October is Different, Part IV: World Series Edition


Colorado Rockies versus Boston Red Sox
I was going to post a nice picture above of Denver and then a crappy picture of Boston but I'm much bigger than that. Just because I hate the Sox doesn't mean I can't be a good guy and evaluate them fairly. Okay, maybe it might seem that way, but the truth is, I picked them to win their first round series and then I picked them to lose in 7 to Cleveland and, had Cleveland not lost a 3-1 lead, I would have looked pretty bright. As it stands, though, I look about as dumb as usual. So let's just get to my breakdown of the World Series.

For starters, I'm just happy there's going to be a game tonight, so we can stop seeing Rockies players being asked what the 8-day layoff is going to mean. They don't know, guys. They've never even been to the World Series, so how can they tell you? Of course they're going to say they enjoy the time off and resting up and OF COURSE we all know they'd rather get right into it. Might they be "rusty"? I guess it's possible, but if Todd Helton sees a Josh Beckett fastball really well and puts it into the seats in the first inning, does all that "rust" talk simply vanish? Probably. And if Beckett shuts them down, like he's done to the Angels and Indians, will people comment on Colorado's rust? Of course they will. It's kind of dumb. But it's hard to think a week off is helpful when you've played baseball pretty much every day since March.
Why The Rockies Might Win: Basically, because they've looked unstoppable for the past month. And with this 8-day layoff, they've now lost one game in the last 38 days. How ridiculous is that? 22-1 in their last 23 games. Supreme confidence. Outstanding hitting. They have the comeback kids kind of mentality that has helped the Red Sox in '04 and '07; that is, simply believing you're going to come back and win no matter what happens. The Rox were down two runs in extra innings of their one-game playoff against San Diego and they came back and won. They were 7+ games out in mid-September and they got in. They haven't lost a game in the postseason yet. (Even those vaunted, always-talked-about Yankees teams from the late-90s didn't sweep their way through the playoffs, so consider that.) The Rockies pitching has been excellent and their bullpen has been lights-out.
Why The Rockies Might Lose: Well, they're the Rockies. Can you imagine the Rockies being the World Series champs? And just like the Phillies that they ousted in the first round, could the Rockies eventually run out of gas? I mean, consider all they've had to do to get here and how much winning baseball they've had to play the past month. They've been in do-or-die playoff mode since about September 15. Teams that have to overcome such deficits often peter out just a bit too early. But hey, you could have made that argument about the Red Sox comeback in '04 over the Yankees and it didn't turn out to hurt them. They just kept plowing along. And so might the Rockies. Another reason they might lose is because they haven't faced a team like the Red Sox yet. The Rockies beat the overrated Phillies (a second-place team only in the playoffs because of an historic collapse by the Mets) and then the overrated Diamondbacks (a team that got outscored on the season and happened to buck statistical trends and eek out 90+ victories). The Red Sox are far, far better than either of those opponents.
Why The Red Sox Might Win: As I just said, on paper they're a better team than the Rockies. Colorado was a fourth-place team for much of the season, trailing the D-Backs, Padres and Dodgers almost all year. Read that again. The Rox were worse than the D-Backs, Padres and Dodgers all year long... until the last two weeks of September. So no matter how hot they are, if you look at things equally, they're not as good as the first-place-all-year Sox. The Sox have the best starter in the series, and among the best in baseball, in Josh Beckett. They have Bloody Sock Schilling, who is good for at least one "heroic" performance each series. And then they have a pretty good stable of pitchers in the bullpen, leading up to Riverdancer Jonathan Papelbon. The Sox also have David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, who both hit over .400 in the ALCS. These guys are fantastic hitters, plain and simple. They're not the concern for Colorado. I think the Rockies will pitch around these guys if they have to, so the question becomes can JD Drew, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Lowell, Jason Varitek, et al, come to play and cash in when they get up there with guys on base.
Why The Red Sox Might Lose: This team has been awfully streaky this season. They came flying out of the gate for two months and then played mediocre baseball for about three months, almost letting the Yankees catch them. Then they played well again right into the playoffs and then, against the Indians, looked awful in falling behind 3-1. Then they seemingly turned it on again and plowed through the Indians. If this team doesn't come out focused against a Rockies team that is sweeping teams out of the playoffs, it could be another 3-1 deficit before they know it. Sure, they've shown they can come back from that, but you see where I'm going with this. In addition, if Schilling or Matsuzaka aren't in top form in Games 2 and 3 (with Matsuzaka tentatively pitching in Coors -- wheee!) the Rockies could get themselves a series lead and even more confidence. Oh, and if Eric Gagne has to pitch, the Sox might as well say goodnight. Man, has he been awful.
Factor Being Talked About That Might Mean Something or Might Mean Nothing: The Rockies came to Fenway in mid-June and took two of three from the Sox, even beating Josh Beckett, who only lost seven games all season. While one might think this could get into Beckett's head, I think it's more likely that he's aware of what he did wrong in that game and is even more focused to take them down. After all, that was a mid-June series when the Sox had a huge division lead and this is the World Series. Hard to compare. But it's good for the Rockies that they know they can win in that challenging venue.
Other Miscellaneous Things I'm Watching For:
Will Manny pose and strut after any home runs? If so, will the Rockies finally be the team willing to knock him down for it? I doubt it, but it's fun to think about.
Will we see significant snow for the first time in a World Series? Quite possible, since it was really snowy in Denver over the weekend. It's not looking to be too bad in the upcoming days but it came show up quickly there. Wouldn't MLB look stupid then if the World Series is postponed by snow. Of course, maybe they never expected the Rockies to ever make a World Series.
Will Eric Gagne be allowed to share in the postgame celebration if the Sox win the World Series?
How many times will we be reminded of the Rockies playing for Mike Coolbaugh? It's definitely awesome that they voted Coolbaugh a playoff share so his family gets it, but I have a feeling we might get hit over the head with it by Fox.
Speaking of Fox, how many crappy sitcom actors will they plant in the stands in Denver or Boston?
How many times will Tim McCarver screw up Troy Tulowitzki's name?
Prognostication: Well, it's about that time. I've gotten the winner right in four of the six series played so far this postseason so I'm doing okay. This is a tough series, as most are, because you just don't know how the teams are going to react. Would anyone have thought the Tigers would look so lifeless and sloppy against the weak Cardinals last season? I mean, isn't it possible to imagine the Rockies continuing their unconscious streak of masterful baseball and getting through the Red Sox to complete their magical season? (Well, okay, magical month.) Sure it is. And isn't it just as easy to imagine the Red Sox simply shutting down the storybook Rockies, simply because they have a more complete, dominant team?
The Rockies have some terrific hitters in Tulowitzki, Helton, Hawpe and Atkins. The Sox have an equally impressive group that includes Ortiz, Manny, Lowell (who led the team in RBIs, betcha didn't know that) and Drew. The Rockies pitching, while outstanding in the playoffs, is not quite the caliber at the top that the Red Sox is. Beyond the top pitchers, though, I think the Rox are a lot closer to the Sox level.
All that said, and as much as I detest the Red Sox, I don't think I can bring myself to actually predict a Rockies win. I'd love to see it happen -- and not just because I don't like Boston. I think the fans of Colorado have seen a mediocre-to-terrible baseball product for most of the time the Rockies have existed. Now, they're finally doing things right and they've gone on an impressive run and seem to have the parts in place to at least remain competitve in the NL West. So I think it'd be great to see a city like Denver, which has won in in the past in hockey and football, get to see a championship-winning baseball team. But I just don't think it's going to happen.
Red Sox in 6.

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