I Can Drive. I’m an Excellent Driver.

So I’m pretty excited that we’re getting enough readership that people have actually bothered me about not posting anything in the past 11 days. And by “people” I mean Mike Block, Friend of the Blog and Sometime Fantasy Sports Antagonist. But contrary to popular opinion, I do occasionally have busy weeks at work (2 of them in a row), and I actually might be in danger of failing my first grad school class. Plus with the playoffs and all, I’ve been watching games in public instead of at home, which means that by the time I get home I’m too tired to write anything. So I didn’t die while doing the cigarettes, pasta, and baseball challenge that I had previously posted.

So on to the World Series, after a few housekeeping points.

First of all, an update in the standings for the Phriends and Phamily Phredictions. That  NLCS means that the bottom 2/3 or so of the standings is fixed, with certain of us (including me) having completely whiffed on the World Series. So here’s the way we stand:

1) Ashley (6 for 6, 2 correct WS teams)
2) Mike Block, Friend of the Blog and Sometime Fantasy Sports Antagonist (5 for 6, 2 correct WS teams)
3) Ben (4 for 6, 1 correct WS team, plus NLCS MVP)
4t) Kate(4 for 6, 1 correct WS team)
4t) Paul (4 for 6, 1 correct WS team)
4t) My dad (4 for 6, 1 correct WS team)
7) Jeff (4 for 6, 1 correct WS team)
8) Tim (3 for 6, 1 correct WS team)
9) Me (3 for 6, no correct WS teams)
10) My mom  (1 out of 6 series, no WS teams)

Tiebreakers:
1) Correct World Series pick
2) Number of Correct MVPs
3) Correct length of World Series
4) Correct World Series MVP pick

What this means, from  a practical standpoint, is that my mom, my brothers, and I are all frozen at the bottom because all of our world series winners have been eliminated. Likewise, Blockie and Ashley are the only ones still alive to take the whole pot. If the Phillies win, Blockie  will beat Ashley on the first tiebreaker. If the Yankees win, Paul’s GF bats 1.000 for the postseason and wins. And for the 5 participants stuck at 4-for-6, Paul and my dad picked the Yankees to win it all, and Ben and Kate picked the Phillies. Jeff picked the Dodgers, so he’s out.

Ok. Now that that’s over with, let me tell you a little story. The last Phillies postseason game that I’ve been able to watch on television and didn’t see to its conclusion was Game 5 of the 1993 World Series, the Schilling complete game. Until last Monday night. I was so exhausted that I went to  bed after 8 innings and missed my favorite player hitting a  2-out walkoff double. F me in the A. Needless to say, I will be glued to the TV for every 9th inning this series.

So. The World Series. Back-to-back pennants. Been done by 4 teams in my lifetime: 1988-90 A’s (3 in a row), 1991-92 Braves, 1992-93 Blue Jays, 1995-96 Braves, 1998-2001 Yankees (4 in a row, 3 WS titles). For my money, the best 2-year runs in baseball since 1970 were the  1972-73 A’s, 1975-76 Reds, 1992-93 Blue Jays, and 1998-99 Yankees. I think if the Phillies pull this one off, it would rank up there with anything anyone’s done since the Stengel Yankees of the 1950s. [EDIT: On second thought, I think I was getting a little ahead of myself there, but the Big Red Machine parallels are striking.]

However, any Phillies fan who was rooting for the Yankees in the ALCS because beating them would somehow validate this team and this city is hitting the crack pipe. This Yankees team, from where I’m sitting, has two weaknesses: lack of depth and Joe Girardi’s alarming tendency to overmanage. Everyone gets on base. Everyone hits for at least a modicum of power. I’m trying to think of a team that had a better pair of corner infielders. Ever. Maybe the Cardinals earlier in this decade, with Pujols and Rolen? Probably not, but maybe. This is a team with very few weaknesses, an ass of confidence, and a deep lineup. In short, the kind of team that’s very difficult to take 4 times in 7 games.

So how are the Phillies going to beat them? Well, first of all, Cliff Lee needs to at least battle CC Sabathia to a draw. Second, we  need one ace-quality start each out of Hamels and Pedro. Third, the hitting needs to continue. If Howard and Ruiz have cooled off since the NLCS, we’re screwed. Fourth, and most importantly, there can be no bullpen hanky-panky the way there was in the National League playoffs. This Phillies team is good enough to hang with the Yankees for 7 innings, but if the difference between Hughes/Rivera and Uncle Cholly’s 8th inning cavalcade/Lidge is 2 runs a game,  it’s going to end in 4 or 5 games.

