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MLB Playoff Points ‘06

Undoubtedly the most bizarre stretch-run in recent memory. Yet here we are, on the eve of another MLB postseason. Collapses, surges and injuries were the dominant story lines throughout the last week of the season. The Cardinals and Tigers survived while the Twins and Dodgers thrived. The Padres and A’s sustained while the Mets and Yankees pained. Now that some of the dust has finally settled it’s clear that there’s not a single team in the field that is currently equipped with the necessary tools to win 11 October baseball games. With that in mind, let us examine a handful of guys whose play will ultimately dictate the fortunes of their teams.

Rich Harden and Frank Thomas: It’s sad to say, but Rich Harden embodies the essence of this generation of the Oakland A’s. That is, he consistently comes out of the gates in April doing his best Sandy Koufax-impression. The A’s come out of the gates in October doing their best ’96 Yankees-impression. Problem is, Harden is always on the shelf by mid-May and the A’s are always eliminated in the ALDS via reverse-sweep by mid-October. Sooo, if Harden can take his rightful place atop the new Oakland “Big three” (in front of Barry Zito and Dan Haren), and Frank Thomas can continue to anchor that lineup, the A’s could find themselves back in a position to win one game and advance to the ALCS. Yeah, familiar territory for Oakland…

Chien-Ming Wang and Randy Johnson: The Yankees have such ridiculous offensive capabilities that they should probably be represented at the next G-8 Summit. With that said, their championship aspirations rest on the shoulders of their starting pitching. Mike Mussina’s poise under pressure is one-upped only by Mariano Rivera (okay, five-upped). Wang has made one career playoff start, and lost. The Unit was borderline-atrocious in his one playoff-stint with the Yanks last October. Wang has been much better this year, but Johnson has arguably been worse, and is now ailing. Yankee-fans definitely don’t want to hear the names “Corey Lidle” or “Jaret Wright” in the same sentence as “elimination-game” so the front three for New York must bear the torch.

St. Louis Cardinals: So much to say, don’t know where to begin. They do have the best hitter in baseball. They also have the best pitcher in the National League. After Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter though, all they got is a whole-lotta baggage. They’ve been to the World Series and NLCS the last two years, respectively. And yaddy yaddy yadda, I mean let’s face it, THIS TEAM DOESN’T DESERVE TO BE IN THE PLAYOFFS!! They deserve to get a reality show made about the last two weeks of their season, that’s about it. But behind all the mortification is experience. If this team can find a way to regroup they could actually be back in the NLCS. (It’s okay, I’m laughing too.)

Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran: With Pedro out, many might deem the Mets rotation as the x-factor. It’s a given that the starters are either old (Orlando Hernandez and Tom Glavine) or lacking postseason experience (Steve Trachsel and John Maine) but the bullpen is the deepest in the league, and will bolster the staff from the back end. If Willie Randolph can get five innings from his starters, the Mets will be fine. So long as Reyes wreaks havoc for opposing pitching staffs on the base paths and Beltran reprises his role as an October-assassin (the real reason Omar Minaya gave him all those digits). With those two guys leading the way offensively, the Mets will be scoring runs consistently. As for “that guy” to replace Pedro when it comes to closing out a series, I think El Duque proved last year that he remains a transcendent-October pitcher (and that’s taking into account the possibility that he’s 68 years old).

Failing to mention the Twins, Tigers, Padres and Dodgers by no means is an indicator that they are ill equipped to get out of the first round. On the contrary I believed that the Twins could’ve beaten the Yankees in a short series and ended up taking the whole thing. But the Tigers decided that the Royals were real good and in doing so gave away the division on the last day of the season. I’m avoiding a prediction here because for the first time since 2001, I know the Yankees are going to win the World Series. But wait, I was wrong then because the Yanks lost the ’01 Series to Arizona! I’ve said it before; I’m no visionary. So how bout this: Mets take back the subway in seven.


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