Cold nights. Bright lights. Rowdy fans. The 2009 World Series will be the best we’ve seen since the Florida Marlins beat the Cleveland Indians in 1997. I know baseball enthusiasts wanted a Dodgers/Yankees showdown, but who wants to watch the most important series of the year played in daylight, in LA nonetheless? Not me. The World Series belongs under the lights, in the northeast. Ok, it shouldn’t be exclusively in the northeast. (However, a majority of sports’ most passionate fan bases reside in the northeast. This isn’t an east coast bias thing. It’s true.
The most significant reason is the environment. Here in the northeast, we spend half the year trapped inside. Other than amazing leaf color in the fall and some nice spring blooms, we’ve got very little to be excited about. Mountain and Pacific time zone fans have year round beaches, amazing mountains, canyons, and vast forests with unbelievable wild life. We have squirrels, deer, and Ed Rendell. Northeasterners are better fans and more passionate because they have more time and fewer distractions. Look it up, I’m not lying. Oh yeah, most of us aren’t as rich as the southern California crowd either.)
OK, back to business. I expected a lot from the 2009 MLB Playoffs. After 3 sweeps, the 3- 1 & 4- 1 victories by the Phillies, and a less than thrilling 4- 2 ALCS, you could say I’ve been disappointed. Baseball can still make it up to me though. A seven (I’ll settle for six) game, back and forth, affair between the Phillies and Yankees will heal all of my 2009 playoff wounds. It’s not too much to ask for a competitive World Series, is it? Since the aforementioned 1997 series, there have been five sweeps, three 4- 1 thrashings, one 6 game series, and two that went the distance (7 games). For the most important series of the playoffs, that is less than impressive. Until recent years, I had the same gripe with the NFL Super Bowl. A season full of competitive games usually led to a humdrum blowout in the biggest showcase of the season. Don’t let me down, baseball. I can’t handle too much more.
By the way, I loved the 1997 World Series for several reasons. I’ll list them briefly for you.
– It was a wild series where neither team was able to string together multiple wins.
– It went the full seven games.
– There was snow in game three; this raises the excitement level by at least two points.
– In addition to the snow, 11 runs were scored in the 9th inning of game three.
– Darren Daulton was on national television, seven times.
– I loved watching Cleveland’s offense and hearing the tribal drum.
– It was the first time I saw a pitcher (Jose Mesa) with a crazy colored glove.
– Gary Sheffield’s batting stance.
– A walk- off, series deciding hit in the bottom of the 11th with two outs. FYI, this is the brief version. I loved this series.
OK, back to business (again). Every newspaper, sports network, website, and blog has already broken down every aspect of this series so I’m not going to bother here. Instead, I’ll give you a few other things to look for as the best World Series in over a decade unfolds (fingers crossed, fingers crossed).
This is one of the few World Series in the past decade where the two teams present an intriguing matchup without taking talent, rosters, managers, etc, etc… into consideration. The 2000 Series between the Yankees and Mets (existing hatred), and the 2002 Series between the Angels and Giants (EVERYONE hated Barry Bonds) were the others. The unique aspect of the 2009 Series is that the Phillies and Yankees don’t genuinely hate each other; the fans do. When fans have an extreme disdain for opposing fans, it often translates into the locker rooms, or in this case, the clubhouse. I’ve spoken with a few friends from the NYC area over the past few days and they’ve confirmed that Yankee fans are generally Giants fans. In case you’re new to sports, the Eagles have an arch nemesis that goes by, “Giants.” See, these fans really do hate each other. Combine the fan hatred with Rollins’ guarantee and the addition of Brett Myers to the roster, and I guarantee we will see some fireworks before this series is over. It’s un- Yankee like to brawl, but the stage and intensity may require some guerrilla tactics.
While I can’t confirm this, if you polled Major League Baseball pitchers on which ballpark they least like to pitch in, these two stadiums would be in the top three. Even the cold air won’t be enough to knock down the number of long flies we’ll see throughout the series. This series also pairs the most potent offenses in their respective leagues, two of the three highest slugging percentages in baseball (NYY 1, Boston 2, PHI 3), three of the top ten HR hitters in MLB this year (would have been four if A- Rod were healthy all year), and a total of 12 players with more than 80 RBI (Yankees- 7, Phillies- 5). So yeah, there’s going to be some offense in this series. I can’t say I’m disappointed either.
