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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

October is finally here

As the Major League Baseball Playoffs begin today, several questions remain unanswered. Will the defending champion New York Yankees rebound from a poor finish, figuring out their pitching woes? Despite winning the American League West, will the Texas Rangers be a surprise contender? Can the Atlanta Braves continue the magical ride and emotional quest for their leader, Manager Bobby Cox? What we do know is that the best professional sports playoff season is finally here!

It’s no secret that the Yankees have a significant weakness going into the playoffs. CC Sabathia has been the only consistent member of the pitching staff throughout the season; Sabathia is likely to win his second (first with New York) Cy Young Award. Even Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of all-time, has faltered recently, failing to convert save opportunities. Without the cut to his cutter, Mo is a very average aging closer.

Unfortunately for Texas, Hall of Famer and new-owner, Nolan Ryan will not be available to pitch during the division series versus’ the Tampa Bay Rays. The trade acquisition of lefty Cliff Lee from the Seattle Mariners has been successful thus far, but for the Rangers to win their second postseason game in their history, they will need for their lineup to get healthy fast. Outfielder Josh Hamilton announced to the world at the home run derby at Yankee Stadium that he was officially back from the brink, but this is his opportunity to become an iconic figure in baseball.

The Atlanta Braves are this year’s darling pick of the postseason. This being Manager Bobby Cox’s last season, he retires after 20 years on the bench with a young, exciting group of players, led by outfield phenom Jason Heyward. But if Atlanta is to continue this magical quest for their manager, they will need their pitching staff be great. They have the guys to do it, but unfortunately they’ll have to go through Philadelphia which will not end pretty for the Atlanta faithful; that is if they even get past the San Francisco Giants.

The ALDS will conclude with the Rangers surprising the favorite Rays and the Yankees destroying the Minnesota Twins. David Price is an absolute stud and in my opinion, the best pitcher in baseball. I have not seen a fastball with as much movement and violent force as his since "The Big Unit," Randy Johnson. I don’t trust the rest of their staff though, leading me to believe that they will not be able to cover up the holes in their free-swinging lineup. The Twins have no chance against the Yankees. As Jay Z would say, “On to the next one.”

The NLDS will conclude with the Giants sending Cox to retirement early and the Phillies having their way with the Cincinnati Reds. The Braves are an emotional favorite, but for the Giants to win their way into the playoffs, momentum is clearly on their side. It also helps that they have “The Freak,” Tim Lincecum, as well as a viable number two and three starters. In the playoffs, it’s all about pitching. The Reds are the surprise of the year, but I just haven’t seen enough from them to convince me that they will be able to compete. The scariest guy on their team is 105 mph flame-thrower/set-up man Aroldis Chapman, whom will not even have the chance to even get in the game. The Phillies are hot and have done this before; they will sweep the Reds.

I could see the ALCS going seven games. The combination of the Rangers having home field advantage and the Yankees having to use Sabathia two, maybe three times will favor Texas. But after Lee, their starting pitching is suspect. This being the playoffs, a completely different ballgame, the Texas staff will not be able to handle the heat, as the Bombers will hit their way back into the World Series. Look for a huge series from first baseman and former Ranger, Mark Teixeira.

The Giants will be a tougher than the Reds were, but in the end, even their strong pitching won't be enough. The Phillies are just too good at the right time. Loaded at every position, this hard nosed group will march into the World Series looking for revenge against the Yankees.

Whether you want to believe it or not, this is the series with the two best teams in baseball. The Yankees and Phillies weren’t always the most consistent teams throughout the 2010 season, but they are the most talented and will show up when it matters. The taste of champagne is too sweet to forget, as they both will battle through a seven game series.

With the addition of Roy Halladay, he will win two, maybe three games for his new team in the series. He is not intimidated by the New York stage or pinstripe mystique. Newcomer Roy Oswalt should pitch well as well. He is as tough as they come and will be amped up to pitch for a contender. Second baseman Chase Utley will not get a pitch to hit; this guy has no conscience and will hurt somebody if given the opportunity to swing.

Alex Rodriguez will quiet the haters and doubters once again, performing at the highest level. Count on Cy Young quality pitching from Sabathia and vintage Andy Pettitte when its needed most. Despite the worst season of his Hall of Fame career, Derek Jeter will announce to the world that he’s not done yet. Never count out or doubt the captain. Jeter was born to play, lead, excel and win in October/November.

But without further ado…

The New York Yankees will win their 28th championship.

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