Posted by sportsmaven on September 30, 2008
It almost didn’t happen. Two series ago, the Chicago White Sox were left for dead. They went into Minnesota to play the badly limping Twins, armed with a 2.5 game lead and left down by .5 game with 3 to play. At least they were home and playing a Cleveland Indians team that was playing out the string in a disappointing season. The Twins were doing their part, losing the first two games of their final series against an all of a sudden very tough Kansas City Royals team, but the Sox kept throwing the generosity back, losing their first two games as well. Then, the first break came. Indians LHP Cliff Lee, the probable AL Cy Young Award winner and 22-game winner was shut down due to a stiff neck. The next break came in the form of a clutch outing by LHP Mark Buehrle on Sunday to extend the season. The third break was facing RHP Freddy Garcia (who so happens to be married to Sox manager Ozzie Guillen’s wife’s niece) and the Detroit Tigers at home. The break after that was Garcia pulled from the game in the 6th inning after shutting down the Sox, only to be followed by 2B Alexi Ramirez’ grand slam to win the game for the Sox. The biggest break of them all? Hosting a one game playoff for the AL Central Division title at home against Minnesota.
(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
The local Chicago media has been focused on a dual Cubs/Sox playoff presence for most of the baseball season. Both teams were in 1st place in their respective divisions for most of the season. TBS made a huge mention of this fact tonight on their television broadcast, as well as the fact that it has been 102 years since both the Cubs and the Sox made the post-season in the same year. Nobody else mentioned the fact that in the same city theme, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Los Angeles Dodgers also made the playoffs this season. Little coverage, little play anywhere for that story. Since 1901, the White Sox have made the post-season 10 times, in 2008, 2005, 2000, 1993, 1983, 1959, 1919, 1917, 1906, and 1901. In the same timeframe, the Cubs have made the post-season 16 times, in 2008, 2007, 2003, 1998, 1989, 1984, 1945, 1938, 1935, 1932, 1929, 1918, 1910, 1908, 1907, and 1906. The last time both the Cubs and Sox make the playoffs in the same year? That’s right, 1906. In contrast, the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s have made the playoffs in the same season 5 times since 1968. The New York Yankees and New York Mets have shared post seasons three times since 1969 and the Dodgers and Angels have done it twice since 1961.
There have been 17 intracity World Series matchups in baseball history. The Yankees and Mets played each other in the 2000 World Series, dubbed the Subway Series. In 1989, the A’s swept the Giants in the Bay Series, marred by a devestating earthquake. Then it’s the Yankees vs. Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956 and 1955, 1953, 1952, 1949, 1947, and 1941. In the middle, the St. Louis Cardinals vs. St. Louis Browns in 1944. Before that, it’s the Yankees again vs. New York Giants in 1951, 1937, 1936, 1923, 1922, and 1921. Chicago Cubs vs. the Chicago White Sox? Once, in 1906.
I don’t know if this will be the year for the Chicago match up for the ages, but something special is in the air in the Chicago baseball world in 2008. Lets hope that it’s not another century before this happens again.
Posted in Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox | Tagged: Alexi Ramirez, Brooklyn Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Cliff Lee, Detroit Tigers, Freddy Garcia, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Dodgers, Mark Buehrle, Minnesota Twins, New York Giants, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Oakland A's, Ozzie Guillen, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Browns, St. Louis Cardinals, TBS | 3 Comments »
Posted by sportsmaven on September 25, 2008
Hardly a day goes by before someone spouts an opinion about who our beloved Chicago Cubs should or should not want to play in the playoffs. Just this evening, I had a conversation with my wife, her cousin, and a couple of other well informed sports theorists on the merits of each team the Cubs may have to face in the upcoming playoffs.
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Like many others, I was initially caught up in the popular debate. I originally wanted the Cubs to face the New York Mets in the NLDS, as the Mets provide a very favorable matchup for the Cubs. Anyone, but the Philadelphia Phillies, I thought. After the Cubs, the Phillies were the most complete team in the NL this season and played the Cubs very tough this season. Then I jumped on the Los Angeles Dodgers bandwagon, Manny Ramirez included. The Dodgers were less imposing, offensively challenged, and in the weakest division in Major League Baseball, the good old National League West division. Ripe for the picking.
The Milwaukee Brewers? Won’t have to even think about facing the Brewers until the NLCS, that is if they secure the NL Wildcard. That bullpen, the streaky offense, did the Brewers ride CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets into the ground in their push to the playoffs?
Amidst the thinking of the various scenarios and how they would potentially play out, another scenario popped into my little head, like a great rush of fresh air. It seemed almost too simple to comprehend, as though simplicity eliminated the potential of this concept to be with merit.
Really, it doesn’t matter who the Cubs play in the playoffs. There are no Pittsburgh Pirates or Washington Nationals in the playoffs. Every team that makes the playoffs is an excellent quality team. Each playoff team has it’s flaws, some more than others. The playoffs are seldom about the best team during the season, but rather, the team playing the best when the playoffs happen to be played. It’s a crapshoot – the team with the hot hand has the best chance of going all the way, first to win 11games wins it all. It means that the Brewers or Dodgers have as good a chance as the Cubs in winning a World Series. It means that the Chicago White Sox or Minnesota Twins have as good a chance to win it all as the Tampa Bay Rays or the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Network analysts, newspaper sports columnists, Peter Gammons, Ken Rosenthal and other baseball talking heads get paid to spin their most favorable matchups for each playoff team, to analyze favorites and make predictions based on the results of a 162 game season. It’s even vogue to pick a dark horse, playing on past runs of underdog wildcard teams such as the St. Louis Cardinals, who won 83 games en route to a unlikely World Championship in 2006 over a 95 win Detroit Tigers team.
The team that will win the 2008 World Series will be the team that plays unified team baseball, puts it all together at the right time, catches lightning in a bottle to ride a hot streak that lasts for a month, a team that powers through the 11 wins necessary to be called World Champions. Destiny has already chosen the 2008 World Series Champion. The only question remaining is if destiny has chosen the Chicago Cubs, or do the Cubs have the balls and heart to go out and get their destiny? Come October 30th, we’ll all know the answer to that question.
Posted in Chicago Cubs | Tagged: Ben Sheets, CC Sabathia, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, destiny, Detroit Tigers, Ken Rosenthal, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Dodgers, Major League Baseball, Manny Ramirez, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, National League, New York Mets, NLCS, NLDS, Peter Gammons, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays, Washington Nationals, World Series | 2 Comments »