The one-game playoff Tuesday between the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins to determine to American League Central Division champion (won by Chicago, 1-0) was the first one-game playoff since 1995, when the Seattle Mariners narrowly defeated the then California Angels to win the AL West title.
That was not a good day. In fact, it’s one of the more painful memories of my childhood, right behind having my two front teeth knocked out of my head, twice. Old dental bills aside, Minnesota’s loss means that the Angels are no longer the last team to LOSE a one-game playoff. It also means that the playoff field is set for Major League Baseball’s 2008 World Series tournament.
With that, here are my predictions for both the AL and NL sides of the bracket.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS vs. BOSTON RED SOX — I’m a little biased here but I think the Angels have a better bullpen, if little else. So in a world were all else is equal, whichever bullpen performs better may prove to be the difference if either team is unable to get a dominant start or two from their top hurlers. ANGELS IN FOUR GAMES.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX vs. TAMPA BAY RAYS — Tampa has a better rotation, top to bottom, which should easily handle the exhausted ChiSox, who needed three consecutive wins, and every arm it had, just to get a chance to play the Rays. RAYS IN THREE.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS vs. CHICAGO CUBS — Nobody expects the Dodgers to win here. Everyone wants to see the Cubs win here. The Dodgers have a manager who has just a little playoff experience. The Cubs have a manager who has a little bit of a temper problem. DODGERS IN FIVE.
MILWAUKEE BREWERS vs. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES — One team has to win. Both teams will do their best to lose. In a lot of way, they’re the same team so it doesn’t really matter who wins but it’ll take them five game to figure it out. PHILWAUKEE BREWLIES IN FIVE.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS vs. TAMPA BAY RAYS — I really want to think the Angels have the experience and depth to win here but the Rays look like a carbon copy of the 2002 Angels, complete with Troy Percival at the back end of the bullpen. I’m worried, really worried. RAYS IN SEVEN.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS vs. PHILWAUKEE BREWLIES — The Dodgers will be rolling by this point and will have little trouble with the Brewlies, who lack a capable starter past their No. 1 to stop the Dodgers’ momentum should they win Game 1. DODGERS IN FIVE.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS vs. TAMPA BAY RAYS — As ugly as this sounds, it’d probably be a competitive series since neither team has significant advantages over the other. Tampa might have a better rotation, but L.A. has a stronger offense. Experience at the helm will be the real difference. DODGERS IN SIX.
Manny Ramirez will be named World Series MVP, an award that he’ll shove in the face of Boston fans every chance he gets. Bostonites won’t mind too much, they’ve got the REAL MVP.
Most Valuable Player:
AMERICAN LEAGUE — Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox. He hit cleanup after Ramirez was traded to L.A. and Boston still managed to make the playoffs. He was a sparkplug, with more than 200 hits, 100 runs and 50 doubles. So he only drove in 80-something runs. He was the most exciting player in ball.
NATIONAL LEAGUE — Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phills. Although it should be Ramirez for all he did in getting the Dodgers to the playoffs, it’ll be Howard after he blasted a zillion September home runs to nudge the reluctant Phillies past the New York Mets in the NL East.
Cy Young Award:
AMERICAN LEAGUE — Cliff Lee, Cleveland Indians. This is an easy one. The dude won a league-high 22 games while posting a league-low ERA. Like I said… easy.
NATIONAL LEAGUE — Brandon Webb, Arizona Diamondbacks. With the commotion C.C. Sabbathia made with his brilliant second half with the Mikwaukee Brewers, this was a hard choice. But Webb did it all year long for the inconsistant D’Backs, who looked like world beaters one month and fodder the next. Like Lee, Webb won 22 games — enough to also win the NL Cy Young.
Rookie of the Year:
AMERICAN LEAGUE — Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox. I was leaning toward Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria until a grand slam from Ramirez keyed the White Sox’ push into the playoffs. Their stats are close to identical, but Ramirez didn’t miss a month late in the season due to injury, like Longoria.
NATIONAL LEAGUE — Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs. He’s a catcher with plus power who isn’t a liability behind the plate. That, in and of itself, should earn him some sort of award. His .285 average, 23 homers and .995 fielding percentage over 1,150 chances should be enough to prove my point.