The World Series is a week away, but the way things are going, you’d barely know it.
Baseball’s division series were drastically short, and for the most part, uncompetitive. No series went the full five games, and only two were taken to four. Oakland swept Minnesota, and the Mets blanked the Dodgers.
After the Athletics dispatched the Twins, Detroit booted the A’s from the postseason in the same fashion. The Detroit-Oakland match-up was over in just five short days, and marked the first time in 16 years the ALCS ended in a sweep.
The A’s last trip to the LCS found them on the winning end of a sweep, way back in 1990 (also 16 years ago). So while breaking one streak of futility, Oakland plunged themselves beneath another.
The defeat also cast doubt on Oakland’s future, as all-star pitcher Barry Zito’s contract is up at the end of the year. Many teams will court the coveted Zito, including George Steinbrenner’s free-spending, early-playoff-dejected New York Yankees.
The season’s end also puts another year of wear on the already worn tires of A’s slugger Frank Thomas, who finished the series against Detroit with a disappointing 0-13. But it was Thomas’ strong late-season play that energized and inspired Oakland teammates and fans.
Detroit, a team that three years ago lost 119 games, first whipped the heavily favored Yankees and rode to a quick victory over the A’s. The Tigers had everything working for them. Strong pitching from Kenny Rogers, Todd Jones and Nate Robertson, combined with timely hitting from Magglio Ordonez, Craig Monroe and Placido Palanco.
When the World Series opens Saturday in Detroit it will mark a 22-year absence from the big dance for the Tigers.
Still, the series, and almost every minute of it, belonged to Detroit and its elated fans.
"[Hosting] the Super Bowl was great,” said Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. “But that was Pittsburgh’s time to dance. This is Detroit’s. The only thing better than hosting a party is hosting one for yourselves. We’re going to enjoy this."
While the American League Champion Tigers settle into a long rest at home and prepare for the World Series, the National League match-up between the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals is showing signs of life.
Ladies and gentlemen, we might just have a series on our hands.
First of all, the National League series, believe it or not, has been much more offense-heavy. After a game-three offensive hiccup, the massive Mets lineup awoke and scored 12 runs on 14 hits in game five. Carlos Beltran knocked two homers, while David Wright and Carlos Delgado added one apiece.
In that game Delgado finished with five RBI’s, giving him nine against St. Louis, and tied a Mets postseason record for a series. Carlos Beltran also tied a post-season record with Babe Ruth hitting seven home runs against the same team (Cardinals). And there are at least two more games to go.
40-year-old Mets starter Tom Glavine has been the savior for the team, as injuries to Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez have kept the two stalwarts off the mound. Glavine started 2-0 this postseason and didn’t allow a run in 13 innings. Not bad for a guy who could be your dad.
Still, the Mets injury woes are going to be a difficult beast to overcome. Starter Steve Trachsel was injured in game three after Preston Wilson jammed a ball back at him, bruising his right thigh. Should the series with St. Louis go the distance, Trachsel’s status for a game-seven start is questionable.
In the opposite dugout, Albert Pujols has been slumping, and is probably due for a breakout performance any minute now, but Jim Edmonds has done a solid job picking up the slack after being injured for most of the second half of the season.
Still, this postseason is putting the hurt on Bud Selig and MLB. And following another year of steroid scandals (if the allegations made about Roger Clemens’ steroid use holds up, God help us), no Boston-New York rematch, one lackluster series after another, and no major-market teams left in the mix, the commish is going to be left crying in his beer. Maybe George Steinbrenner will pull up a seat for him at the bar.
And sure, the Detroit turnaround story is sweet, but it’s no breaking of the Boston Curse, or the impossible Cubs’ championship. So for now we’ll just hope for a few nail-biters before the bats are packed away and the field is covered up. But really we’ll let Fall Classic just drift past like a lifeless leaf in a cold wind.
But hey, we’ve still got football.