Well, the MLB playoffs are here, a bittersweet time for me – and many of my readers – for sure. There is a sadness that the Royals aren’t part of the festivities this year. The last two Octobers were so much fun, even if they were intensely stressful. I imagine my blood pressure will appreciate watching games more casually this year. Yet there will be the constant references to the Royals for the next month, which will be good. Watching the Wild Card games, I couldn’t help but think of dozens of moments from the past two years. So it might suck that the Royals couldn’t put a third-straight playoff run together, but their absence makes the memories of 2014 and 2015 shine a little brighter.
I think this year’s playoffs are set up to the one of the best editions ever. Is that based on the teams involved? Not really. Although there are certainly a number of compelling stories in this year’s participants and the matchups. Is it because of Wild Card games, which were both fantastic, enthralling affairs? As good as those games were, they will have no effect on the quality of the rest of the post-season.
Nope, I base that prediction on one thing: 1986, the year after the Royals won their first World Series, was perhaps the greatest postseason in MLB history. The Mets-Astros NLCS is often mentioned as the best single playoff series in baseball history. The ALCS counterpart, between the Red Sox and Angels, was nearly as good. And then the World Series was an epic, unforgettable one.
The Royals won the World Series last year. History tells us that this year’s playoffs will be amazing.
Toronto vs. Texas. This is the Neutral Party series. Folks who have no feelings about either team are looking forward to it after their amazing ALDS series last year and their big fight back in May of this year. Toronto has been banged up all year, but seem to be getting healthy at the right time. But I don’t think they have enough pitching, and Texas is playing to atone for last year, when they feel they should have advanced.
Rangers in Five
Boston vs. Cleveland. On the one hand, Cleveland’s pitching staff has slowly been falling apart over the past month. It’s hard to see them getting through a five-game series with so many problems in their starting rotation. On the other, they weathered every storm this season and kept chugging along. And the city of Cleveland is on a bit of a roll, so perhaps the Indians are this year’s team of destiny. I think Boston is just better, though.
Red Sox in Four
Boston is always in the news. That comes with their market, with the national fixation on the franchise, and their bandwagon fans scattered around the country. But Texas was quietly excellent all season long. My guess is the Rangers slowly, methodically, steal this series and end David Ortiz’s career.
Rangers in Six
Giants vs. Cubs. There is a specter hanging over the playoffs. That specter is Madison Bumgarner. After his complete-game shutout of the Mets last night, he looks to be back in his 2014 postseason form. All I heard on MLB radio this morning was how he was going to be the difference in this series. Which may be the case. But I think Joe Madden is the perfect manager to counter Bumgarner’s magic. He’ll keep the Cubs loose, and while the Giants will win Bumgarner’s game three start, it won’t be enough. My girls will be excited that Johnny Cueto is pitching game two!
Cubs in Four
Dodgers vs. Nationals. Here is the series I struggle with most. I don’t watch much NL baseball, so I only have a vague understanding of each team. And then do we knock the Dodgers for their recent October collapses, or is this a different team? Are Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy healthy enough to be factors? Will Clayton Kershaw get over his personal October jinx? I think Max Scherzer beats Kershaw twice, and the Nats squeeze out a win in game five to advance.
Nationals in Five
There’s a lot of potential destiny at work this year. Can the Indians ride the wave that LeBron and company created in June? Will David Ortiz go out on top? And then the Cubs are trying to end 108 years of postseason failure. When at their best this year, the Cubs were awesome. The concern is they had some awfully mediocre runs sprinkled in there. The Nats have been the flashy team in the past only to come up short in October. This season they were just a steady team that cranked out wins all season. The Cubs are smarting from last season’s NLCS sweet against the Mets. The Nats feel like they should have been in the World Series in 2014. The Cubs will be the team that overcomes their recent past.
Cubs in Seven
For all the media hype that would go along with it, I’ll admit a Red Sox – Cubs, Fenway – Wrigley World Series would be awesome. So there’s going to be some disappointment with this matchup. The hype will still be deafening with the Cubs in their first World Series since 1945. Everyone will pick the Cubs. Which makes a lot of sense. They were a great team this year, have arguably the best manager in the game, their home games are going to be absolutely raucous, and they have every piece they need to win this year. The Rangers aren’t as flashy or as complete. But the best team doesn’t always win in October, and I think this is the Rangers’ year. Sorry, Cubs fans. You’ll have to wait until next year.
Rangers in Six