With October approaching, baseball fans across the country are faced with another fill-in-the-blank postseason. With the usual combination of exploitable stories from the sport’s underdogs and dominance from the usual suspects, it seems like America will be watching a replay. In the end, however, when the Cubs hoist the World Series trophy, fans will be treated to an outcome unseen in nearly a century.
The Florida Marlins/San Francisco Giants division series is a mirror image of last year’s National League Championship Series, with the Marlins reflecting last year’s team on a mission, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals were motivated to memorialize the midseason death of pitcher Darryl Kile; the Marlins want to vindicate 71-year-old manager Jack McKeon. McKeon’s appointment as manager brought a burst of energy and unity to the team. That attitude will help carry them past the Giants, who, for the second consecutive year, feature the same veteran in search of a championship. Barry Bonds led the Giants to the World Series last year. Unfortunately for Bonds, who has never won a World Series, the Giants lost to the Anaheim Angels. Hopefully he enjoyed the moment, because Ivan Rodriguez’s hot bat and the fire of young pitcher Dontrelle Willis exemplify the determination that will carry Florida to a five-game victory.
The Cubs are the loveable losers and will be until they capture a title. They face the Atlanta Braves, who have been a constant in the NL playoff picture. The Braves did not get here by their usual methods, however. Their dominant pitching staff is a thing of the past. They are now led by a young lineup loaded with potent hitters from top to bottom, but the Cubs’ outstanding duo of young pitchers in Mark Prior and Kerry Wood will shut the Braves down on their way to a victory in four games.
Cubs’ outfielder Sammy Sosa, who has been experiencing a hot streak since being caught with a corked bat in June, is showing no signs of slowing down. The Cubs will eliminate the Marlins in a close NLCS and reach their first World Series since 1945.
The Yankees are, of course, the Yankees. They have been a fixture in the playoff picture in the American League since they won the World Series in 1996, going on to win five pennants and four world titles in six years. They face the Minnesota Twins, who have apparently been underrated for three years; and although the Twins have been a great story over that time, they are no match for a Yankees lineup that could provide the American League’s starting all-star game lineup without argument. The Yanks will take the series in four.
The Red Sox have played second fiddle to the Yankees for decades. Boston’s late-season charge won them the wildcard, but they once again fell short in their push to dethrone New York in the AL East. They face the Oakland A’s, who must be desperate, as they enter what will probably be their final postseason with star shortstop Miguel Tejada. The Dominican will be a free agent at the end of this season, and Oakland probably cannot afford to re-sign him. Their three-headed pitching monster of Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson will submit to the red-hot bat of Boston’s Dave Ortiz as the Red Sox march to an ALCS showdown with the Yankees.
The Yankees’ pitching is not as strong as it has been in the past, and while the Red Sox have little depth behind starting pitcher Pedro Martinez, they have enough pitching to slow down the Yankees’ bats and win their first pennant since 1986.
In a World Series showdown between two teams that have a combined 180 seasons without a championship, some might think neither can win. But the Red Sox are no match for Sosa, Prior and Wood. The Cubs will win in seven, taking home their first World Series title since 1908.