Chicago Cubs versus Arizona Diamondbacks
The Cubs started the season terribly and Lou Pinella looked like he was going to melt down in the season's first month. Apparently, this fired up his troops. Or maybe the NL Central was just that awful (again). When the Milwaukee Brewers completely melted down in the second half of the season (and make no mistake, if their season happened in New York, it'd be just as big a deal as the Mets collapse), the Cubs were there waiting, happy to take the division off their hands. As bad as the Central is, it's produced the past three NL representatives to the World Series (Cards in '04 and '06, Astros in '05). Could this be four straight? It's actually not so far-fetched.
The Diamondbacks, by all accounts, are freaks of nature. They've been outscored on the season by twenty runs and that almost always means you're in for a sub-.500 season. (To give you examples, the Cubs outscored their opposition by 62 runs, the Rockies outscored opponents by 102 runs and the Red Sox outscored opponents by 210 runs.) Yet their pitching kept them in it and they won an awful lot of close games. Call it heart, grit, stick-to-itive-ness or whatever, but understand that they're not nearly as good as their 90 wins suggests.
The Cubs have the dominant #1 starter in Carlos Zambrano and they have a potent offense led by Alfonso Soriano. They also have Wrigley Field, which is absolutely zany in October. As much as I don't think the Cubs are all that good, I really think they'll handle the Diamondbacks in the NLDS.
Cubs in four.
Well, you all know how the Rockies stormed into the playoffs and how the Phillies occupied first place for two days after April (and one of those was yesterday). These two teams are both red-hot and I do mean red-hot. The Rockies have gone 14-1 in their last 15 and the Phillies have gone 13-4 in their last 17. Both teams were pretty much left for dead in mid-September and found a way to plow their way into the playoffs by simply willing their way to play good baseball. It didn't seem to matter who was getting in their pathes -- they were going to run them over. And that's pretty cool.
The Phillies probably have a slightly better team, although that's a tough call. While the Rockies have some slugs you've never heard of for good reason, they also have some fantastic up-and-coming players that you should have heard of, such as Troy Tulowitzki, Matt Holliday and Brad Hawpe. The Phils are stocked with mashers like Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell and Jimmy Rollins. One thing is for sure -- this series will not lack for offense, especially with two of the games at Coors Field in Denver.
I'll admit I'm biased in this one. I don't like Philadelphia, although that's got more to do with their fans than the team. But they've been knocking on the NL East door for a few years now so I'm not as excited about them getting this opportunity as I am for the Rockies. The Rox have been putting up marginal baseball for more than a decade since the only other time they ever slipped into the playoffs (in '95). I was so happy to see the fans in Denver have some good baseball to watch and they seemed to appreciative. Plus the Rockies are just fun to watch.
So regardless of what logic says, I think the Rockies will win this series and then be, improbably, just four wins away from the World Series. And if there's baseball in Denver in late October, it damn well could snow. That alone is worth rooting for.
Rockies in five.