Last year it seemed like it took a few games, maybe even a whole round, before the postseason got really engaging. This year's first game had me on my feet, with Brad Lidge facing down the heart of the Brewers lineup with the game on the bases. Not to mention Cole Hamels approaching perfection and the sweet sound of Dale Sveum's name. Man, I wish my name was Mark T.R. Sveum.
No previews this year, as history proves again and again that short-series playoff baseball is 94% crapshoot and 6% TV scheduling. Instead: rooting interests.
Cubs-Dodgers I used to be a Cubs fan, and they beat and abused me until I just couldn't take it anymore and fled to the apathetic safety of Rockies fandom. So I'm rooting against them hard, particularly because they have all the pieces this year. That hasn't been the case since '84 or maybe even '69, and you know it'll be a while until they put it together correctly again -- new ownership pending, recall -- so man I hope they blow it. It's like your ex-girlfriend getting happily married. Also, the post-championship smugness of the Research Department might force me to dismiss him from that post. Another factor: If Manny Ramirez manages to single-handedly drag the Dodgers to the series the Yankees could pay him, like, (cue Dr. Evil voice) one billion dollars this winter. And that would be hysterical.
Rays-White Sox This is a toughie, since the White Sox are my other hometown team. Does anybody remember that period in the late eighties, early nineties when the White Sox kept threatening to move to St. Petersburg? They could have played in the same gray-turfed black dome of despair. The White Sox could have been the Devil Rays. I don't know if that would have meant Wade Boggs' 3,000th hit, the steroid-injecting last-chancers' row of bloated power hitters, and a succession of revolting neon-themed uniforms all would have befallen the Chicago AL franchise but it certainly is a nicely bizarre subplot to this series. You guys know I love Ozzie Guillen, who serves the same role as the president of the galaxy in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books -- he's a lightning rod to draw criticism and media coverage away from the players who do the actual work, and he does it brilliantly. But Ozzie and his Sox got theirs in '05; now is the time for the Rays. Imagine the formerly bedeviled (ahem) expansion team finishing off the World Series -- on Halloween! Wouldn't that be awesome? Alanis Morrisette would have to write a new verse to "Ironic."
Brewers-Phillies This one is easy. Philadelphia means nasty racist battery-chucking fans, another one of those annoying new stadiums with pinball-close outfield fences, and a long history of stat-padding empty uniforms who are useless when it matters, from Bobby Abreu to Chase Utley. Milwaukee means Bob Uecker, delicious ballpark food, the best tailgating in the league, and "Roll Out the Barrel." Let's go Crüe!
Angels-Red Sox Kind of indifferent here, as both of these teams are big-market goliaths with buckets of money to spend (and waste) and a tendency to view small-market competitors as mere talent mills. The Red Sox did just humiliate the Rockies in last year's World Series, which is a strong incentive to root against them. However, most of my extended family lives in Boston and they are passionate Sox fans to the last. I don't know any Angels fans. Reggie Jackson was with the Angels when he was brainwashed to kill the queen of England, right? Nah, I'm still pulling for Boston. But I hope the Rays meet them and beat them in the second round.
C'mon, Milwaukee-St. Petersburg World Series. Realize the dream!