The 2009 Major League Baseball season ends today. The once mighty and foreign stRangers were eliminated a few days ago despite having the best record in baseball at one point in May or June. That said, here's how I think things will fall out in the next few weeks:
American League Central One-Game Playoff
The Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins will engage in a one-game playoff in Minnesota on Tuesday. These two teams have been playing each other since 1901, and the Tigers lead the all-time series by 75 games (1032-957). But the Twins have won the last two years, both 11-7. Finally, the Twins have won 8 of their last 10, while the Tigers have won only 4 of their last 10. Ergo, I pick the Twins.
American League Division Series
One of these series will involves two thieves: the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Angels stole the AL West, and the Red Sox stole the AL Wild Card, both from the Rangers. But let's get past that and look at the history. The Red Sox lead the all-time series by 35 games (312-277), but the Angels squeaked by this season, winning the season series 5-4. These teams have some serious recent post-season history: this will be the third year in a row they've faced each other in the ALDS. Boston won the first two, 3-0 and 3-1. The Red Sox also swept the Angels in the 2004 ALDS. And, because the Red Sox won the 1986 ALCS 4-3, it should be noted the Angels have never beaten the Red Sox in a post-season series. So either they're due for a win, or they're doomed. Because I like the Red Sox marginally better than the Angels, I pick the Red Sox.
In the other ALDS, the New York Yankees will take on the Minnesota Twins. These teams' history goes back to the founding of the American League in 1901, back when they were known as the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Senators, respectively. For those two years, the Orioles won 22, and the Senators 17. The Yankees swept this season's series (7-0) and haven't lost the season series since 2001,* although the teams split 2005 and 2006. In their mutual playoffs histories, the Yankees beat the Twins 3-1 in both the 2003 and 2004 ALDS. Those are the only times the two have met in the post-season. But in the name of Kirby Puckett and all that is right with the world, I pick the Twins.
National League Division Series
The Colorado Rockies and Philadelphia Phillies meet again. These two have only been playing each other since 1993, and the Phillies lead the all-time series by 15 games (73-58). The Phillies won the 2009 series 4-2 and swept the 2008 series. In their only post-season match-up, the Rockies swept the Phillies in the 2007 NLDS.** The Rockies have been hot lately, and the Phillies have been cold, but I like Cliff Lee (who, also, has been cold lately). So pick the Phillies.
And in the other NLDS, the Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles play the best-of-five against the St. Louis Cardinals. These teams probably go back to 1883, but I only have stats to 1901: the Cardinals have won 32 more games between the two: 951-919. The Cardinals won this year's series (5-2) and haven't lost the series since 2003. Their last post-season match-up was the 2004 NLDS, which the Cardinals won 3-1, on their way to being swept by the Red Sox in the World Series. Before that, the Cardinals won the 1985 NLCS (on their way to losing the I-70 Showdown). Because I am a closet Dodgers fan and I don't particularly care for the Cardinals (except Lou Brock), I pick the Dodgers.
American League Championship Series
The Twins and the Red Sox have never faced each other in the playoffs.*** Do I think the Twins can ride their current wave of success like the 2007 Rockies until they crash into the Green Monster? Absolutely. I'll do one better: I pick the Twins as the 2009 AL Champions.
National League Championship Series
For the second year in a row, the Dodgers have the Phillies standing between them and their first world championship since the 1980s. Last year, the Phillies won the NLCS in five games. Back in the year of my birth, the Phillies took the pennant from the Dodgers, 3-1. The Dodgers haven't beaten the Phillies in October since 1978, when they won 3-1. The Dodgers also took the pennant over the Phillies in 1977, also 3 games to 1.**** It's hard for me to pick which of these two teams I prefer. They both have that lovable long-term underdog charisma. Since the Phillies popped the cork last year, I pick the Dodgers as the 2009 NL Champions.
The Laker Series*****
The Twins and Dodgers have only faced each other in the post-season once: the 1965 World Series. The Twins took the first two games in Minnesota before dropping Games 3, 4, and 5 in Los Angeles. The Twins won Game 6, but then couldn't score a run in any of the nine innings they swung a bat against Sandy Koufax in Game 7. Can the Dodgers party like it's 1965? I'm saying it: Go Dodgers.
*Ironically, the second-to-last time they made it to the World Series.
**That was part of their remarkable run at the end of the 2007 season. They swept the Phillies, then the Diamondbacks, then got swept by the Red Sox.
***How weird is it that that's weird this year? Every other match-up has at least one post-season series between them.
****1977 and 1978 were twins of each other. The Yankees, Royals, Dodgers, and Phillies all won their respective divisions both years. The Yankees beat the Royals 3-2 and 3-1, while the Dodgers beat the Phillies 3-1 both years. Then, the Yankees won both world series 4-2.
*****Five points to anybody who gets my obscure reference.