So it comes down to this. I've heard so many 'experts' (and, disturbingly, Phillies fans) tell me that the Phillies are as good as done... that the Dodgers might as well start printing World Series tickets now. The Dodgers will win in seven games, I'm told.
I don't see it that way. Sure, the Dodgers are hot right now, having posted a 22-8 record in September. So what? The Phillies are 22-9 over the same span.
How do the 'experts' at ESPN see things?
Jayson Stark, Tim Kurkjian, and Steve Phillips are calling for L.A. winning in seven games. Jim Caple has it L.A. in five games. Rob Neyer bucks the lemming trend, goes out on a limb and calls for the Phillies in seven.
Manager And Manny
Oh yes, there's Joe Torre - a great manager to be sure. But... there's nobody named Derek Jeter on this team. No Bernie Williams. No Andy Pettite, no Jorge Posada, no Mariano Rivera. No $200 million payroll.
There is Manny Ramirez, of course. That's something to talk about. But when you get past him, what is there? Jeff Kent? I think the Phillies can feel safe squaring off against his 12 home runs. Matt Kemp (18 homers) and Andre Ethier (20) are good players too, but they're a pretty big drop off from Manny.
Phillies? Yes, The Phillies
The Phils somehow managed (sarcasm firmly intended) to get past Ryan Braun (37 homers) and Prince Fielder (34), so they can deal with guys who hit home runs. And the Red Sox seem to be getting along just fine without Mr. Malcontent.
The season series? The Dodgers swept a four-game series at home in early August. The Phillies answered with a four-game sweep in Philadelphia about two weeks later, defeating Greg Maddux and 16-game winner Chad Billingsley in the process. They also scored three runs off 14-game winner (and game 1 starter) Derek Lowe in one of the losses. Lowe is another guy the Red Sox seem to be doing just fine without.
The Phillies pitchers in the losses were:
Kyle Kendrick, who is unlikely to see any action in this series
Cole Hamels, who gave up 2 runs in his game and suffered a no decision
Joe Blanton, who gave up 4 runs, and was undone by an ineffective bullpen... and who pitched considerably better against the Brewers
Brett Myers, who was demoted to the minors and came back a much better pitcher
So where is this great edge that the Dodgers have? Okay, Torre is a more successful manager than Charlie Manuel. But, give Cholly credit - he has gotten a misfit squad to the postseason two years in a row.
Philly's Jamie Moyer and Billingsley both have 16 wins. Hamels and Lowe both have 14 wins. Hiroki Kuroda (L.A., if you don't recognize the name... I didn't) has nine wins and Myers has 10.
Pitching-wise, it looks pretty even to me. Except for the closer. You can't really improve on Brad Lidge's 41-for-41 in save opportunities. And the set-up guys were real good against the Brewers at keeping things under control and then turning the game over to Lidge.
I'd have to say that the hitting edge would have to go to the Phillies. Yes, the Phillies. Three guys with 30 or more homers: Howard (48 homers, 146 RBI), Utley (33 homers, 104 RBI) and Pat Burrell (33 homers, 86 RBI). Whether or not you think Howard strikes out too much, the guy drives in runs.
Looking at the Dodgers team stats again, I am surprised that they even won 84 games (which would have put them 3rd in the NL East). Of course, they were helped by being in a pretty crappy division: Arizona (82 wins), Colorado (74 wins), San Francisco (72 wins), and San Diego (63 wins). And how did the Padres wind up with more losses than the Giants? Amazing.
What about the intangibles? Better surfing in Los Angeles. Movies set in Los Angeles are better. Better region for wine. Can't think of anything baseball-related that makes the Dodgers such a slam-dunk favorite.
While an L.A./Boston World Series would be a network's wet dream, that doesn't cut it when the game begins. I would also venture to say that it's not a foregone conclusion that the Rays might have something to say about the World Series matchup.
Nope. My mind's made up. It's probably true to say that I am led by a homer impulse, but I feel really good about the Phillies chances. They're no better/no worse than the Dodgers. Tomorrow night they start what should be an excellent NLCS. I look forward to seeing the 'experts' and their pedstrian predictions put to the test.
Phillies in 6!