Ok. Next stop, the DH. The Phillies, it’s pretty certain, will go with Francisco in left against Sabathia in Game 1 (and, should there be a Game 6 pitched by Andy Pettitte, probably then as well), with Raul Ibanez at DH. Good. Defensive upgrade in left, resting an older player, plug Disco in somewhere between 7 and 9 with Feliz and Ruiz. Makes perfect sense.

It’s Game 2’s DH that presents an interesting option. With the righty Burnett on the mound, Uncle Cholly could go with Francisco again, play for defense and say to hell with the platoon advantage. Which is a perfectly sane option. Or he could go for broke and stick Matt Stairs at DH. Matt Stairs has been an intriguing player to  me this season. He went literally 2 months without getting a hit, but he still scared the bejeezus out of opposing pitchers every time he came up.  Either one could work.

On to the starting pitching. This has been a source of much discussion in the national media of late. The general consensus is that the Yankees will throw Sabathia out there for games 1, 4, and 7, Burnett for game 2, Pettitte game 3. My speculation would be that they go with Chad Gaudin in game 5 (assuming they’re not facing elimination), then go with either Burnett on full rest or Pettite on short rest for Game 6. I could be wrong.

Uncle Cholly, much to my delight, continues to have absolutely no idea who’s going to pitch for him 2 days from now. We know it will be Lee in Game 1. Jayson Stark said on Mike and Mike this morning that it’s likely, but not certain, that Pedro gets the ball Thursday night, with Hamels starting Game 3 at home. Dave Cameron of FanGraphs thinks this is a bad idea. I don’t. I think that the Phillies and Yankees are in the exact same boat for their top 3 starting pitchers. Each has one red-hot former Indian to start with, one youngish and recently inconsistent No. 2 and a No. 3 who is relatively reliable and has a ton of postseason experience, though you’d much rather have the 1999 version.

Now the guys at ESPN Baseball Today’s podcast seem to think it’s certain that Uncle Cholly will mirror Lee with Sabathia, having him pitch games 1, 4, and 7. I don’t know how afraid of CC we should be, but that’s certainly an option.

At this point, I’m thoroughly convinced that in Uncle Cholly’s mind, he knows that Cliff Lee will pitch to Derek Jeter to start tomorrow night’s game, and we’ll figure it out from there. And it’s worked so far, so I’ll trust him. It’s like betting blackjack with Raymond Babbitt.

Part of me hopes that Hamels starts Game 3, just so we can consolidate 90 percent of the pickoff moves into one game. A close Hamels-Pettite game goes five hours, at least an hour and 15 minutes of which will be consumed with keeping runners close to first.

Ok. A few quick-hitting points and we’ll be done

  • It’s amazing how my mindset as a Phillies fan has completely turned around in the span of 15 months. The Phillies are starting their second World Series in a row tomorrow and I’m just sort of OK. Last year, I was pissing my pants. Pissing my pants. It’s a strange thing, expecting to win. Also, I forgot this week that the Eagles were playing a division game on Monday Night Football. I don’t even remember the last time that happened.
  • Is anyone else struck by how quickly Cole Hamels has squandered 5 years of goodwill? He’s very close to running himself out of town, particularly if Cliff Lee keeps pitching well and Cole keeps running his mouth.
  • Keep me in your thoughts and prayers. I stopped growing when I was 15, at which point I was 5-11 and about 140 pounds. I filled out by the end of high school at about 165, got up to 205 or so by the middle of my sophomore year, started watching what I ate, dropped down to 170 or so by that April. Well starting with my senior year, I started eating 5,000 calories a day again and now I’m well north of 200 pounds and barely fit into size 36 pants. I’ve picked World Series week to start doing something about this. So I’ll be doing the last 10 days of the playoffs on about 1200 calories a day, plus beer.
  • I had never seen the Family Guy Star Wars episode until last night. I don’t remember the last time I laughed so hard.
  • I just thought I should let you know that my ongoing vendetta against Mrs. Cole Hamels has brought unexpected readership. You see, I mentioned Mrs. Hamels’ appearance in Playboy in that post, along with a passing mention of Chase Utley’s better half. WordPress lets us see the search engine terms and links that bring people to the site, and by looking over those stats I’ve noticed that, like clockwork, at least one person every day ends up here by Googling “Jen Utley Playboy.” If that’s you, then welcome.
  • Speaking of hot WAGs, I’m very interested to see the 10 shots per game of Kate Hudson this week. As a practicing Christian, I am well aware of Exodus 20:17 that says, thou shalt not covet, among other things, thy neighbor’s wife. Thank goodness A-Rod doesn’t live in my development.

At least one game this series will hinge on which of Uncle Cholly or Joe Girardi overmanages. For that eventuality, I leave you with the wisdom of Radiohead as quoted by Mark Ronson. Enjoy your World Series and may the best team not win.

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