Disclaimer: I wrote most of this before Game 1 actually started. Honest.
So here we are on the cusp of another World Series and with it another disappointing display by my beloved Angels in the playoffs against a Beast from the East. Sure we may have broken out the broom on the much despise-ed Red Sox and avenged the suicide (literally) bunt-that-wasn’t from last year—and trust me, it fell really good…since, you know, I had so much to do with it—but once again the brains had their hearts set on an early winter vacation and costly blunders cost us a shot at the pennant. Sigh. But enough about me.
In this, my 7th Annual Monster World Series Breakdown we’ll take a look at two powerhouses and break it down position by position to see who has biggest hypodermic needle. And it’s the Yankees by a syringe! Ok, that was a low blow…even if it is true. Enough already. As Flight of the Conchords would say It’s Business Time! You know how I know that? Because it’s Wednesday.
Catchers – This one really isn’t close. The Yankees will run Jorge Posada out there most days, with the possible exception of when A.J. Burnett starts, when Jose Molina will be the receiver. Posada is an old hand at this postseason stuff and is a good hitter besides. Not much of a catch and throw guy, but then again he does resemble Templeton the rat from the old Charlotte’s Web cartoon. Google it. You won’t be disappointed.
For the Phils it will be Carlos Ruiz. Exactly.
Edge – Yanks
1st Base – Here’s where it gets interesting. Both squads are fielding superstar 1st basemen; Mark Teixera for the Yankees and Ryan Howard for the Phillies. Their regular season stats are pretty much a wash. Howard may be slightly more powerful, Teixera makes better consistent contact. In the postseason however, Howard has been a beast, while Teixera has been mostly toothless, save for the 11th inning HR to beat the Twins in the ALDS. However, Teixera was a wizard with the glove in the ALCS. And while I’m pretty sure wizardry counts as an illegal performance enhancer, no one seems willing to call him on it. Bottom line, both of these guys are studs and therefore cancel each other out…but Teixera did spurn the Angels in the offseason….
Edge – Phillies
2nd Base – As much as I hate to say it, Robison Cano is really good. He looks like he doesn’t care, doesn’t move particularly quickly, and is prone to the occasional mental lapse, but he puts up huge second base numbers and turns the DP just about better than everyone. But, Philly’s guy is pretty good to. Maybe you’ve heard of him, Chase Utley? Also monster numbers, but more of a middle of the order presence than Cano. For that and his highfalutin country club type name, Chase Cameron Utley gets the nod.
Edge – Phillies
3rd Base – Pedro Feliz is about as ordinary as a player can get, but a mere four weeks ago would it have been so absurd to give the Edge to the Phillies at this spot? In his previous three trips to the playoffs with the Yankees that mirror-kissing-Madonna/Kate Hudson-dating-steroid-injecting loosey goosey Alex Rodriguez had 44 at-bats with exactly one home run and one RBI. Mr. Steinbrenner and son weren’t exactly getting their money’s worth. Now? Yeeeeeeeeaaah. Sorry Mr. Happy. You are officially a very distant second.
Edge – Yanks
SS – Jimmy Rollins is only two years removed from an MVP season, but doesn’t it seem like a long time ago? He salvaged a dismal season with a decent second half this year, but doesn’t seem to be the player he once was. Not to mention he hasn’t done much of anything in the postseason, his game-winning double off Broxton not withstanding. Maybe he needs to bring back the corn rows.
On the flip side, Derek Jeter had something of a comeback year. The previous two years saw declines in power and speed and according to everyone who is supposed to know this kind of stuff, he was not long for the shortstop position. But 2009 proved to disprove those who disapproved of his skills. Plus as much as I loathe the Yankees, and I do loathe them, there’s something about Jeter and the way he plays that makes you grit your teeth and say, “You know? That Jeter guy is pretty decent.” I hate him.
Edge – Yanks
Left Field – When will Johnny Damon just go away? Every time you think he’s done, he comes back. He’s like a little gnat that keeps flying into the corner of your eye while you’re driving. You swat and swat and think it’s gone just when you relax and let out a sigh of relief it flies into your mouth. That’s Johnny Damon. A bug that flies into your mouth while you’re driving. Do you realize he tied a career high in home runs this year?! At least when he had the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer look going it gave us something to distract from his awkward playing style. Oh, and I’m disturbed to learn that we share the same birthday. Terrific.
The Phillies will start Raul “I’m the best player you’ve never heard of” Ibanez. Go look at his stats for the past four seasons. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Crazy right? It’s about time he got some respect.
Edge – Phillies
Right Field – Nick “I’m the worst player you thought was good” Swisher. Mr. Moneyball himself. I’m sure someone thinks it’s pretty cool to walk and strike out 100 times in the same season on a regular basis while batting around .240, but not me. Never liked him, never will.
For the Phillies it’s another member of the “best player you’ve never heard of” club, Jayson Werth. The guy is ridiculous. Why wasn’t he a regular before last year? Late bloomer? Late doper? Whatever the case, this guy is legit. Too legit. Too legit to quit. Hey. Hey.
