffling to me. All the same, the stage is set for Bryce Harper to take the next step up the ladder of stardom, and the rest of the squad will be poised to help make 2012 a positive year in the annals of DC baseball history. Prediction: Nationals in 4.
(The Nationals currently lead the series, 1-0.)
ALCS Prediction: New York Yankees vs. Oakland Athletics
The Yankees and the A’s – David and Goliath. This match-up would be a network executive’s nightmare but a fan’s delight. The cross-country element makes it that much more enticing, pitting the punk Californians against the utmost professional Pinstripers. When the Yankees win, baseball wins – more people watch, and the games just have a feeling of being that much more relevant. But if the A’s are able to pull this off and make it to the World Series, hope will fill the heart of every Royals, Pirates, Mariners, Astros, Marlins, and every other middling team’s fan. And for the A’s to advance while the Rangers and Angels watch on TV? What could be sweeter for anyone who has ever rooted for the little guy? Fun fact? The Yankees’ two highest paid players (Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia) make more ($30 million and $24.2 million, respectively) than the entire A’s roster ($49.1 million). When you have a team who hasn’t spent the coin required to sit in the proverbial luxury box of professional sports, and yet DOES win? It’s a great game. Prediction: for baseball’s sake, Yankees in 6. What I hope for? A’s in 7.
NLCS Prediction: San Francisco Giants vs. Washington Nationals
The Giants and the Nationals will feature two high-energy teams hungry for the NL crown. The match-up will be pretty even on paper: decent pitching that drops off further down in the rotation, a couple of hitters in each lineup that can strike fear in the hearts of opponents (Zimmerman, Werth, and LaRoche for the Nats; Posey and Sandoval for the Giants). Because of the parity between the clubs, I would expect this to be a long series. The hole left by Strasburg will seem even larger in this series, as he would have been able to have a greater impact over the course of seven games. Similarly, Timmy’s struggles will be more acutely felt – lining him up to pitch games 1, 4, and 7 isn’t an option. Matt Cain is an able number 1, but any team that can have two top-tier pitchers share the physical and emotional burden of being that team’s go-to guy is better off than normal. I’ll be happy with either team winning. For the intrigue of the match-up, I’ll choose the Giants in 6. I’ll be far from unhappy, though, if the Nats pull this off.
World Series Prediction: ??? vs. ???
The Oakland A’s and the Washington Nationals. To think that either of these teams, let alone both, would make the World Series, let alone the play-offs, is pretty wild. And I would love it. The energy would be great, with each city capital-C celebrating their team’s return to competitiveness. I mentioned earlier that baseball wins when the Yankees win; ratings climb, national coverage seems better, etc. But maybe what baseball needs is a World Series featuring two upstarts like the A’s and Nationals, two teams that kind of defy the odds a little bit in their respective climbs to the top. You may argue that the Cardinals played that role last year, or that the story line isn’t nearly as exciting as I’m playing it up to be. My rejoinder would be twofold: 1. The Cardinals are an extraordinarily successful franchise. They won the World Series in 2006. For them to be successful is neither unexpected nor new. 2. Last year’s playoffs, even with the very successful Cardinals winning it all, was incredibly exciting. The A’s and the Nationals could provide baseball with the shot in the arm it seems to need pretty regularly now, injecting enthusiasm and hope into all the other markets and fanbases who have mired in obscurity for several years. I speak from experience – the Mariners have mastered the art of finishing under .500. For rejuvenation’s sake, let’s see the A’s and the Nationals! Prediction/hope: A’s in 7.
Tripp Williams is currently studying at the London School of Economics, which will become a crucial point on his resume when he runs for president in twenty years. As a Seattle-area native, he has acclimated flawlessly to the London weather. Contrary to popular reports, he is not dating Pippa Middleton. Yet.