Tuesday, October 21

MLB playoff predictions: World Series

Finally, onto the Tampa Bay-Philadelphia Fall Classic that everyone was picking at the start of the season!

After a solid 3-1 first round, I missed on my picks for both LCS series. Oh well. In the NL, I overcompensated for underestimating the Dodgers by instead overlooking what has proven to be a pretty good Phillie team. Over in the AL, my inner pessimist got in the way of a clear-headed choice, though I'm absolutely elated to be wrong any time it means the red socks have to sit home and watch the postseason unfold without them.

World Series

New York Yankees vs. Nobody

Philadelphia Shelbyvillians vs. Tuberculosis Devil Rays
There's no question that the Tampa Bay Rays have been the story of the 2008 Major League Baseball season. For a team that had never even posted a winning record, competing in baseball's toughest division, to come out and earn a spot in the World Series, well, it's remarkable. The Phillies aren't quite the same human-interest story, but firejoemorgan.com points out that zero of ESPN's 18 experts had them advancing from the four-team NL pool at the start of the playoffs. Neither did I, though at least I had them toppling the Brewers.

As much as I've enjoyed the Rays slaying the AL East giants this season, I'm supporting Philly here, and not just because I'm from New Phila (pronounced like "Philly" and also short for Philadelphia), Ohio. It's because I empathize with their plight and also feel like Tampa Bay sports fans (do these exist?) have had it way too good.

While I plow ahead season after season having never seen a Cleveland championship in my life (as we know, the last one was the Browns in 1964), Tampa Bay, that noted sports hotbed, has enjoyed both a Stanley Cup and a Super Bowl championship in this decade. This makes me insanely jealous. It's not fair, damnit, just like Boston's absurd success in the '00's. Now they're on the verge of a World Series title, the prize I covet most out of them all.

Philly, on the other hand, has almost certainly the roughest drought of any metro not at the intersection of the Cuyahoga and Lake Erie. Their last win was 1983, that being the 76ers, with the Phillies (1980) before that. (For completeness' sake, the Eagles claimed the NFL in 1960 and the Flyers' last Cup was 1975). That's 25 years of a four-sport city going without a title, close to 100 seasons. Cleveland's is approximately 128 campaigns. Philly fans, I feel your pain.

But the question is, again, who do I think will win? The Rays once again have home-field advantage thanks to the dumbest idea Bud Selig ever had, which is a substantial advantage for them. Philly's run differential for the year was 16 better than TB's, but in an inferior league. The AL was only 22 games over .500 against the NL this year - not as dominant, but it's still a better collection of talent. So you can basically wash out run differential. Both teams are at full strength, both have three very good starters and a strong bullpen back-end, and both feature lineups that can score consistently and in bunches. This could be a really good series!

Vegas has the Rays at -135 and Philly at +115. I was leaning Rays before getting the pros' opinions, and I'm still going that way. Ladies and gentlemen, the most unlikely World Series champion ever:

Rays in 7

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