The wild-cards were left unsettled during the division picks, so let’s clean that up first. American League division winners were projected as Boston, Chicago & LAA. The Yankees are a no-brainer pick for the wild-card, completing the “Money Talks” postseason field, with the big-market teams all prevailing.
In the National League, it’s a little tighter. I’ve got Philadelphia, the Cubbies and Arizona taking division crowns. And the wild-card will come down to three future Hall of Fame managers, as Joe Torre’s Dodgers, Tony LaRussa in St. Louis and Atlanta’s Bobby Cox all fight it out for one last spot. I like Atlanta’s pitching the best and see Cox returning to the postseason for the first time since 2005.
Then we get to October. Boston and New York are a cut above the field in the American League and take out their respective opponents on their way to a meeting in the ALCS, an event that I’m sure the media will handle with the same sober-minded seriousness they handled Brett Favre’s retirement saga. Since I took the Red Sox to win the division, there’s no logical reason I wouldn’t pick them again here.
Over in the NL, I’ve kicked around whether the Braves, Cubs or Diamondbacks would make the NLCS, but the bottom line remains the same—all are several steps behind the new National League dynasty in the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia is aiming to make history this year. No NL team has won three straight pennants since the Cardinals did it in 1942-44, a period marked by players being gone for World War II. And the last time any NL team did the trifecta without the asterisk of players being drafted for service? John McGraw’s New York Giants in 1911-13, the same time the forward pass was being invented in football. Philadelphia might be the favorite, they might not win the World Series, but this is an incredible achievement they have in their grasps as we start a new season.
In the World Series, I like the Red Sox to take the Phillies. Yes, I am biased as a Sox fan (since 1996 when they were on the eve of a losing season, lest I be charged with post-2004 bandwagon hopping), but I think the pitching is strong and deep enough for Boston to bring home its third Series victory in seven years. Whomever you pick, it does seem to me that the Red Sox, Yankees and Phillies are running several steps ahead of the field.
That brings the preseason to an end. Tomorrow the Notebook starts its regular season posting schedule that will take us through the next 26 weeks. Monday will involve a look at the opening day series that will take place around the league.