Who's excited for the NL playoffs? Not I.

We've been hearing all about it for the past few years: the AL reigns supreme over the NL. The point has been driven home in All-Star games and World Series alike. ESPN is the leading booster, making certain we know it's so by pumping as much AL-related content down our throats as possible. (We must have deep throats, too, considering all the fucking Red Sox-Yankees-White Sox games we had to choose not to watch this year.)

But the truth is, well, the truth: the AL is superior to the NL. This year's playoffs will surely cement that point as Fact No. 1 in baseball's collective conscious. Think about it: In the AL you've got four supremely talented teams paced by exciting players (yes, even the Tigers have Pudge, Jonesy's handlebar stache, and a 100-mph-throwing phenom named Joel Zumaya, who you will know soon enough); in the NL you've got, uh, Pujols? Do the Padres get your blood pumping? No, not even in their camo jerseys. Not even when Trevor "The All Time Saves Leader" Hoffman toes the rubber to unleash a nasty 74-mph change up. Not even with Mike "Tight Pants" Piazza batting clean up and Brian "I Will Walk 500 Times" Giles in the two-hole.

What about the Dodgers? Sure, they've got Nomah (when he's healthy enough to play) and JD Drew (when he's healthy enough to play) and Kenny Lofton (when he's healthy enough to play) and Brad "my career highlight came when I struck out the side in the '06 All-Star game" Penny. But they've also got at least one player who is nearly impossible to root for -- Jeff Fucking Kent -- and a legion of no-name, good-play rookies.

How about the Mets minus Pedro? They've still got Glavine and El Duque and Wagner and a scary lineup ... but you gotta admit that without Pedro, you find yourself doing a huge double-take before handing over the NL pennant to the Mets. Pedro had been unhealthy and ineffective for the entire second half of the season, so the Mets won't really miss him. (They were 54-35 at the break this year, and just a tick worse at 43-30 after, even as Pedro posted just two wins and an ERA north of seven.) But still, this is Pedro we're talking about. You can't really believe New York's chances will improve by inserting a rookie into Pedro's spot in the rotation, or needing to count on a strong start from the likes of Steve Trachsel.

And then there's my Cardinals, who finished the year doing their best impersonation of a ticking time bomb. I know ya'll are sick and tired of hearing me babble on about Sir Albert Pujols, but if you really don't think that he's deserving of the MVP Award, then you don't know jack about baseball. He ended our most recent 7-game losing streak just in time with yet another walk-off homer to ensure that we had a fighting chance of fending off the reigning NL pennant-winners, those pesky (steroid using) Astros. The Cardinals suck, folks. I mean, they suck bad. Only in this weak-ass NL playoff picture do we actually stand a chance at winning a division series, even if no pundit on Mother Earth will put their rep on the line and pick us to do so.

So, am I excited by the prospects of watching my Cards fall behind early and often to the Padres? Am I anxious to see Greg Maddux face off against Tom Glavine in a battle of 40-something ex-teammates? Uh, FUCK NO. The only thing worth watching in this year's playoffs is the play of Jose Reyes, who is the best player in the NL not to have his name thrown into the MVP voting ring. (When was the last time your team's leadoff hitter smacked 66 extra-base hits, drove in 81 runs, and swiped 64 bases?)

For once, I'll be much more interested in watching the AL, where I will take pleasure in watching the Tigers embarrass Joe Torre's crew (one can hope) while the playoffs best series -- Twins v. A's -- develops one for the ages. And by the way, a big FUCK YOU to Major League Baseball for having Santana v. Zito be the fucking NOON game on Tuesday. Why, you ask, would baseball be so dumb? Oh, so the Yankees can have primetime to themselves. ESPN, Fox, and MLB needs to grow some balls and kindly do what's right for baseball fans around the globe whose teams aren't in the hunt -- whom their new playoff advertisements are oddly enough targeting -- instead of worrying only about the ratings. Give us a chance to actually watch some exciting baseball this October. Better yet, allow Oakland fans to actually watch some evening playoff baseball instead of sticking them with the early morning game every time out.

Okay, moving on ... I've got one last tidbit to tidy up from earlier in the season. Way back at the end of April, when Pujols was ripping the cover off the ball much as Ryan Howard did in Half Two, I made the following prediction as to how Albert's season would finish up. Of course, I didn't foresee the oblique strain that would sideline him for 15 games, permanently altering his season when he was in peak form. But, for comparison's sake, let's see how he ended up.

My April prediction is listed first, followed by his actual production (asterisk denotes career high).

