Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Cleveland Rocks!...Thanks For The Push, We're 2007 AL Champs!

"This is what you get, when you mess with us."

Here's something to keep in mind for the people who gave Indians fans World Series towels before Game 5: Next time you are close to getting there, you may want to wait until you actually advance before you start waving those towels around in front of the opposition...especially the Sox. I mean did we really need any more motivation going into that game? We're a game away from elimination, our best pitcher is on the mound...you think they would attempt to be a little more modest before starting their celebration. Now, they're all goats, ripe to be poked fun at by the whole damn world...luckily, I am a member of the damn world I speak of, and now, you're going to hear about it.

Planning parades, celebrating preemptively, why do people still try and motivate New England teams? Don't you know what will happen? You will lose time and time again. Ask the Chargers. Last year, they planned a parade for when they won the AFC Championship, basically writing off the Pats. After the game, their fans booed the team, partially because San Diego lost, but mostly because they dropped two grand on Super Bowl tickets that wouldn't feature their team. Now, Cleveland thinks the series is over. Ryan Garko tells everyone "the champagne tastes as good on the road," and Kenny Lofton tries to start a fight with Beckett...why? Why motivate us? All we're going to do is embarrass you, and when it's over, you will be watching us on TV, and the season will be over. So, for the future, please, for your own good, don't do it anymore. It will just lead to the pain and misery. I know about pain and misery...it's not such a great place to be.

So thank you Cleveland for helping the ratings (highest since '04), and giving the Sox, and the fans, that adrenaline push to get us back to the World Series. In all honesty, I said after Game 4 that "Indians fans want this thing right now more than we do," and it was a perfectly correct assumption. Game 2's crowd was abysmal. There was no energy for the extra innings, and, hello, that's the time when the energy has to be there. Indians fans were going wild every inning for Games 3 and 4, and it seemed like Sox fans (again, speaking about those in the building at the time) were almost content that the Sox were going to let this game slip away. Then, after Game 5, everything changed. The towels, Lofton, Garko running his mouth after the game, and Curt Schilling in another Game 6...no team, and I mean no team could have come back from those circumstances. To say this was like the '86 ALCS would be a complete understatement...this was the '86 series all over again. A team, up 3-1 in the series against the Sox, this time being the Angels, that was so sure that they would win the series that they were already distributing "1986 American League Champions" t-shirts down in the clubhouse. The home crowd was in a frenzy, the players were walking with their chests pumped out, it seemed like it was all over but the crying...then Dave Henderson hit the home run of Donnie Moore in the ninth, then the sac fly in the 11th to win the game...and the Angels never recovered. They got trampled at Boston in two straight games, and they were sent home with their tail in between their legs. The heroes were also of the unexpected variety, especially in the case of J.D. Drew, who, despite hitting the grand slam and driving in five in Game 6, is still far from redeeming himself from the never-ending suck-fest he put on for $14 million this year. Joe Buck said Drew "erased the season" with that hit..."I'm not so sure about that."

In any event, the Sox are in, so now, who are these Colorado Rockies that can't be beat? Well, obviously, they have a great lineup, which is headlined by the potential MVP (Matt Holliday) and Rookie Of The Year (Troy Tulowitzki) of the National League, but they have a bunch of other guys that can do some damage. Rightfielder Brad Hawpe and third baseman Garrett Atkins both had over 25 homers and over 110 RBIs. Throw in Todd Helton, and you're looking at five guys who can flat out hit. Sure, their stats are inflated by Coors Field, but hey, they are going to play at least two games there in this series. In addition to the mashers in the middle of the order, the Rockies have two guys at the top of their lineup (Willy Tavarez, Kaz Matsui) who have stolen over 30 bases.

Their lineup is great, but the biggest factor for the Rockies' chances of winning this series rest on the pitching staff. Jeff Francis has been outstanding in the postseason, going 2-0 with a 2.13 ERA. Then, well, if Francis was "unknown" enough, the rest of the staff is a mystery to even the biggest baseball fans. Ubaldo Jimenez was the Game 2 pitcher in the NLCS. I saw the game, and I have to say I was impressed by his exploding fastball. Jimenez wasn't very impressive in the regular season, and has a serious problem with his control. In fact, he's very much like Fausto Carmona, which could be a huge advantage for the Sox if they can be patient at the plate. Game 3 will feature Josh Fogg, who is another guy who I can't quite understand why he is having the success he's having. Fogg has had a fairly mediocre career, and actually wasn't in the starting rotation until the NLCS. Finally, Game 4 will feature the biggest wild card of them all, Franklin Morales. In two starts, he has only gone a combined seven innings in the postseason. One of the biggest underlying stories of this series will be Colorado's focus on finding hard-throwing pitching in the Domincan, Central America, and Venezuela. Morales is from Venezuela, Jimenez is from the D.R., and perhaps the Rockies' best pitcher, Manny Corpas, is from Panama. Plus, the Rockies have more on the way in the minors to replenish the bullpen in the next few years. What is surprising to me is the amount of supposedly "washed-up" relievers Colorado has. Guys like Matt Herges, Jeremy Affeldt, LaTroy Hawkins, Jorge Julio...Jorge Julio! What a crazy world we live in where Jorge Julio will be relied on in the World Series. In any event, the bullpen goes with Corpas and former close Brian Fuentes. It's not like Fuentes was not effective, it's just that Corpas was so good in Fuentes' absence that they decided to keep him as the closer.

