I’m not sure if it’s your duty, Judy, but despite lingering disappointment over the Dodgers’ exit from the baseball playoffs (or the Yankees, Padres or Twins, the other teams that didn’t survive this round), there’s every reason to think the remaining four teams will give us an entertaining show on the way to the World Series.
The most ratings-challenged pairing, Detroit vs. Oakland, which starts tonight, has the makings of a classic, so hopefully someone will watch. Both teams feature the most basic elements in baseball: Great pitching and power. You will see Tiger hurlers like Justin Verlander trying to whip the ball past the reborn home-run hitting “Big Hurt,” Frank Thomas. You will see Athletics’ curveball artist Barry Zito trying to fool a young Tiger lineup, anchored by three underappreciated veteran stars, Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordonez and Ivan Rodriguez.
The Tigers have the edge, I think. They’ve got one of the best managers of our era, Jim Leyland, they’ve got more speed than Oakland, and they’ve got a better bullpen. But the advantage is not overwhelming. This series will be a revelation — the making of at least a few new stars’ reputations.
The NL series, which starts Wednesday night, features two better-known teams, the New York Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals, who feature the game’s best player nowadays, Albert Pujols, have been in the post-season frequently this decade, reaching the World Series in 2004, only to be swept by the walking-on-air Boston Red Sox. They were a tougher team back then than they are now, but they are still dangerous.
This year’s Mets were built somewhat like the Yankees — a few homegrown stars like David Wright and Jose Reyes, surrounded by expensive veterans like Carlos Delgado, Tom Glavine, Carlos Beltran and the injured Pedro Martinez. I have no idea how the Mets can survive a seven-game series with so many of their pitchers hurt. But St. Louis has pitching problems too. If you like a lot of home runs, I think the NL series will be where to find them.