We're reminded all the time, by events on the field and the sharper professional analysts out there, that short-series playoff baseball bears little resemblance to the way it's played during the regular 162. Stuff like endlessly juggling lefty-righty matchups from among your 13 pitchers and carrying three catchers can work... sometimes. Within the confines of seven games and especially five games water doesn't always have the chance to find its level, and minor events can turn around team momentum and morale.
In the Cubs-Dodgers series, the Chicago crowd was behind their team for less than half of one game. After the Loney grand slam, they starting booing in earnest. The mood in the press and in the city at large was that the Cubbies were blowing it again, and indeed they did. Maybe you can blame the Dodgers' parade of power righthanders and maybe you can blame Lou Piniella for never using Ted Lilly and insisting on starting the punchless Kosuke Fukodome, but I'll continue to believe that the new wave of Cubs fans -- they've gotten mean, like Philly fans -- and their heckling punched the fragile ego balloons of the likes of Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, and Derrek Lee. They need someone whose brain is on another wavelength entirely from the rest of the world, like Fry in the "Futurama" episode with the floating brains. They should get in on the Manny bidding big-time, if somehow he slips through the fingers of Los Angeles.
By contrast, the Angels-Red Sox series was supposed to turn on another big play, only it didn't. The extra-inning win Anaheim managed to pull out in Game 3 didn't prevent their hasty elimination in Game 4 at all, and I don't think it will do much to break the postseason mojo Boston seems to have over the Rally Monkey. The Angels have become a team that gets picked to go deep in the playoffs every year, and yet since their World Series win of 2002 they've been disappointments, either bowing out quickly or not making it into the field at all. Yet baseball writers continue to be optimistic about them. Are all the name changes confusing? Or is it that that 2002 World Series run was so magical (and it was a really memorable one even for non-Angels fans) that they still have a bit of mystique hanging on them? Seems odd that that mystique would trump that of the Red Sox, who have only won two championships themselves since Dusty Baker gave the '02 title to Anaheim. Everybody's just throwing darts when it comes to predicting these things.
Anybody else notice that Manny Ramirez took special care to include Scott Boras in his postgame comments after the Dodgers wrapped it up against the Cubs? He's a lot smarter than we give him credit for, Man-Ram. He's got to be tweaking all the Boston columnists and sportsradio guys squawking about Bill Simmons' recent speculatory column on ESPN.com. As for Boras, you can question his methods, but his client is going to get what he wants -- a four-year deal somewhere for obscene bucks. Maybe with the Mets? That would fit their recent pattern of overpaying downslope guys, from Carlos Delgado to Pedro Martinez to Tom Glavine.
As for the other two series, Tampa vs. Chicago was pretty predictable -- the better team won, and the White Sox were so happy just to be there that they managed to win one game at home. Philadelphia and the Brewers went down similarly, except for C.C. Sabathia's curious collapse in the second game. Milwaukee was favorites on the road in that game due to their starter alone but after he had a rough outing the wind seemed to go out of their sales. They did get the requisite win at home, as you'd expect for a team returning to the playoffs for the first time in a jillion years. With Ben Sheets and Sabathia both eligible for free agency, could this be the Brewers' peak, right here? One playoff win per decade? Sounds like being a Rockies fan before last year. And possibly in the years to come.
I like the Dodgers and the Rays, for what it's worth. I'm not going to attempt to analyze those picks because like I just said, it's all just throwing darts.