The Bald Truth
Stupid Cubs! They would have been the postseason's only sure prediction: Three and out, with pretty much everybody (including Lou Piniella) having an oh-fer series. But they had to ruin it ... and now who knows what's gonna happen?
So here goes nuthin':
Yankees over Twins in 4 ... You have to admire everything the Twins accomplished, coming back from three down with four to play by winning out - including one against Zack Greinke and Tuesday's epic victory over the Tigers. But there is no such thing as momentum in baseball, and Minnesota - especially its pitching - is spent. The Yankees figure to score lots of runs in this series. I'm picking them in four only because I see the Twins winning one more time at the Metrodome before it's all over.
Red Sox over Angels in 4 ... The Angels are one of those nice teams that are good at lots of things but great at not particularly anything. So it's hard for me to take them over Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and a lineup filled with guys who know how this whole October deal works.
Rockies over Phillies in 5 ... I hate the Phillies' bullpen and really like the way the Rockies have done so many things right since Jim Tracy took over as manager. They are very much like the '07 pennant-winning Rox except they pitch better. The Phillies have an incredibly balanced lineup and I'm picking this series to go the limit ... so I'd hardly be surprised if the Phils win Game 5 at home to advance. These teams are very evenly matched and this is kind of a hunch, I admit.
Cardinals over Dodgers in 3 ... Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright will win the first two games and the Cards will find a way to finish off the sweep at home. If I had a little more faith in Manny Ramirez snapping out of his slump and in the Dodgers' pitching, I'd think this could be a series ... but I don't and it won't.
"You have to tip your cap to Jim Leyland and the Detroit Tigers. They could not hold a seven-game lead in the division." - Chip Caray
The guy calls everything a "hot shot." He thought the fly that resulted in an inning-ending double play was the game-winning base hit. And he was telling us to tip our caps to a bunch of chokers. Bring back Skip and Harry, please!
On The Other Hand
Pretty impressed with Ron Darling's color work for TBS. He told us that Twins starter Scott Baker's big problem was giving up home runs to right-handed hitters and, one pitch later, Miguel Cabrera went yard. And that was just one of many insightful observations.
THE BALDEST TRUTH
Before the playoffs get going, let's hand out some hardware ...
NL MVP: Aramis Ramirez. What? It's easy to pick ALBERT PUJOLS. It takes guts to pick Aramis. But think about it: Lou Piniella says Ramirez's injury ruined the Cubbies' season, so Aramis has to be more valuable than anybody else. Pujols? Come on! Just because a guy leads the league in pretty much everything while his team wins the division going away, I'm supposed to cave in and follow the crowd?
AL MVP: Somehow, the Twins overcame a seven-game deficit in a month without top run-producer (and former MVP) Justin Morneau. OK, there's no "somehow" about it. JOE MAUER is how. And to think: The Twins sure screwed up when they drafted him instead of Mark Prior! Seriously, both Mauer and Pujols should be unanimous selections.
NL CY YOUNG: Adam Wainwright had two more wins and only a slightly higher ERA, but Chris Carpenter had incredible stats and was the driving force behind the Cardinals' incredible march to a surprising division title. Besides, Carpenter's story is one of the best in sports this year, and I've always been a sucker for a great story.
AL CY YOUNG: This isn't most valuable pitcher; it's best pitcher. And from beginning to end, ZACK GREINKE was lights-out. Give him a decent team and he wins 22, maybe even 25, games. Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander are right up there, too, as is Mariano Rivera.
NL ROOKIE: A very difficult choice, what with J.A. Happ's pitching, Andrew McCutchen's all-around talent and Casey McGehee's out-of-nowhere RBI bat. Still, I've got to go with CHRIS COGHLAN, who batted .385 in August and .390 in September/October to help keep the Marlins in the race and lead all MLB rookies in hitting.
AL ROOKIE: This is a two-man race between Rick Porcello and GORDON BECKHAM, and I'm taking the White Sox infielder whose 63 RBIs were 18 more than any other AL rookie. I'm not a guy who dismisses pitchers from the conversation just because they work only every fifth day. In fact, this was so close that I probably would have gone with Porcello had he beaten the Twins on Tuesday. In the end, I'm going with the guy who put up with Ozzie every day.
NL MANAGER: It's nearly impossible to avoid picking Tracy, but I'm going to do it. TONY LA RUSSA simply wouldn't let the Cardinals settle for anything less than a title in a division that was supposed to go handily to the Cubs. He's already the best free agent available this offseason, and I'm thinking he's going to better his bargaining power before autumn is through.
AL MANAGER: No team had to overcome more adversity than the Angels, and MIKE SCIOSCIA is ever the steady hand. I don't know him at all, really, but he seems like the kind of manager I'd like to play for. If I could hit a curveball (or anything else), of course.
NL BUST: And I thought the MVPs were obvious? There's no bigger no-brainer than MILTON BRADLEY for this "honor."
AL BUST: How could a guy with as much talent as B.J. UPTON only bat .241, drive in just 55 runs and strike out 152 times? A leading reason the Rays turned back into pumpkins months before Halloween.