Opinion Corner: MLB playoffs wide openThe grind of 162 games is nearly over, and while the late regular reason push for playoff berths has been compelling as it usually is in Major League Baseball, now the real deal is set to get underway — in historic fashion, mind you, with the first ever one-game Wild Card matchup in both leagues.
By: Brian Willhide, The Jamestown Sun
The grind of 162 games is nearly over, and while the late regular reason push for playoff berths has been compelling as it usually is in Major League Baseball, now the real deal is set to get underway — in historic fashion, mind you, with the first ever one-game Wild Card matchup in both leagues.
Forget the fact that it’s practically a nightmare for these Wild Card winners to be able to turn around and host a division series against the top team in their respective leagues. That’s a whole ‘nother issue with the fact that a team with “home-field advantage” has to hit the road for the first two games.
When MLB Commissioner Bud Selig guaranteed this would make the end of the regular season even more intriguing in conjunction with the first round of the playoffs, I was skeptical. But now I think his guarantee is going to prove to be legitimate.
It could be another 20, 30 or 40 years before MLB is able to emulate last year’s final day of the regular season — the historic Sept. 28, 2011, when the postseason fate of four teams was ultimately decided in a matter of only a couple hours. That night really spoiled us as fans, so it’s only natural that we’d expect that level of excitement once again.
Unfortunately, it’s just not going to happen.
Nonetheless, I can honestly say that any of the 10 teams that are going to make this year’s playoffs have a legitimate chance of being the ones spraying champagne and hoisting the top prize in the sport when it’s all set and done.
No team has really separated themselves from the pack, nor has any limped in through some fluke or string of simply good fortune. Each ball club is both flawed and resilient in their own ways, and I’m looking forward to watching to see how some of these matchups unfold.
The first half of the season, many people doubted if the Washington Nationals were going to stay in the hunt for a full year. Some analysts and experts said it’s still a year too early for their emergence. But thanks to strong starting pitching and timely hitting, they’ve been at the top of the helm in the NL East for the duration and I see no reason to believe that success won’t carry over into this postseason.
Nationals will need only 5 games to defeat the Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS, who I feel do not have the starting rotation to keep up with Washington in a postseason series.
As much as I’d love to see the Oakland Athletics and the Baltimore Orioles continue this amazing string they’ve been on through the month of October, I look at both the experience and the on-paper rosters that the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers have assembled and just think it’s going to be too much.
Injuries have plagued the Yankees just enough to make me weary of them being top-dog in the AL, so I’ll take the Rangers in 7 games in the ALCS — making their third straight appearance in the World Series.
Stephen Strasburg would have no doubt helped the Nationals get to the World Series if he was cleared to continue pitching past his 160-inning limit. But even with the hard-throwing righty, I still think Washington is not at the level of an all-around team such as the Rangers.
I expect Josh Hamilton to have a Reggie Jackson-like postseason in an attempt to prove to all 30 MLB clubs, including his own, that he’s well worth an enormous contract this off-season. Plus, starting pitchers like Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Ryan Dempster are going to play huge roles in getting this team over the hump in 2012.
The Rangers will need just 5 games to dismiss the Nationals and give manager Ron Washington the World Series title he has come so close to claiming the past two seasons.
Willhide is a news writer with The Sun and a frequent contributor to the Opinion Corner