Friday, October 31, 2008

2008 Playoffs

This was the first postseason in a long time that my team didn't participate in, but that didn't stop me from watching it. Unfortunately, overall it was still a bit of a letdown. The ALCS was great, but it was the only exciting series of the seven that were played.

The divisional series were more balanced than last year, with only one sweep by the Dodgers of the hapless Cubs (are they EVER going to win?) instead of three, but still none went to game 5. I guessed wrong on both NL series, and really expected, or maybe just hoped, for more competition all around. I'm getting seriously annoyed with the Angels, always somehow beating the Yankees but playing like crap whenever they face the Red Sox in the postseason. They could have won the series if they fielded, hit, and managed like they weren't a AA team.

The Rays were really the stars of the playoffs, regardless of the final result. They pretty convincingly beat the White Sox, and finally bucked the highly irritating trend of the Red Sox coming back from a big series deficit to win it all. They came close, but Matt Garza pitched a great game and David price finished them off, getting to their first World Series. It really is a good story, a team with a history of failure finally puts it together with a young, exciting ballclub and makes it to the playoffs one year removed from being last in the league. So good that it swayed many of my fellow fans into rooting for them despite they're being a division rival, which is something you don't usually see.

But the Phillies swept the Dodgers aside pretty handily (again, I have nothing against Joe Torre, but I'm relieved that I don't have to hear as many stories about how great he is without the Yankees) and treated the Rays the same way. They really were pretty impressive, only losing three games in the entire playoffs and overcoming a bizarre delay in game 5 that lasted almost two days to finish the victory. Cole Hamels was dominant, and solidified himself as one of the game's best young aces.

A couple things became clear this October. One: Bud Selig is bad at his job. I've complained before about his moronic changes to the game, and he's the one ultimately to blame for the game 5 to fiasco. They knew weather was coming, but they tried to get the game in and it could have become a giant mess. Two: Instant Replay works and should be expanded. Multiple obvious errors were made that could have been game changers, and the quality of umpiring is clearly getting worse and not better. Allowing challenges on home run calls hasn't disrupted anything and works, so there's no reason it shouldn't be applicable on more sorts of plays. Unfortunately, number one might make this take a while. Three: Lazy sports "experts" can stop automatically predicting that the American League team will win the World Series. Including 2008, National League teams have won four titles just this decade, and despite the obvious disparity in talent between the two leagues, it shouldn't be surprising for the best of the NL to win four games against the best of the AL, especially with the crazy things that we know can happen in such a small sample. The quality of baseball discussion in major papers and websites is pretty dire, and it's time these guys learned how to actually analyze the game.

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