The MLB playoffs begin early this afternoon, conveniently with the Rays and Rangers at 1:37 pm, so an extended lunch appears to be in order for all. Unlike David Stern’s increasingly obnoxious NBA playoff schedule, back-to-back games will actually be played and some semblance of flow will exist. The first round will be heavy on Bobby Cox’s final postseason dip and Derek Jeter’s postseason zest, and with Tom Verducci as the sideline/camera pit guy for the Braves-Giants, expect a few tear-jerking anecdotes on Cox’s remarkable tenure in Atlanta. Plus, Kid Rock will be with us the whole way!
Tampa Bay Rays vs Texas Rangers
Announcers: Don Orsillo & Buck Martinez
Valuable On-field Presence: Marc Fein? Mark Fein!
Outlook: In the final week of the season the Rays struggled to score runs, as they were shutout by both Kevin Milwood, who proved to be about as valuable as two partially sucked War Heads this year, and the great Bruce Chen. A complete game from Cliff Lee in Game 1 seems inevitable. The good news for Tampa, however, is that Evan Longoria will be back in the lineup for the first time in two weeks. The bad news for Tampa is Joe Maddon’s decision to start James Shields in Game 2. Big Game James has allowed 16 runs in his last three starts. I don’t like it, but Texas must love it.
Prediction: Rangers in 4.
Philadelphia Phillies vs Cincinnati Reds
Announcers: Brian Anderson & Joe Simpson (The Royals outfielder and Jessica Simpson’s dad? Sounds like a party)
Valuable On-field Presence: David Aldridge
Outlook: The Phillies had an unbelievable finish to the season and look like they’ll plow through the NL like a hooker on Horny Goat Weed. Having said that, I think the Reds will surprise some people. They won’t win the series, but they’ll be feisty. With the Phillies as such heavy favorites, it will be downright hysterical if Doc get shelled in Game 1. Dare to dream? Yes, yes I do.
Prediction: Phillies in 5.
New York Yankees vs Minnesota Twins
Announcers: Ernie Johnson, Ron Darling & John Smoltz
Valuable On-field Presence: Craig Sager and his obnoxious eye black
Outlook: All anyone can talk about is the Yankees success against the Twins in both the regular season and the postseason. This series feels a little similar to how we went into postseason play last year where all anyone could talk about – again – were A-Rod’s postseason struggles. Eventually, things tend to even out, and A-Rod went on to have a tremendous postseason. Well, unfortunately I think this is the year the Twins finally get over the hump against the Yanks. Morneau won’t be in the linup, but Yankee fans should not underestimate Thome mojo; they should fear it.
Prediction: Twins in 4.
Atlanta Braves vs San Francisco Giants
Announcers: Dick Stockton’s smoking head & Bob Brenly
Valuable On-field Presence: Tom Verducci
Outlook: This one’s pretty easy. The Braves have been a mess for a good month now and the Giants have Timmy’s arm, Pat Burrell’s courage and Bruce Bochy’s mustache. But since I see the Giants getting through this series with ease, don’t be surprised when you’re witnessing a classic October gem from Derek Lowe, followed by pure balls from Tim Hudson, followed by Bobby Cox circling the bases on wings of whiskey when Atlanta closes out the series at Turner Field.
Prediction: Giants in 3.
NLCS: Giants over Phillies in 6
ALCS: Twins over Rangers in 5
World Series: Twins over Giants in 6
Remember last year’s unofficial postseason anthem? To this day, any time this song comes on I’m immediately taken back to last October, a booze-filled, chain smoking marathon filled with lots of Rain Man pacing:
Jason McIntyre’s picks, just for posterity:
Yankees over Twins in 4
Rays over Rangers in 5
Phillies over Reds in 4
Giants over Braves in 4
Yankees over Rays in 6
Phillies over Giants in 6
Yankees over Phillies in 6