Tuesday, October 21, 2008

2008 World Series

You hear all the chatter and the hype with top prospects like - 'call-up Evan Longoria already, he is going to be a difference maker, he's going to be better than so-and-so [insert name of established veteran here] right now' or 'David Price is going to be up sooner than later.'

You tend to casually dismiss them, because they can't possibly fulfill their potential - or at least show why they were legitimate their No. 1 picks [Price No. 1 overall in 2007] in such a relatively short period of time.

You also dismiss the chatter when it comes to predicting the franchise fortunes of once lowly-teams getting high picks in the amateur draft - it is then exciting, but surprising when it is players like Longoria and Price thriving in October, right now and not five years down the line [or never].

The only sad thing is when you realize those are someone else's dreams realized, some other fans' or others who have a stake in these young players.

While the ratings may not show it - the 2008 World Series looks to be a showcase for baseball's brightest young talents and established veterans.

Can't say much about the Phillies except wouldn't it be just great if they won the World Series already [?] - it just brings some closure to the hunger pangs rabid fans have had since 1980 and a World Series Championship is kind of a final nail to the coffin to their rivalry with the New York Mets over the last several years.

Here is a position-by-position look at both teams -

First baseman Ryan Howard has been more consistent and prolific through his Major League career but side-by-side he and Carlos Pena are similar players [Howard may have 70-75 pounds on Pena of course] - the Rays may have the edge, if Howard is in a power slump. Pena seems to be a little more athletic and maybe able to do a little more defensively, if he is shut down with the bat.

Second baseman Chase Utley's power has come and gone, but the fact he can pop a home run at any time, makes him a more imminent threat - the Rays' Akinori Iwamura will have his moments and he is type of complimentary player who contributes to championship teams.

Third baseman Evan Longoria maybe the most important player in this series - as he goes, so do the Rays. Each year there seems to be a breakout player and Longoria is the guy in 2008. For the Phillies, Pedro Feliz is a hacker who may be a surprising performer with his ability to 'grind out' at-bats and hit for power.

Shortstop Jimmy Rollins has been a league MVP and while he had a down year, there is no contest as to who is the better shortstop in this upcoming World Series - the Rays' Jason Bartlett is more Chris Gomez than anything else and may not hit enough.

Left fielder Carl Crawford has a little more athletic ability to cover ground in outfield - while the Phillies' Pat Burrell is more proficient at the plate, with patient and powerful presence.

Center fielder B.J. Upton has powered the Rays, but then Shane Victorino has lit the fire for the Phillies - it maybe a 'push,' if each player plays like they have in recent weeks.

Right fielder Jayson Werth offers the stability - the two headed platoon of Gabe Gross and Rocco Baldelli may not offer.

Catcher Dioner Navarro has proven to be no afterthought - after bouncing from the New York Yankees to the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Rays' No. 1 catcher in their first World Series.

Designated hitter [Rays] - they can trot out some lefty sticks like Greg Dobbs and Matt Stairs, but the Rays have their pick Cliff Floyd, Rocco Baldelli and Willy Aybar.

Starting pitching [Rays] - It is hard to argue with Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, James Shields and Andy Sonnanstine, but Cole Hamels can shut any team down and I hear Brett Myers has turned into quite the hitter [besides his boxing exploits and hitting his wife of course]. Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton are bookends to the Phillies' rotation.

Relief pitching [Rays] - the Rays trot out a gutty group of guys, but they've been exposed in the American League Championship Series. If they can somehow regroup and not be required to pitch as much as they did in the ALCS, they will be in much better shape with David Price suddenly being their No. 1 equalizer.

For the Phillies, Brad Lidge has been automatic - and he really has no reason not to continue his season long excellence, though it seems he has shown he does have the potential to be another Mitch Williams.

Final thoughts - the Philadelphia Phillies will take the first championship since 1980 if Howard, Utley and Burrell hit their expected share of home runs. If they don't hit, then it will be tough for them to score runs.

If the Rays' starting pitching can shut the Phillies' middle-of-the-lineup down, then the Rays have the ability to push the series to the limit and actually win - the key for the Rays is to get on the board early, so the starting pitchers have the confidence to go deep into games, and ultimately not have to rely on their relievers to pitch multiple innings game-by-game.

The series may come down to who makes more athletics plays i.e ability to run the bases [advance] - as well as on defense [catching the ball, not making mental mistakes].

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