Saturday, October 15, 2011

Dual Epic Flops

Many baseball fans were excited about the possibility of seeing the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankees in this year’s World Series. They were, after all, baseball’s best teams in 2011. 

Unfortunately, for fans expecting this great matchup, teams in Detroit and St. Louis made other plans. In what can only be described as dual epic flops, both the Phillies and Yankees teams forgot how to hit and score runs.

They were the top two teams in their leagues - the Phillies ran away with the NL’s Eastern Division with a 102-60 record, and the Yankees survived a charge by Boston and Tampa Bay to post baseball’s 2nd best record of 97-65. It was not too much for fans to expect to see these two great teams square off for baseball’s top prize. It looked like an epic battle between two powerhouse teams; the possibility of one of the great World Series matchups of all time had fans salivating.
The Phillies own one of the great starting pitching staffs in many years, with Roy Halliday, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, and Ryan Madson. With such an array of enormously talented pitchers, one would not be afraid to predict a World Series winner. This team also has some of baseball’s best every day players. With a lineup that included stalwarts such as Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Shane Victorino, the Phillies are a force. The team added the frosting on the cake with the late season acquisition of right fielder Hunter Pence; an additional spark that kept the Phillies winning through the end of the regular season. At the very least, the Phillies were expected to quickly dispense with the formalities of the early rounds of the playoffs.
The Cardinals plain and simply outplayed the Phillies. The Divisional Series went the full five games, and Phillies fans were certain that ace Halliday would wrap it up. It was certainly a pitching duel – Halladay against Chris Carpenter. Halladay gave up only 6 hits; struck out 7 and walked only 1. Carpenter allowed just 3 hits and no walks. Both pitchers were sharp, but Halladay gave up 1 run, and Carpenter threw a shutout. Game over; series over.
The Yankees did not have such dominant pitching, but they made up for it during the season by slugging their way to victories. A fearsome lineup including Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Derek Jeter, is enough to strike fear in the heart of the steadiest pitcher.
New York won big in two of the Divisional Series games – 9-3 in the first game, and 10-1 in game four. The 2nd and 3rd games were close; both going to the Tigers. Game 5 was another nail biter – not much of a pitching duel though. Detroit used 4 pitchers, and New York sent 7 to the mound. The Tigers had 10 hits to the Yankees 8 – with the final score going to Detroit 3-2.

The Yankees are and always have been a money team – that is, they tend to win when the money is on the line. The Yankees have won more World Series than any other team and for good reason – the winning attitude carries over from year to year. They are expected to win and they expect to win themselves. When it doesn’t happen, everyone is surprised.
No one can really put a finger on why dream teams fail to win; it just happens. The chemistry and talent that propels a team to post the best record in their league should carry the team through the playoffs – in a perfect world that is. In reality, dream teams often lose to teams that simply want it more. Everyone wants to win, but it was clear from watching the way the Cardinals played the Phillies, and the way the Tigers faced off against the Yankees that they just wanted it more.
What it comes down to is there is really no such thing as a dream team. It’s just one team against another, and that’s why they play the games rather than just concede the win to the favored team.
Still though, fans did miss out on what should have been an epic battle – the great Phillie pitching staff against the power of the Yankees. The best against the best - power against power. We are still drooling over the thought of watching Roy Halliday and Cliff Lee going head to head against Granderson, Teixeira, Rodriguez, and Jeter.
Fans in Detroit, Arlington, St. Louis, and Milwaukee will tell you that the hype surrounding the two ‘great’ teams is just so much hogwash. They argue that their teams are better than the Yankees and the Phillies.
It is hard to argue against that point – considering that the great Phillies and Yankees teams are now mere spectators.

© 2011 LTM

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