Edge – Phillies
Center Field – If I see Melky Cabrera do that karate chop thing he does after getting a big hit again, I’m going to leap through my TV and punch him in the stomach as hard as I can. You can’t do things like that Melky! Only good players can! You’re name is Melky!!!!
For Shane Victorino I reprise what I said last year because I like it so much: Shane Victorino’s name sounds like a WWII-era patriotic Chef Boyardee product. “Show Hitler he can’t keep America down by eating your Victorino, now with more MSG!”
Edge – Even
Starting Pitching – Fun factoid, not only will Game 1 feature the last two Cy Young award winners, but they were teammates just last year. That can’t have happened before. Both Cliff Lee (Cy Young 2008) and C.C. Sabathia (Cy Young 2007) are horses (in Sabathia’s case almost literally). Both struggled early in the year but ended up with solid seasons, especially Lee after he was traded to the Phillies midseason where he dominated all that AAAA had to offer.
The rest of the Philadelphia starting staff is a high risk/high reward group. Pedro Martinez has seemingly revived his career (and jeri curl) in recent months, Cole Hammels was brilliant last postseason, Blanton is serviceable, and Happ has the tools but is inexperienced, if they decide to use him as a starter. They have the potential to be exceptional or a massive train wreck. Just what you want in a starting staff. Personally, I like their chances. Especially if Don Zimmer makes an appearance. We know Pedro has no qualms about beating up octogenarians.
After CC the Yankees are also full of questions. AJ Burnett wasn’t stellar, but wasn’t terrible all year, and always has the potential to be overpowering. Pettite is about a seasoned a postseason pitcher as you could hope for and still has enough left in the tank physically to go with all that veteran savvy. After that, if they go with a fourth starter, it’ll be the always dangerous Chad Gaudin. And by that I mean dangerous to the Yankees. Very very dangerous.
Edge – Phillies (by a Pedro jeri curl)
Bullpens – The bullpen was supposed to be a major asset for the Yankees going into the ALCS but had some struggles against the Angels. Joe Girardi’s incessant (and wonderful, from where I sat) micromanaging is partially to blame, but Hughes, Coke, and Joba certainly didn’t instill a lot of confidence. Of course, their ace in the hole is Mariano Rivera, who has 968 career postseason saves and an ERA of -0.92. I don’t know how that’s possible, but that shows just how good he is. The guy has one pitch and yet completely dominant. It’s the definition of insanity: continually doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Maybe he’s not expecting a different result, but I AM!!!!
The Phillies bullpen was slightly above league average during the regular season, and has been very good in the postseason. But how long can that last with Brad Lidge as closer? After being perfect in save opportunities last years, Lidge has been horrendous in 2009, blowing 11 saves and posting an ERA over 7. 7!!! How he kept his job is anyone’s guess, but it may have something to do with no better options. Yikes.
Edge – Yankees
Benches – For all their cash and willingness to spend it, the Yankees have a shockingly thin bench. Look at these world beaters: Brett Gardener, Jerry Hairston, Eric Hinske, and Jose Molina, who may actually START when Burnett pitches. They do fill roles I suppose, and they’ll have Hideki Matsui to pinch hit in Philly where there is no DH, but none of those guys scares me.
Philly at least has a couple guys that can hit the ball over the fence with some consistency in Matt Stairs and Ben Francisco. Francisco…FrrranCISco. That’s a fun name to say….FranCISco.
Edge – Phillies
Manager – Joe Girardi is already on Yankee fans’ nerves with the aforementioned micromanaging, but as long as he stays away from those binders in the dugout he should be OK. However, after the Yanks missed the playoffs for the first time since 1995 last year with him at the helm and after the Steinbrenners dropped nearly a half BILLION dollars to bring in Sabathia, Teixera, and Burnett, I suspect he’s feeling a little pressure. If it gets to him and he starts trying to pull all the right strings it could go badly. And I’m OK with that.
On the other bench you have Charlie Manual, who sounds like a hillbilly who just wandered out of the Ozarks or something. You wouldn’t think it to look at him, but the guy must be one heck of a manager. His players love him, and he seems to push the right buttons. And he looks a little slimmer than last year. Don’t count out the new self-confidence that comes with weight loss.
Edge – Phillies
Mojo – As much as I hate to say it, the Yankees are freaking good. They’ve got the big names that are actually living up to their billing and are oozing confidence. But, if there was one team from the National League that could match them nearly punch for punch, it’s the Phillies. Other than 3B there isn’t a weak spot in their lineup and they’re pitching has all the pieces if they can figure out how they all fit. The Phillies have had an easier time of it in the postseason thus far (a few bounces and breaks go the other way in the ALCS and the Yanks could’ve been the ones facing a 3-2 deficit in Game 6) and I, Andy Bauer, predictor without equal think the Philadelphia Phillies have what it takes to be the first repeat World Champs since…the New York Yankees.
My pick – Phillies in 6