Well, I got the Boston Red Sox right with my predictions in late March, and if that didn’t exactly take a Nostradamus I was one of the few to get the Philadelphia Phillies right as well, mainly because I simply hated the Mets. Give me half credit for having the Cleveland Indians in the playoffs as the American League wild card team, not the Central Division champs that they turned out to be with their much-improved bullpen (even if closer Joe Borowski was as iffy as I’d expected). And I should get half credit for the San Diego Padres as well, even if I can’t say the Padres were the better team in their one-game wild-card playoff with the Rockies in Colorado Monday.
San Diego manager Bud Black played three butchers in the outfield in the most critical game of the year, and they cost his team the game. Yeah, I know, Mike Cameron and Milton Bradley were hurt, but what, you’re telling me the entire San Diego minor league system didn’t have even a Sam Fuld* to call upon? That indictment falls on San Diego general manager Kevin Towers as well. Wouldn’t Jermaine Dye have looked good — even in one of those nauseous oatmeal-colored Padre unis — playing for the Padres Monday night? Or even Brian Anderson? I don’t know what his White Sox counterpart Kenny Williams was holding out for to deal them, but Towers has to be kicking his own ass for not pulling the trigger on whatever it was. Boston is my no-brainer pick to win it all right now behind Josh Beckett, but San Diego had the pitching to compete. Pity the Padres didn’t get the chance.
Oh, that’s right, I had the Milwaukee Brewers over the Cubs, too, didn’t I? Yet with the notable caveat that the Brewers would hold up only as long as ace Ben Sheets did. That proved to be prophetic. The Brewers tanked when Sheets went on the disabled list with a finger strain at midseason, then finished their implosion when he pulled up lame with a bad hamstring going to the mound, after he had already rallied them on his return in September. Also, allow me to point out I was one of the few to label the Arizona Diamondbacks possible contenders.
So what about the Cubs-Diamondbacks series? First, baseball proceeds not to shoot itself in the foot, but to hand the gun to TV and tell it to blast away by letting Fox and TBS fix the schedule. Postseason baseball, to me, is afternoon weekday games in October — kids sneaking radios into school and adults slipping out of work to catch a few innings in a bar. Instead, TBS will present all three games in Arizona — if three games in Arizona there are — at 9 PM CST. What, no Chicago schoolkid has an interest in the outcome?
That said, I like the Cubs, but not as much as others. The Snakes won 90 games while being outscored for a reason, and that reason is Brandon Webb. He figures to go in Games 1 and 5. I like the Cubs’ Carlos Zambrano on the road in Arizona in Wednesday’s opener, but not so much if he goes with three days’ rest in Game 4 here in Chicago on Sunday. He looked awful at home against the Cincinnati Reds on short rest in a critical series in September, and I wouldn’t expect him any better in the playoffs. Still, the Cubs — yes, the Cubs — have the more experienced playoff roster, and manager Lou Piniella has been known to work postseason miracles, as with the world champion Reds in 1990 and, as Sox fans can attest, with the Seattle Mariners, flummoxing the Sox in 2000. I’ll take the Cubs in four games, but I fear whoever emerges from the Phils-Rox series. Even so, it doesn’t matter. The BoSox — or whoever takes the AL pennant — will win the World Series handily. This year, there are no Detroit Tiger pretenders in that bunch.
*Scroll down to September 22 for video of the rookie’s catch in the ivy at Wrigley.