Clearly, the Sox have an advantage in starting pitching and in the bullpen in terms of depth. However, the lineups are about even...maybe even a slight edge to Colorado. So, if the Rockies' pitching can keep them in games, Colorado, despiting being a 2-to-1 underdog, has a reasonable chance at making this series close. I think the Rockies really have to put the Sox away early to win. If this series goes back to Boston a second time, I just don't think the Rockies will have enough to win. The key for them will simply be to get a split in Boston. It will be Beckett vs. Francis in Game 1, with a clear advantage going to the Sox in that one. If Colorado can somehow beat Beckett, they will not only get a 1-0 series lead, but they will both keep the momentum going on their own streak (21 wins in 22 games), they will halt the Sox' winning ways as well, and throw them back into the position they were in during the Cleveland series.

Interesting news handed down today, as Wake will be left off the roster for the series, meaning that right now, there is no starter for Game 4. Schill will go Game 2, Dice in Game 3, but who will go Game 4? It is totally dependent on how the series has gone up to that point. One of the factors will be what the series advantage is at that point. If there's a 3-0 lead for either team, I would think Beckett will be in there to attempt to save/win the series for the Sox. However, if it's 2-1, I think the Sox will call upon Jon Lester to pitch the fourth game. Lester pitched a simulated game today, and from what the people on the inside are rumbling, it went very well. So, that will be interesting if it comes down to that situation about how effective Lester will be. Despite getting rocked in the 11th inning of Game 2, Lester came in Game 4 and was masterful, giving up just one hit and striking out four in three innings of relief.

Probably the biggest story going is the lay-off the Rockies have had before the Series starts, which will hit nine days on Wednesday. I guess the reason this is so big is because of what happened last year. After Detroit quickly bounced the A's in the ALCS, they were heavy favorites, and St. Louis was made out to be a team that was basically an after-thought in terms of even standing a chance in the series. So after the Cardinals pulled it off last year, I can see why some writers would look to that as being a "key" or whatever. Personally, I think it's completely different this year. The Sox come in as overwhelming favorites, and right now, no one is giving the Rockies a chance. Remember, this is a team that rifled its way through the last part of the season and the playoffs, and really should not be taken lightly. Also, they've been catching a tremendous amount of breaks, especially in the Wild Card determining game, where Matt Holliday was clearly out, yet called safe at home. If the Padres win that game, that's it for the Rockies. They won't be mentioned until probably next April at the earliest. However, they got that call, and proceeded to beat down on Philly and Arizona. While these are two good teams, they are not the caliber of team the Sox are. Also, the Sox have been catching breaks lately as well. So could it come down to a team that catches the most breaks? Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. Game 1 will definitely be the table-setter. The Rockies, as of right now, have been given absolutely no shot to beat Beckett. If they go out and pull off the improbable, they will be sitting pretty, with the series at least split going back to Denver, having beaten the best pitcher in baseball right now. For the Sox, Game 1 will not be a clear indication on how they can expect the series to unfold. That honor will go to Dice-K pitching at Mile High in Game 3. Call me overconfident, call me what you will, but I'm not really concerned about the first two games. Don't get me wrong, I am sitting here filled with as much anticipation as I can possibly have for any sporting event my team is involved in, but I am already looking at Game 3 as the potential tipping point of the series. Again, if I'm in charge, Dice-K doesn't even get a chance to pitch in Denver. He pitches Game 2, and Game 6 if necessary. Schilling has been there done that not only in the postseason, but in Denver. He was in the National League until '04, and made 14 starts in Denver. But hey, I'm sitting here writing as a fan, and that's all. I like Dice, and I hope he pitches well in Game 3, but I'm big on experience and a proven track record. In any event, I still don't know all there is to know about the Rockies, but I'm anxiously waiting to find out what they've got in store for the Sox.

Game 1 of the World Series tomorrow night.

So, again, a big thank you to the city of Cleveland, the Indians, and their fans for thinking they had the series in the bag, and taking us for granted. Now you're crushed, and you have all winter to think about it. We've done it before so don't feel bad...wait...yeah you should.

Game 1 of the World Series tomorrow night.




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