My favorite part of the sports year begins today — the baseball playoffs. In what other professional sport can the emotion and drama of the month-long climb to a championship be played out on a day-to-day basis? Only baseball. So, as the second season begins, here are my picks for what to watch for heading into the World Series.
Oakland over Minnesota in 5 games.
Although I’d love to say that the contraction-beating Twins will go all the way in pro sports’ feel-good story of all-time, Oakland’s powerful lineup and stellar pitching will prevail. Minnesota’s sub-.500 record on grass and mediocrity on the road this season will also not help against 103-59 Oakland, which had a dominating 54-27 record at Network Associates Coliseum this year.
New York over Anaheim in 3.
The names change, but the results are the same. After undergoing their greatest retooling effort in six years, the Yankees proved themselves again as the team to beat in the American League. Despite playing inspired ball all season, the Angels will not be the team to do it, however. The defending A.L. champs will pick apart this year’s Wild Card winner to advance to their seventh consecutive ALCS.
Arizona over St. Louis in 4.
Two words: Johnson and Schilling. The best two pitchers in baseball will continue their dominance to outlast the National League’s emotional favorite. Add to that Tony LaRussa’s propensity to lose any semblance of intelligence when the calendar reads October (see Mark McGwire’s three at bats during the 2000 NLCS), and this series will be a fine warm-up for the World Champs as they proceed deeper into the month.
Atlanta over San Francisco in 5.
The Braves have never had as good a closer as John Smoltz. His seamless transition from one of the league’s top starters to its best closer is the best testimony anyone can offer as to why this year’s team is the best the Braves have offered yet. And if Barry Bonds