Wednesday, October 28, 2009
The Two Part, Turnpike World Series Preview
Finally, after 4,860 games from 30 teams, we have the World Series that we had all hoped for. We have the two Juggernauts of baseball. The two cities, separated by 26 exits of Turnpike through the great state of New Jersey, will indeed give us the World Series that we could only wish for at the beginning of the season.
Now this World Series preview is going to be a two part piece, courtesy of the two most entertaining, unknown sports blogs this side of the Toms River. I am going to give you the Phillies' preview and why they can win this series. My colleague over at Chit-Chat Sports, Mr. Tom DeRiggi (a die-hard Yankee fan) has humbily agreed to give you the New York side of the series.
To see how the Yankees could pull off an upset victory, go over to Chit-Chat Sports for an excellent and entertaining Yankees preview.
No, they don’t have the payroll the Yankees do. Matter of fact, their team salary is about $100 million less.
No, they don’t have the championship pedigree that the Yankees do either. Even though the Phillies franchise has been around 29 more years than the Yankees franchise, New York has 24 more World Series championships.
Even this year, the Yankees had more wins (103 compared to Philadelphia’s 93).
Alas, don’t let these numbers fool you. If anyone can beat this New York Yankees team, it is these Philadelphia Phillies.
May 22-24, the Phillies and the Yankees squared away in New York for a three-game Interleague series. Philadelphia won the series 2-1, and would have swept had it not been for the perfect storm of another Brad Lidge meltdown and another New York Yankees magical walk-off win.
The Yankees have a potent lineup, I can’t argue that. But the Phillies have the offensive firepower and versatility to stand toe-to-toe with New York and challenge them.
At the top of the order the Phillies have a ton of speed (not something the Yankees have much of). Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino wreck havoc on the base paths. Together, they combined for 18 triples (Victorino led the majors with 13) and 56 stolen bases (Rollins was tied for tenth in the majors with 31), while only being caught stealing 16 times. Chase Utley and Jayson Werth also run the bases extremely well, each stealing at least 20 bases.
Then there is the power in the middle of the lineup. The Phillies were the only team to have four players hit for 30 or more home runs apiece: Ryan Howard (45), Werth (36), Raul Ibanez (34), and Utley (31). For extra measure, Rollins also hit 21 dingers.
This is also a team rallying behind tragedy. Last season Manager Charlie Manuel’s mother and Victorino’s grandmother both died during the team’s postseason run. The players got behind their fallen teammates, supported them, and used it as further motiviation to win it all, playing in honor of their fallen loved ones. This season, the Phillies suffered another tragedy, one that touched the whole organization. In April, longtime broadcaster Harry Kalas collapsed in the booth and died. Since then, with a black “HK” patch sewn on their jerseys above their hearts, the Phillies have been playing in his honor. A common phrase from fans has been “Do it for Harry”.
The Yankees have home field advantage in the series. That won’t bother Philadelphia. They were tied for the best road record in the majors, with a record of 48-33 away from home.
The Phillies have two starting pitchers that have performed extremely well in the World Series. Game 2 starter Pedro Martinez is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in the October Classic, and Cole Hamels, the Game 3 likely starter, was last year’s World Series MVP.
New York’s game one starter has been dominant in the playoffs last year. Too bad the Phillies owned him last year when they faced him in the NLDS as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. Sabathia lasted only 3.2 innings, giving up six hits, four walks, and five runs. Lowlights included walking pitcher Brett Myers and giving up a grand slam to Shane Victorino.
The Phillies have a certain swagger to them. It isn’t cockiness, it’s confidence. They proved that they are a team that lives for big moments, not one that cowers when the lights shine bright. They will not be intimidated by the enormous new Yankee Stadium, or the history that goes with being a member of the blue pinstripes. This team is able to separate themselves from all of the outside hoopla and just play good baseball.
The Phillies players have confidence in themselves and their teammates. Everybody knows what their role is. Everyone is held to the same standard of play, from NLCS MVP Howard to reserve utililty player Eric Bruntlett (who scored the game winning run in two of Philadelphia’s victories in the ’08 World Series).
They are able to slow the game down. They don’t see the game in nine innings. They see it in one single pitch. Each play is magnified so that they can get the most out of it. This allows them not to get too ahead of themselves or too far in over their heads. Instead, they are able to relax and come up big no matter how late in the game it is or how many runs they are down by. Each pitch is unique, and the team doesn’t feel the anxiety. It’s how you wind up with the dramatic 5-4 walk-off win that the Phillies pulled off with two outs in Game 4 of the NLCS to beat the Dodgers and go up 3-1 in the series.
Most importantly, they show why having such good clubhouse chemistry is important. Nine key players were homegrown talents that played together in the minors before reaching the big leagues: Howard, Utley, Rollins, catcher Carlos Ruiz, and pitchers Hamels, Ryan Madson, Brett Myers, J.A. Happ, and Antonio Bastardo. They took that core, developed them, and then built around them with guys like Werth , Victorino, and Cliff Lee. The guys have played together for so long they’ve built good relationships with each other and want to win not only for themselves, but for the guy next to them. They don’t want to let everyone else down. The relationships are strong, and that makes every player work harder, so that they all can share in success.
It will be a challenging World Series. The team with the best record in the majors and the defending World Series Champions. But the Phillies have the physical talent and the mental tenacity to take home the trophy and be the first team to repeat as champions since the 1998-2000 Yankees.
Prediction: Phillies in 7
Top: AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
Brad Lidge: AP Photo/Matt Slocum
Jayson Werth: AP Photo/Rob Carr