2009 WORLD SERIES
- WORLD SERIES POLL - Who will win the 2009 World Series?
- INTERACTIVE: See how the Phillies and Yankees stack up, player by player
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The Yankees and Phillies are the best teams in baseball. Unlike the BCS, baseball has a way of getting the two best together in October and November. The Yankees may have had a better, more consistent regular season, but Philly has clearly shown in the postseason it knows where the switch is located. Pitching and defense, offense and baserunning, and karma are the elements that deserve a look.
I know most about offense, so let's start there. The lineups are similar, they both have patient hitters with power and experience, but Philly has more sock. Against right-handed pitching, the Phillies are better one through four; against lefties, the edge goes to the Yankees, so that's a push.
The lower half of the order gives the Phillies a decided advantage, especially with the DH in New York. Add Ben Francisco and Greg Dobbs in behind Raul Ibanez with Pedro Feliz and Carlos Ruiz to follow - with all due respect to Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Melky Cabrera, who haven't shown much this postseason - edge, Phillies.
Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth are the offensive keys to the Series. If Rollins and Victorino get off early, everything changes for Philly. Chase Utley gives you the professional at-bat every time and now the fun starts. Choose your poison - Ryan Howard, Werth or Ibanez?
I didn't forget the Yankees. Jeter will get his hits, Johnny Damon a few here and there, no question Mark Teixeira can produce, A-Rod is not pressing and scares everyone. But there is no speed, no excitement, no havoc, the Yankees must hit to win. The Phillies can win dink-and-dunk as well as home run derby, and both parks fit the latter.
This is a perfect segue to baserunning. I can see it now, Yankee pitchers will throw to first once for every two times to the plate. These games will last 5 hours. I've cleared my TiVo. The Phillies score on singles, take third on singles, get infield singles and turn singles into doubles. This is patient speed, experienced speed and intimidating speed. Mark my word, speed will influence the outcome of a couple games. In the close games it is a big advantage.
Speed affects defense as well. The Phillies' outfield is the best. They run down balls and throw well at all three positions. The infield defenses are comparable. No question the Yankees are good, with a decided advantage to Teixeira at first. However, and this is gospel, Feliz and Rollins may be the best left-side tandem in history. Maybe the same can be said about Teixeira and Cano on the right side? Two interesting characters are Jeter and Utley. Both have a nose for the ball, as they say. Both are only about winning ... any way, any how. Both will surface at key times in every game, both are impervious to pressure.
Behind the plate the Yankees have concern about stopping the Phillies' running attack, for sure. Posada is not the guy. He's closing in on a Hall of Fame career, but the green light will be lit from the get-go. Posada has serious postseason and career experience, compared to Ruiz, who only has last year's run in October. I just feel, right now, Ruiz is better defensively. Not offensively, of course, but the two are too close to call.
Pitching is where I could be - and hope I am - wrong. There are four phases to pitching: starters, middle relief, closer and team defense. I've got to give an edge to the Yankee starters because Cole Hamels is struggling to find his old self. Joe Blanton and Pedro Martinez are not necessarily lights-out and J.A. Happ, the NL Rookie of the Year, might be a key cog in the 'pen.
In Game 1, the edge goes to CC Sabathia against Cliff Lee at home, Game 2 goes to A.J. Burnett at home against the Phils' No. 2, and it's experienced Andy Pettitte in Game 3. Edge Yankees on paper, but they play on grass.
Remember, this is only the first five innings. Unfortunately, the Yankees are also slightly better in the middle. Joba Chamberlain/Chad Durbin, Phil Coke/Happ, Phil Hughes/Ryan Madson, et al. The edge is ever so slight on paper, but guess what? They play on grass. You gotta love Brad Lidge, 48 straight saves last year, money this postseason, but Mariano Riviera is who he is. He will not beat himself. The Phillies must overcome him at least twice and they can, with patience, speed and hard-nosed, late-game at-bats. Lidge, well, every game is not going to be a blowout, so he must close successfully in each opportunity. Even with the Phillies' great defense behind the pitching, this edge goes to the Yankees. I hope I'm wrong.
This series is so even, it's hard to pick. The team with more home games technically has the advantage. Maybe the NL should start winning some All-Star games, Charlie. The Phillies are the underdogs, they will relish that role. They tied the Angels for the best road record in baseball, they love their gray uniforms. They have skipper Chuck Manuel, who exudes good karma. Karma makes a difference. It's a feeling in the air that is absorbed by everyone. It's a refuse-to-lose attitude. It comes from playing loose, with a smile and wanting the at-bat with the game on the line. Every player in their lineup has a big postseason hit, which says a lot.
Don't forget, one of these teams has the trophy and is the defending champion. I'm going with them, the underdog World Series champs to repeat.
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2009 NATIONAL LEAGUE SERIES
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