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"Lou is not talking about mechanics when he goes out to the mound,"
~Chicago Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Yankees/Braves Continue Reign

I'd love to say that I never counted the Yankees out. I'd love to say that I didn't overreact to the first quarter of the baseball season. But neither of those statements are true. I admit, after the Yankees 15-30 start, I wrote them off. I said they were old. I said the Red Sox would win the division and a younger team like the Twins, Indians, or Rangers would win the wild card. Why would I think such a thing? Why couldn't I see that the Yankees were too talented not to turn it around? For the past 8 years now they have finished atop the AL East. This time was different though. It was a struggle. The Yankees saw 4/5 of their starting rotation miss time due to injury. Impossibly, Aaron Small (who at 34 had only started 3 games in his career) went 10-0 with a 3.20 ERA. Shawn Chacon came over from Colorado to post a 2.76 ERA in the 12 games he started. Much maligned Jason Giambi lead the league in OBP and found his power again. Mariano was Mariano. A-Rod was A-Rod. Jeter was Jeter. Simply put, the Yankees were the Yankees. Why should this year have been any different?

James Earl Jones had the famous monologue in Field of Dreams in which he says, "Throughout time the one constant has been baseball." He should have gone on to add that the one constant within baseball is the Yankees winning the AL East and the Braves winning the NL East. Say what you want about the fact that the Braves only have one World Series title, 14 straight division titles is an accomplishment never seen before in sports and likely not duplicated anytime soon. With all the rookies forced into playing time this year, number 14 might be the most impressive of the streak. It all starts with the management. The Braves style of management could be percieved as anti-Moneyball. Unlike the A's, the draft almost exclusively high school players. They put as much time into field scouting as any team in the league. What this shows is that it doesn't necessarily matter how you build your baseball team. One philosophy isn't always better than the other. What matters is that you carry out your plans effetively and as efficiently as possible.

Now I'd love to say that the Braves will win their 2nd championship this year, but I don't really see it. The bullpen has been weak and there's too much uncertainty after the first and second starters. The only thing the Braves have going for them is that Carpenter isn't pitching very well. The Astros have great starting pitching and a guy that will shut you down at the end, but their lack of offense, especially on the road makes it tough to bet on them either. If the Cards can get quality innings from the starters, I don't see anyone standing in their way. If not, that leaves the door open for Atlanta and Houston. I'm willing to say right now, in print, that the Padres have as good of a shot at the World Series as I have with nailing Jessica Alba.

The same story rings true in the AL. I don't see any team over there without a significant weakness, except maybe the Angels. But I don't see them having any real significant strength either. What it boils down to is this could be a very entertaining postseason. We'll be sure to keep you updated along the way.

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