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October 2, 2008: Nine Questions about the 2008 Postseason

So, since the Yankees are out of it, and I find myself without a real rooting interest, I am looking at the postseason like if a daytime soap opera suddenly decided to wrap up its run with a prime-time mini-series. All questions will be answered! All the suspense hangs in the balance! Here are the subplots I’m looking to see tied up. There are nine of them in my lineup, of course:

1. Will the Cubs be the first Cubs team in one hundred years to win a World Series? They’ve been so good all year, but the monkey on their back (or is it a goat? the monkey’s in Anaheim…) is even bigger than the one the Red Sox shook off in 2004. Even their crosstown rival White Sox got rid of their “curse.” Could this be it? Do Cubs fans even dare to hope?

2. The Rays. Who writes this kind of a script? Perennially losing team, the only franchise in baseball history to still have never reached the postseason, removes the word “devil” from their name, and immediately wins the impossibly tough AL East. The baseball gods, that’s who. The story is already amazing, the only question is how much more amazing can it get?

3. Which means more, that the Red Sox have beaten the Angels soundly in every postseason meeting between the two teams in the Scioscia-Francona era, or that the Angels trounced the Red Sox in nearly every regular season meeting this year? The Red Sox can always be schizoid, as in last year’s ALCS where for a few days it looked like they were going to steamroll the Indians, then suddenly it looked like they were never going to get the job done… only to steamroll the Rockies. The Angels can be kind of like that, too, though. Could be a sweep, could be a seesaw.

4. Will C.C. Sabathia’s arm fall off? He pitched his team into the playoffs on three days rest. Now he’s going to pitch again on three days rest, with the PLAN to pitch him AGAIN on three days rest. A lot of teams are just counting the hours until he becomes a free agent (the Yankees among them), and you know each time he goes out there, they are cringing that he’s adding wear and tear to his arm. But Brewers fans have to be loving it, and any fans of old school hard-nosed baseball.

5. Philadelphia beat out the Mets at the wire two seasons in a row, now, but last year that momentum didn’t help them in the playoffs. They were summarily bumped from the first round and the pressure is on them to avoid that this year. The first game they lose, expect half the city’s attention to turn to the Eagles.

6. Manny being Manny. He’s been hitting .400 since going to LA, playing a good left field, and in the opening game against the Cubs, actually beat out an infield hit! To Boston fans, that only proves all the more how he was dogging it while a Red Sox. The Sox were taking BP last night when Manny blasted a home run one-handed at Wrigley. If Jason Bay hadn’t broken the ice in the Sox’ own game a few hours later with a homer, then the trade of Manny would have surely been lamented. Instead, Boston fans can continue to say good riddance… unless the Sox and Dodgers end up facing each other. Another World Series MVP trophy would suit Manny just fine.

7. Joe Torre’s vindication. The Steinbrenners decided they’d had enough of a good thing, apparently, and let Torre walk away. Now the Yankees are at home carving pumpkins with their kids for the first time since 1994’s work stoppage, and Torre is loving life. But he still has to get his team out of the first round to be able to really gloat. (Not that Joe would gloat.)

8. What will Ozzie Guillen say this time? Whether the White Sox win or lose, Ozzie is always good for some great quote that will set the media and the clubhouses buzzing. The White Sox had to fight tooth and nail to finally quell the uprising of the Twins, they might now have their hands full with the Rays. But wouldn’t it be a fine thing to see Junior Griffey be a hero?

9. Who am I going to root for? Since I don’t have a horse in this race, should I root for a cool matchup in the World Series? Cubs/White Sox would be a spectacle. Cubs/Red Sox could have a nice historical appeal, and I could drag out all my old stories about 1918. (There are some doozies from that World Series.) I don’t like the Angels or the Red Sox, though. Honestly, I rooted for the Red Sox in 2004, but I’m kind of tired of them winning now. Red Sox/Dodgers would be cool for the Manny angle. I think, though, ultimately, I have to root for the Rays. They’re new, they’re young and exciting, and they’ve got nothing to lose. I’m an AL gal at heart, and besides, that’d just make it sweeter when the Yankees beat them next year.

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