World Series Preview
By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor
(first presented October 26, 2009)
PHILADELPHIA (BASN/BASN NEWSROOM) — Okay, what’s it gonna be — a cheese steak or a slice? Tastykakes or bagels…
Over the next couple of weeks, we’re gonna find out, as the defending World Champion Philadelphia Phillies face the New York Yankees in the 105th edition of baseball’s World Series.
With some hopes for an extended Indian summer, this I-95 Series looms as one of the best matchups in recent years.
That said, lets get to the matchups, and give our take on who has the advantage:
First Base : Ryan Howard (Ph) v. Mark Teixeira (NY): The common factor with these two is they both provided more for their teams than expected. Teixeira didn’t wilt under the New York media heat, and Howard got down and dirty in improving his fielding while maintaining his ability to hit bombs and drive in runs.
The fact Teixeira is a perennial Gold Glove performer doesn’t change the advantage in my mind. Howard is no longer a liability defensively, hits well to all fields, and has cut down on his strikeouts throughout the playoffs.
Second Base: Chase Utley (Ph) v. Robinson Cano (NY): A lot of talent, but the only difference I see is Utley being a known positive for the Phillies, while there are times you don’t know what you’ll get out of Cano. He can be All-league one moment, then pop a brain fart the next. The range factor goes to Cano, and he has been hitting in the playoffs, but Utley has the more dependable bat – and glove.
Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins (Ph) v. Derek Jeter (NY): Y ou ask most folks on either club who is their most important player and I would guess the bulk of those answers would be with these two gentlemen. Rollins, a hard rock who talks as good a game as he plays, is a self – made man who became MVP and backbone of an organization that was never really crazy about star Black players at any time in its history (wonder what Dick Allen is thinking right now?)
Ironically, that could be said to a lesser extent about Jeter, who, in his methodical, at-bat by at-bat approach has become the symbol for a dynasty which inspires as much acrimony as ceremony. Both are great table-setters, fundamentally sound and thrive under pressure. While Rollins has better range, Jeter has better power, better presence, and is the unquestioned leader of the Imperial Institution; Bronx Vader, Lord of the Evil Empire of Major League Baseball!
Third Base: Pedro Feliz (Ph) v. Alex Rodriguez (NY): When you look at how the year started for Rodriguez and how it is finishing, vindication would be one word coming to mind. After an unbelievable media mess where he was treated like some lowly Spic, Rodriguez fought off the drama and played some solid ball, carrying and wielding a hot bat throughout the playoffs, with clutch hits and sparking fielding. Feliz is rock solid defensively, but can’t carry a club like A-Rod.
Catcher: Carlos Ruiz (Ph) v. Jorge Posada (NY): From a hype standpoint, some would look at Posada’s four rings, batting average and slugging percentage and say the Yanks are on top here; but I would strongly disagree. While not a .300 hitter, Ruiz more than makes up for that with his ability to handle a staff, and has become a very clutch bat come money time – for the second year in a row.
Left Field: Raul Ibanez (Ph) v. Hideki Matsui/Johnny Damon (NY): Addition by addition when it comes to Rauuuuuuul, who also weathered some early-season bullshit by some parasite would-be journalist (working out of his mother’s basement). A big upgrade on Pat Burrell, Ibanez is a true professional hitter. Damon and Matsui have seen better days, and this will likely be the last shot for one of them to be a piece of a championship team.
Center Field: Shane Victorino (Ph) v. Melky Cabrera (NY): Cabrera had a rocky regular season, and was even benched at one point; but has been the hottest bat for New York this side of Alex Rodriguez. Victorino will do anything to get on base, always hustles and rarely makes mistakes in the outfield.
Right Field; Jayson Werth (Ph) v. Nick Swisher (NY): T he rich have become richer as Werth has emerged as a prime time player. Aside from his uncanny resemblance to WWE rasslin’ star Edge, Werth’s game is edgy by itself. Good power and speed, and enough potential to elevate himself into the mix as a fantastic fourth option to the triumvirate of Rollins, Utley and Howard. Swisher was a pleasant surprise for Noo Yawk, who hit his way into the starting lineup (29 HR, 82 RBI).
Bench Strength: Phillies have proven commodities in pinch hitter par excellence Greg Dobbs and long drive specialist Matt Stairs. Picking up Miguel Cairo and Ben Francisco (in the Cliff Lee trade) provides great depth. Yankees have the wily Jose Molina (of the catching Molinas) and the speedy Brett Gardner; but the late season pickup of Jerry Hairston Jr. solved a long-term issue for the Bronx Bomber bench. Hairston plays five positions well, and gives them the option of keeping an extra pitcher.
Starting Pitching/Bullpen: The Yankees had this department won when the season started. Big money doled out for C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett and a dependable Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and the enigmatic Joba Chamberlain looked like money well spent. Until Wang went down, Chamberlain sputtered, and manager Joe Girardi tried to do too much.
The Phillies’ ace, Cole Hamels, struggled early, while their reliable closer, Brad Lidge, pitched like he was about to jump off a bridge.
When it was certain Philadelphia would go for a pitcher before the deadline, Toronto’s general manager, J.P. Ricciardi, waved ace Roy Halladay in their faces, hoping to restock in one master stroke. Instead the stroke’s on Toronto – Philly grabs a former Cy Young winner in Cliff Lee for next to nothing, and Lee proceeds to pitch like, well – a Cy Young winner!
As stressed as Philly’s bull pen was, the problem was solved by – doing nothing.
Manager Charlie Manuel’s faith in the guys who got him the ring helped Lidge to get his mojo back; and he looks as effective as he did in his perfect season last year.
So we have Sabathia/Burnett/Pettitte/Hughes? Vs. Lee/Hamels/Blanton and Martinez (no doubt looking for “Daddy” in New York) Advantage: a slight one to the Phillies;
Overall, we have J.A. Happ, Ryan Madsen and Chan Ho Park to get to Lidge for Philly; Hughes, Damaso Marte, Phil Coke and Chamberlain to get to the great Mariano Rivera; Advantage: Yankees – because of Rivera.
Manager: Charlie Manuel v. Joe Girardi: Unlike Girardi, Manuel has been here, won that. He trusts his players; and they bust their ass for him. Girardi is too by-the-book as he has done more harm than good for his team. When he revealed in the post-victory conference that he wore No. 27 for George Steinbrenner (with the goal of winning championship No. 27 for the Empire), my only though was if that happens, it will be in spite of rather because of Girardi’s guidance.
Prediction: While the Yankees wish to rule the galaxy again, something interesting is happening in the City of Brotherly Love (and the Eagles). The Phillies could win five World Series in row, and this would still be the ‘Iggles’ town; but to defeat the iconic Yankees would trump any victory by an Eagles team — ever. My gut says this will happen – in six games.