This is a hard series to call, mainly because both teams are good but also have had some terrible times this season. Yes, the Angels are healthy and that's a good thing for them. But they played in the AL West, which wasn't exactly an intimidating division this year. The Angels could have fallen out of bed and won that division this year... and that's basically what they did.
Bartolo Colon was useless (and isn't even on the ALDS roster), Garrett Anderson was hurt a lot and is clearly aging and the Angels bullpen is far more mortal these days than ever before. If they'd gotten the Yankees, you know they would have moved on because they simply own the Yanks, but the Red Sox are different story. The Sox manhandled the Angels a few years ago in the first round of the playoffs and that carries some weight, I think. The Sox aren't afraid of the Angels. They know they can beat them and they and their fans don't obsess over the Halos. It's a lot easier to focus on simply winning baseball games when that's the case.
The Sox have a potent offense, Manny is (supposedly) back, Ortiz is still Ortiz, and except for a couple minor blips, Jonathan Papelbon has continued to be a lights-out closer. I don't think the Angels will be able to touch him late in games.
"Dice-K" Fatsuzaka doesn't impress me for the Sox, but Beckett is a money playoff pitcher, as is Schilling. Are there two starters out there that are more confident, "money" guys in the playoffs? I don't think so, and these two guys are on the same team. Yikes.
I think home field might play a big role in this one. If it goes five games, it means that the Angels will have flown back and forth across the country three times in about a week. Plus they'd be playing Game 5 in Boston. Not many teams are comfortable as a visitor in Fenway. I dislike the Red Sox with a passionate fury and I really, really want to pick the Angels. But I just don't think I can do it. The Sox are the better team and have dealt with more challenges this year that will help them when it comes to steeling themselves in the playoffs.
Sox in four.
These two have played each other in the playoffs a couple of times since the mid-90s. In 1997, the Tribe knocked off the Yanks in the ALDS, interruping what might have been a run of five consecutive World Series for the Yankees -- they won in '96, '98, '99, and '00 and looked as strong as ever in '97. I remember being shocked when the Tribe pulled it out in front of their raucous fans at the Jake. Then in 1998 the Yankees went 114-48 in the regular season and began steamrolling their way through the playoffs when, oops, they suddenly were down 2-1 in the ALCS against Cleveland and they had two more games in Cleveland ahead of them. They pulled out Game 4 behind El Duque (who was only 64 years old at the time) and didn't look back. But it was one of those "what could have been" series for the Yankees and many fans, myself included, remember how close they were to going down 3-1 in their most dominant season.
Cleveland is a city that loves its baseball and is starving for a champion. The Indians have now won the Central Division seven times since 1995. They were in the World Series in '95 and '97. They're so close and this current team is young and talented and may have several more shots at this.
The Yankees are also starving for a championship, but only because people are obnoxiously spoiled in the Bronx. The Yankees have won 26 World Series, just had their string of nine straight division titles broken, and have been to the playoffs thirteen consecutive years. Thirteen! The last time they missed the playoffs (not counting 1994 when there were no playoffs), Jim Colletto was Purdue's coach, Bill Clinton was in his second year in the White House, I was a senior in high school, practically nobody had email, there weren't any blogs, OJ hadn't killed anyone yet and Joe Morgan was only in his fourth year being an ignorant jackass on ESPN baseball telecasts. This is truly an amazing run the Yankees have been on, and save your bonehead comments about how it's all about their salary. Take a look at the payrolls of teams like the Mets, Dodgers, Red Sox, Orioles and many others in recent years and notice how they don't make the playoffs year after year after year. What bothers me, though, is the fact that winning the World Series would simply allow the players relief. They'd be relieved, not overjoyed. And that sucks.
Anyway, as for this series, the Yankees went 6-0 against the Tribe this year and most publications are saying to ignore that. Well, I'm not sure I would. The Yankees have always played well at the Jake and certainly aren't intimidated going in there. Could it be in the Indians heads that they can't beat the big bad Yankees? I think it could be. There is truth, however, to the fact that the Yanks haven't seen Sabathia this year (or since 2004) and Fausto Carmona has only pitched against them once. Those two guys are damn good and could win three games by themselves. The Yankees, on the other hand, have Wang going in Game 1, who I would have complete confidence in, and then Andy Pettitte in Game 2, who I wish I had complete confidence in. Yeah, he's pitched a lot of big postseason games for the Yankees, but he's also gotten his doors blown off (Game 6 of the 2001 World Series, for example) in big spots. So we'll see.
As you can tell, I really don't want to make a pick here. I honestly think this Yanks team is nothing like the one that got bounced by Detroit last year. They're focused, they're playing well, and there are no distractions. However, it was a young team with good pitching that shut them down last year and when this season started and I was asked how they would do, I predicted they'd win 95+ games again and then get beat in the postseason by better pitching than you face on average when you're pummelling the Devil Rays and Orioles in July.
So what do I think? I think the Yankees will probably lose to the Indians. Yes, there, I said it. But I refuse to believe myself. So my pick is...
Yankees in four.