Why yes, that is a picture of Placido Polanco stuffing Raul Ibanez’s glove down his pants. Thanks for noticing!
Enough goofing around: the league pennants are upon us, Fox has to start acting like the MLB playoffs aren’t something that just gets in the way of its football coverage (although to be fair they have a truly awesome NLCS promo which I can not find on the web but which prominently features a couple great Cardinal playoff moments plus Bartman), and fans whose teams win this series can buy shirts that don’t look kind of pathetic. (Unless you are a Rangers fan — you’re allowed to buy a Divisional Series Champs shirt if your team has never won a playoff series before.) Two teams swept their way in, one team needed all 5 games, and one would have swept if it were not for the heroics of one Rick Ankiel (it is, apparently, a good post season for Cardinals nostalgia). Anyway, here’s who we have left:
Strength: They have Roy Halladay and you don’t. Also a really stacked lineup that seems to be peaking at the right time, and lots of playoff experience.
Weakness: Ummmm, Hamels, maybe? The pressure to live up to the no-hitter could cause Halladay to self-destruct? I’m kind of reaching here.
Watch for Baseball Reasons: Halladay. Obviously.
Watch for, um, Aesthetic Reasons: Well, we do love us some Chase Utley here at Ladies…, but I’ve always been partial to Ryan Howard.
San Francisco Giants
Strength: Again, they seem to be peaking at the right time, including the rediscovery of some reliable offensive production.
Weakness: That offense could disappear just as fast as it arrived. Also they are seriously inexperienced in big games, though so far that hasn’t been a problem.
Watch for Baseball Reasons: Two time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum and possible ROY Buster Posey.
Watch for Aesthetic Reasons: Buster Posey. He’s like a puppy; every time I see him I can’t help smiling at his cuteness.
New York Yankees
Strength: Experience out the wazoo, defending champs, tons of offense, yada yada yada, and Mariano Rivera.
Weakness: A.J. Burnett has to pitch in this series, as will (probably) some of the weaker links in the bullpen.
Watch for Baseball Reasons: Joe Girardi. I don’t know why I enjoy Joe’s success as a manager so much, even though it should make me feel old that he’s a manager not a player. Maybe I’m just relieved he didn’t wind up managing the Cubs.
Watch for Aesthetic Reasons: Robinson Cano. I’m going with the dark horse pick. Jeter won’t be around forever, people.
Strength: Hey, if you can win your first ever playoff series (and the first playoff series ever where the road team won every game) in the same year you file for bankruptcy, you are obviously having a once in a lifetime season.
Weakness: I’ve seen the Yankees and Rangers play in the playoffs before and …well, it looked a lot like what the Yankees just did to the Twins. Also, Cliff Lee will have to pitch on short rest if he’s going to make two starts this round.
Watch for Baseball Reasons: Cliff Lee for the pitching, Ian Kinsler for the offense.
Watch for Aesthetic Reasons: You can never go wrong with Josh Hamilton. Though my natural affinity for shortstops tends to make me gravitate towards Elvis Andrus.
We could still wind up with a Yankees-Phillies rematch; we could still wind up with two teams no one thought would still be around in late October, or somewhere in between. Please continue discussion of your World Series hopes/fears/appreciation of Buster Posey in the comments.