Plate appearances: 675/634
Walks: 140/92
At-bats: 515/535
Hits: 182/177
2B: 36/33
HR: 52/49*
RBI: 123/137*
Runs: 148/119
On-base %: .487/.431
Slugging %: .753/.671*
Avg: .353/.331

Conclusion: While he missed my high marks overall, Pujols still posted some career highs in key categories. But the Cards' lack of punch hurt Sir Albert, as his run total was down this year despite homering at a career-best rate. For the first time in four seasons, he won't lead the league in runs scored.

We also know that opposing managers were foolish. Given his 24 game-winning hits (tying Willie Mays for best ever) and the fact that he killed with runners in scoring position, Albert should have been walked more frequently. He was intentionally walked a career-best 28 times, but that was less than Ryan Howard's 37 IBBs. Given Howard's lack of productivity with runner's on, that difference is a bit perplexing. Pundits love to point to that stat in affirming why Howard should get the nod over Pujols in MVP voting, but that's just silly. Why put such stock in a number that is essentially based on reputation and not in the player's immediate control? There's no shame in Howard being the NL MVP, but it won't make it right should it happen.

To wrap up this post, here are my postseason predictions...

Howard, PHI (I'd give it to Pujols, of course)
NL Cy: Carpenter, STL
NL Manager: Girardi, FLA
AL MVP: Jeter, NYY (although I'd give it to Mauer or Morneau)
AL Cy: Santana, MIN (for shits and giggles, compare him to Wang, who also finished with a 19-6 record)
AL Manager: Leyland, DET

Cardinals over Padres in 5
The Padres have learned the hard way to walk Pujols late in games, but for once the Cards offense will jump on top first, allowing Pujols to do enough damage early in games and negating the Padres solid pen.
Dodgers over Mets in 5
Gutsy call, and not a popular one. Penny and Maddux didn't fare too well versus the Mets in the regular season, and Penny specifically has stunk it up since the break. But I like LA's chances with a staff that keeps the ball in the yard. And something just tells me that this isn't the Mets year. (See: Pedro)
Dodgers over Cardinals in 5
Unless Pujols suddenly becomes Babe Ruth and toes the rubber, I don't see the Cards advancing any farther in the playoffs. They were 7-0 against the Dodgers this year, but they're going to be 1-4 against them when it counts most.

Twins over A's in 5
I think this is the series to watch. Too bad I won't get to see much of it thanks to TV scheduling. On paper, this is the weakest of Beane's Moneyball teams. They struggled all season long offensively, but the Twins rotation is paper thin beyond Santana, so I see lots of offense in this series, despite two solid pens. Slight edge to the Twins.
Tigers over Yankees in 4
Great oh-fence for the Yanks, but can they keep their opponent from scoring? The Tigers offense pales in comparison. Still, I like the Tigers deep, consistent rotation and lights-out pen. Choke time for Torre and Co.
Tigers over Twins in 7
Great matchup, but will anyone pay attention to two northern midwest teams? Unless Santana figures out a way to start four games, I don't see the Twins taking out the Tigers. Mauer keeps 'em in it until Game 7, when The Gambler blanks 'em through seven and Zumaya, his arm ready to fall off, slams the door shut with 102 mph fastballs at the knees.

Dodgers over Tigers in 6

So what if no one else saw this coming? The difference maker here is that the Dodgers are the fresher team, having taken care of the Cards in five. Takashi Saito pitches five scoreless innings of relief to notch three saves, and everyone in the country learns how to correctly pronounce his name. Meanwhile, Jeff Fucking Kent hits a game-winning home run, and Nomah, wincing in pain after every swing, delivers his own walk-off home run in the clincher against Todd Jones, who curses his handlebar stache after the game as having betrayed him for the last time!

Am I nuts? Rob Neyer agrees with me regarding the Dodgers, so maybe so. Just a hunch. After all of my earlier talk of the AL's dominance, I think this may be the year the NL gets even. Ever the optimist, I suppose.

What are your picks?


Listmaker said...

mets in 3
mets in 4
mets in 4

thenoiseboy said...

Ever the optimist...or is it ever the comedian?

hungrygirl said...

I think your hatred for the Yanks has clouded your vision. They won't fall to the Detroit kittycats and I'm not sure they'll fall to anyone else either. Other than the Yankees, though, I'm not buying all the AL hype. Superstar talent does not a team make (well, unless you take it to the Yankee extreme). The AL is good, but the NL is better than they've gotten credit for. And the Cards offense is going to finally come together. Just watch.

I say

Cards in 5
Mets in 5
Cards over Mets in 7

A's over Twins in 5
Yanks over Tigers in 5
Yanks over A's in 5

Yanks over Cards in 7