Here are my thoughts as we gear up for the ALCS:
1) The day that the Mets lost and the Brewers won, on the last day of the season (breaking their first place tie), was one of the most exciting baseball-viewing experiences I’ve had in the last few years. My son and I were watching the Mets game on the TV and the Brewers game on MLBtv (Internet), and even though I’m not a Brewers fan, I could feel their hunger to make it to the postseason (for the first time in 26 years). Sabathia pitched like a God. And the pain that Mets fans feel, having lost the division on the last day of the season TWO YEARS IN A ROW, might be their payback for games 6 and 7 of the 1986 World Series. What comes around goes around…
2) The Cubs’ problems were clearly mental. You don’t finish the season with the best record in MLB and then drop three in a row in the Division Series unless you’re psyched out. And you don’t make three errors in one inning with your ace on the mound unless you’re psyched out. What did the Red Sox do after game 3 of the 2004 ALCS (down, three games to none) to gain the momentum they’ve had ever since? They didn’t suddenly get BETTER. Something clicked in their heads. Oh, what would the Cubs give for the formula for that “click?”
3) I enjoy watching the NLCS games almost as much as I will enjoy watching the ALCS games. It’s baseball. Playoff baseball. Every at bat, every pitch is one of the most important in each player’s career. This is what these players dreamed about, playing wiffle ball in their driveways growing up. The thousands of hours of practice, the hundreds and thousands of games they have played in their lives, have all led to playing in baseball’s “final four.” Every starter, every bench player, every relief pitcher, even the managers and third base coaches could be part of a moment that will define their careers — and it could happen at any time. Plus, these are great players, many of them future hall of famers — Howard, Utley, Rollins, Hamels, Lidge, Ramirez, Furcal, Maddux, Lowe, and of course, Joe Torre.
4) I sent out a new poll to the Red Sox Nation governors this evening. Here are my answers to my own questions:
a) I expect the Red Sox to win the ALCS in four games. That’s right, a sweep of the mighty, precocious Rays. Yes, it’s hard to really imagine sweeping, but I have difficulty imagining a Red Sox loss — in fact, I refuse to imagine that. So, I predict a sweep.
b) The National League team that I would prefer to face in the World Series is the Dodgers. Why? Boston-L.A. is a raucous rivalry, and it would be a blast to “beat L.A.” twice in one year. It would be a classic battle of coasts, a battle of cultures, a battle of climates, a battle of styles. It’s two teams with incredibly rich baseball traditions. It would be a reunion of the 2004 Red Sox, with almost as many members of that Red Sox team on the current Dodgers squad (Manny, Lowe, and Nomar, though Nomar was only on the Sox for the first half of 2004). You know they’d show lots of highlights of the ’04 Series if the Dodgers were our opponent — and that would be fine with me. Even the Manny highlights. I still love the guy and what he brought our team.
c) When I can’t be at Fenway, my preferred mode of watching the Red Sox in a playoff game is to watch in my living room, sitting half the time and pacing the other half of the time, drinking a Polar Orange Dry soft drink, either alone or with my nine year-old son. (I’m not the best company during a Red Sox playoff game…. “anti-social” would describe me well during these three hours….)
5) I love that Francona is showing such faith in his pitching staff by keeping them in order… Daisuke, then Beckett, then Lester, with Tim Wakefield thrown in for good measure.