Obviously, I am more than excited about the potential offensive onslaught in the series. There are also three individual matchups that I am eager to see play out. The first is the battle for POM, or “Premier Offensive Masher.” Will it be A- Rod or Ryan Howard? Alex Rodriguez is hands down the best player in baseball. He’s proven that this postseason. Howard is one of the game’s most feared offensive forces. If these two engage in a classic “match this” battle, we will be in for a real treat. The second matchup is the closers. We all know Mariano Rivera rules October (and the other 11 months). Brad Lidge, on the other hand, rebounded from a shaky regular season to perform nicely in the playoffs thus far. However, Lidge has not faced a team in a save situation that has a batter (other than Manny) that can tie or win the game with one swing. The Yankee lineup is filled with these players. One bad pitch in a close game could cost Lidge and the Phillies more than a base hit or a runners- on jam. The final matchup is between the alternate sluggers. The series may be decided by Mark Teixeira and Jayson Werth. If A- Rod and Howard remain hot, both Teixeira and Werth will have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs. The player that has the better series will play a significantly role in who ultimately wins this series.
It’s important that we recognize the horde of reporters that will be covering this series. It’s not easy taking notes at a Charlie Manuel press conference. Here’s a fictional example. Charlie says: “Yeh, uh, I like that uh, duh, uh, Jimmy played that ball real good.” A reporter must somehow interpret what Charlie really means. Allow me. Charlie meant: “You know, Jimmy Rollins is a fine shortstop. He played that ball perfectly. He stayed down, attacked the ball, and made a strong, accurate throw to beat the runner.” Not everyone can translate Charlie’s native tongue. It’s a special gift.
As I mentioned in a previous post, the dugout cam is fantastic. This is the creme de la creme of dugout cam ball clubs. If you had your choice of all 30 teams, you couldn’t find two dugout entertainers quite like the Phillies and Yankees. This is why we watch. My quick dugout cam viewing guide:
- Shane Victorino talking to a teammate while the teammate looks overwhelmed by the rate of Shane’s speech. This makes me laugh each time. The teammate is always thinking, “Holy crap, your lips move almost as fast at your legs.” Great fun.
- Multiple close- ups of Pedro Martinez’s mullet/afro/perm. I still haven’t decided which it is.
- A- Rod/Jeter butt grabs
- Nick Swisher’s antics, dude is craaaazzzzy.
- Joe Girardi melting his brain over each managerial decision. Always look for the 958 page scouting report binder behind you, Joe. You know, the one you referred to when you blew game three against the Angels.
- Track how many times you confuse Matt Stairs for a bullpen catcher. Happens to me all the time, “Hey, why’s the bullpen catcher in the dugout? That doesn’t seem righhh…oh, my bad. That’s just Matt Stairs.”
- Does Derek Jeter’s hair move…ever? It’s 2009, no documentation exists that proves otherwise. This is perhaps the greatest controversy in baseball since the Pete Rose fiasco. Steroids is a close second. The dug out cam might break this case wide open.
Larry Bowa. Poor Larry. For the past however many years, Bowa has been employed by the Philadelphia Phillies or the New York Yankees. In 2008, Bowa followed pal Joe Torre to Los Angeles to coach the Dodgers. Since joining LA, Bowa’s had front row seats for the Phillies’ annual demolition of the Dodgers in the NLCS. Now, he gets to watch both former teams face off in the World Series. Maybe Larry should not have followed old Joe to la- la land. Regardless, I love Larry Bowa. If I were rich, I would pay a large sum of money to have him yell at me when I screw up. How this is relevant to anything, I have no idea. I jotted down this note last week and refused to not include it.
Keep an eye out for:
“Who’s your daddy?” chants reigning down from the Yankee faithful in game two in the Bronx. This goes back to Pedro’s Boston days when he stated after a loss to New York, “I just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy.” Gotta love playoff baseball.
Hideki Matsui’s ear lobes. I love Matsui, but you could hide a small child behind those things.
I promised myself I wouldn’t make any jokes about CC Sabathia’s pants this time. (Trying not to type one, trying so hard, almost moving past the temptation) Ok, Ok, Ok, I can’t do it… If the winds pick up in the Bronx, there’s a strong possibility that DirectTV won’t be the only blimp in the sky. Whew, I feel much better.
At some point throughout the first inning (or early innings, I can’t remember), the Yankee faithful chant each of the Yankee fielders names until they acknowledge the crowd. This is cool. Again, the more organized and clever fans are, the closer “sports” gets to attaining its full potential.
Best Scenario, ever: FOX guest analyst Ozzie Guillen interviews Charlie Manuel when Charlie is handed the Commissioner’s Trophy as 99.9% of American households collectively say, “Huhh?”
Prediction: Uhhh, the Sixers will struggle in the early, middle, and latter part of the season. (P.S. I don’t necessarily believe this, but it’s too easy to make fun of the 76ers. I can’t resist.)