On Saturday night, the Chicago Cubs’ postseason struggles continued as the Los Angeles Dodgers completed the 3-game sweep with a 3-1 win at Dodger Stadium. This makes it 101 years since the Cubs have won a World Series. The North side has not seen the Cubs compete in a single October Classic since 1945. My deepest sympathies go out to all of the Cubs fans around the world. As they say in Chi-town, “Wait till next year.”
Next year will certainly have to go better than this one if the Cubbies have any hope, at least as far as October is concerned. Saturday's loss marked the ninth straight postseason loss for the Cubs, who were also swept in three games by Arizona during their NLDS appearance last year. The Cubs also became the first team since the 2001 Astros to finish with the best record in their league and be swept in their initial playoff series.
Curse or no curse, the Cubs just played horribly. They were outscored by the Dodgers 20-6, an embarrasing statistic for one of the National League's most versatile offenses.
The surprise of the Cubs being swept shows that just about anything can happen in baseball, especially in October. It's way too hard to tell who is going to come out on top these days. Just take a look at the many Wild Card teams that have won the World Series from each league over the past couple of decades. That number is staggering. With that said, it has inspired me to make my own postseason predictions this year.
Both ALDS series and one NLDS series are yet to be completed. The ALCS, NLCS, and World Series will take place in the coming weeks throughout this month. Here are my predictions on what is left to be played:
ALDS, Red Sox/Angels: Boston leads this series 2-0. Game three takes place tonight at Fenway Park. John Saunders (17-7) will face off against Josh Beckett (12-10). Beckett has suffered from injuries all season long and he makes his postseason return to the mound tonight. Beckett was 4-0 in October in 2007 and his postseason starts over the past 8 years, with the Marlins and now the Red Sox, have earned him the honor of being called the greatest postseason pitcher of this millennium. Expect Beckett to make his return to glory tonight as his arm will carry the Red Sox past the Angels and into their 5th ALCS appearance in the last 10 years.
ALDS, White Sox/Rays: Tampa Bay leads this series 2-0 with game three taking place tonight in Chicago. Matt Garza squares off against John Danks. Garza has been exceptional for the Rays all season long and Danks has been mediocre at best against the Rays in ’08. Rookie sensation Evan Longoria has been the difference maker in the first two games of this series. Don’t expect that to be any different in game three. The Rays lineup comes at you 1-9 and never lets up. Longoria is batting .571 with 2 home runs and 3 RBI’s so far this October. Longoria and the rest of the Rays juggernaut offense will be too much for the White Sox pitching staff tonight. The Rays get the sweep and make their first ALCS appearance ever.
NLDS, Brewers/Phillies: Philadelphia leads this series 2-1. The Brewers salvaged a win on Saturday night, but will face Joe Blanton, a midseason acquisition from Oakland, on Sunday. Blanton has not lived up to the expectations of Phillies fans, and expect him to struggle against Milwaukee. Blanton does not match up well against Brewer hitters such as the big man and slugger, Prince Fielder. However, a powerful Phillies offense will still be too much for the Brew-Crew to match. Expect this series to be over tonight, Phillies in 4. The bats of 1B Ryan Howard and 2B Chase Utley will carry the Fightin' Phills.
ALCS, Red Sox/Rays: The key to this series is home-field advantage, which the Rays have. The Rays have been magnificent at home, with a winning percentage over .750 in the regular season. The Red Sox couldn’t buy a win at Tropicana Field in ’08, and the majority of games in this series are scheduled to be played in Tampa Bay. The Rays struggled somewhat at Fenway during the regular season, but were able to win there more often than the Red Sox were able to in Tampa Bay. I expect this series to go the full 7 games. The home team will, in all likelihood, win every time. We saw some fantastic battles between the Sox and the Rays this year and that is why this series will turn into one of the best 7-game playoff series America has seen in over a decade. My prediction: Rays in 7.
NLCS, Dodgers/Phillies: This series will be dominated by offensive prowess. The Dodgers have been a different team since the July 31st acquisition of Manny Ramirez. Ramirez has changed the culture out in L.A. and has turned the Dodgers' offense into one of the most productive in the N.L. The only offense that compares to the Dodgers is, yes, the Phillies. Each and every game will be a slugfest. Pitching will make a huge difference in this series, even though most pitchers who take the mound will be getting pounded. The Phillies have the edge here with names like Cole Hamels starting games and Brad Lidge closing them out. My prediction: Phillies in 6.
World Series, Phillies/Rays: 5 of the last 10 World Series have been sweeps. I don’t expect that trend to be any different. The Rays have one of the few pitching staffs that is capable of shutting down the Phillies offense. Philadelphia pitching is not good enough to quiet the Rays’ bats. Let’s just face it, the American League is much stronger right now than their counterpart National League. This one is easy to call. The Rays became only the second team (Atlanta Braves) to finish a season in dead last and then follow up the very next year in first place. The Braves were not able to pull out their World Series in ’91, but I do think the Rays are a better team than those Braves and, also, they will be facing a much weaker team than the ’91 Braves had to face. Everyone wants to see a Cinderella story have a happy ending, myself included. The Rays are too good a team for the Phillies to beat on four different occasions over seven games. The A.L. won the All-Star game, meaning the Rays have home-field advantage. Let me remind you once again how good Tampa Bay has been at home this year. My prediction: Rays in an easy 4.
While these predictions come from hours of research into each team, hundreds of regular season games that I have viewed and attended this season, and my vast knowledge of the game of baseball (the greatest sport known to man), you will still look at these predictions when the postseason and October are all over with and gain insight into how great a game baseball is and, also, as to how anything can happen in sports.
The game of baseball means a great deal to America. Afterall, it is our national pasttime. The game has a great deal to do with how this country has grown and prospered. The game and it's players have instilled dreams into the heads of children and adults alike. The legends of the game, legends who will be forever immortalized, display what it really means to be American. Baseball is 100% American and it will forever be the standard by which we as Americans live and die.
Let me leave you with this final thought: Major League Baseball is the only business in American history in which the government constituted an exception for in relation to the Sherman Anti-Trust (monopoly) laws. The NFL, NBA, and NHL all had to make accomodations to not violate the infamous laws. To the game of baseball, the rules somehow did not apply.
-Chris Barfield (Predictions only reflect the thoughts of the author and of BARFIELD SPORTS. All predictions ARE original, formulated by research, games viewed and attended, and from a vast knowledge of the game of baseball.)