Apparently Vegas odds are favoring the Rays to win the World Series over the Phillies. I kinda figured the Phillies would be looked upon as the underdogs in this series, so it doesn’t really surprise me too much that that’s what most people think. Philly’s viewed as a town with obnoxious fans and sports teams that don’t win anything, year after year (presumably making fans even more pissy by the time next season rolls around).
But here’s the thing. The Rays have had a hell of a year–they really have. They managed to overcome the Red Sox and the Yankees in the AL East, and that’s a heck of a feat. They’ve done well. But was anyone else watching when they screwed up a 3-1 game lead in the ALCS? Did anyone notice how these red-hot Rays dropped a couple games and forced a tiebreaker game between them and the Sox, those comeback kids, whom the Rays had been trampling upon in the beginning of the series?
Good teams lose games. That’s a fact. But if the Rays are really as hot as everyone thinks they are, would they really have squeaked out of the ALCS series with a just-by-the-skin-of-their-teeth win? Or would they have dominated much earlier on in that series–like they looked like they were going to (but didn’t)?
All year long, I’ve been hearing from everyone about how the Phillies weren’t gonna do it. Everyone thought the Mets would win the NL East. They didn’t. Granted, they came close, but still–they didn’t.
The Phillies played their NLDS games against the Brewers. I had to hear from everyone about how Braun and Sabathia were going to clobber the Phillies. Sabathia lasted a truly pitiful amount of innings (was it 4?) in the game he pitched against the Phillies. The Brewers won just one game in that series.
Then the Phillies took on the Dodgers in the NLCS. All I heard about was how Manny was gonna come in there and wipe the floor with the Phillies. And while Manny did really well in that series, the Dodgers still didn’t win it.
All season long I’ve heard “they can’t” and “they won’t” associated with the Phillies, when in reality, it’s everyone else’s teams that couldn’t and didn’t. The Phillies have done what every other team in the National League couldn’t and didn’t do: they made it to the 2008 Fall Classic. And dammit, they deserve to be there.
The Rays are an excellent team. They surprised everyone this year by getting as far as they did. The Phillies have done the same thing. They’ve not only exhibited skill in their playoff games, but they’ve made some playoff miracles happen, and playoff magic has been on their side. Skill and luck has gotten them where they are today, waiting excitedly for this World Series to start with them in it, and I believe that their skill and luck will be evident once again in this series. I believe this combination will make them winners this time around.
This group of Phillies has enjoyed proving everyone wrong this season. These Phillies have proven that they–not the Mets, with their mighty Santana–really were the team to beat in the NL East. They have proven that they can go to the playoffs without choking like they did in 2007. They’ve taken a bullpen that once made fans cringe and turned it into a bullpen that fans cheer for. Their star pitcher was a freakin’ rookie not too long ago. One of their other pitchers is a holy terror at the plate. And another one of their pitchers is the oldest active player in baseball, and he goes out there and gives the game every bit of energy that the younger guys do. No longer does Pat Burrell stand in left field fussing with his hair–he actually tries to run after balls that sail into the outfield. The Flyin’ Hawaiian will steal your bases and mow you down. Home runs and grand slams come from the most unlikely of players at exactly the right times.
I hope the Phillies continue to prove everyone wrong in the next ten days or so. I believe the Phillies can be victorious in the World Series this year. And I’ll be the first one to say “I told you so!” to all the nay-sayers if I’m right.
As I’m sitting here typing this, the Bay Rays are holding down an incredible 11-2 lead over the Red Sox at Fenway. And it’s only the 7th inning. Tonight hottie Evan Longoria hit his fifth homer, setting a new record for rookies in the postseason.
Last night at Dodger Stadium, the Phillies blew a small lead, spent most of the game trying to catch back up to the Dodgers, tied the Dodgers…and then enter Matt Stairs, whose stats aren’t stellar, who hadn’t hit a damn thing this postseason, who’d barely seen playing time for the Phillies in the regular season…and he hit a 2-run dinger that allowed the Phillies to win the game–the first game that the Phillies have won at Dodger Stadium in not only the postseason, but the regular 2008 season as well.
The Phillies are up 3-1 in the NLCS, and, unless the Sox can find some way to procure 10 more runs in their next three innings, the Rays will be up 3-1 in the ALCS. I think people expected that Manny and the Dodgers would kick the crap out of the Phillies, and that the Red Sox, who are used to being in the playoffs and winning World Series, would stomp all over the Bay Rays, who are taking their first foray into the postseason in franchise history. But that isn’t happening right now. And it might not happen at all. There might not be that epic “Manny vs. His Old Team” series that everyone seemed to think would happen. It very well could end up being two young clubs who have very little postseason experience, but who have surprised everybody this season.
Whoever would have expected that the Rays would walk all over the two most historic franchises in baseball–the Red Sox and the Yankees–to take first place in the AL East and then advance in the playoffs? And who would have thought that the Mets would have managed their second heinous collapse in a row–a collapse from which not even Johan Santana could save them!–to allow the Phillies to win the NL East again? But these things happened, and so the Rays and the Phillies are here, terrifying and baffling their opponents. Victorino’s rapidly becoming the Dodger fans’ #1 persona non grata. Longoria’s setting records. Brett Myers is hitting more than Ryan Howard is. The “wonder hamster” (not as cool of a nickname as “Flyin’ Hawaiian”, but whatevs!) is hitting game-winning 2-run homers. The Sox are being clobbered in their very own stadium in front of a very passionate population of Red Sox Nation inhabitants. Playoff magic is happening!
For a fantastic article on the Phillies’ playoff magic, check out this excellent article written by ESPN’s Jayson Stark.
And speaking of playoff magic? As I’m about to end tonight’s BILF Report entry, the Rays are now 13-2 over the Sox. And it’s only the top of the 8th.