Friday, October 12, 2007

Dirty Water: Sox Talk With the Thunderstick, Postseason Edition

Thunderstick thought we ought to post a preview of the ALCS clash between the Red Sox and the Indians. Who am I to deny what the Thunderstick, and surely the people, want?

Thunderstick: There's no doubt that as this week has gone on I've gotten more and more nervous about this series. There was kind of a period of, I'm not sure what to call it, not relief because I think we could have beaten them, but more like calm because no matter who we were playing and how good they were, it was nice to know that it wouldn't be the circus that Sox/Yanks would have been. I'm sure baseball fans of other teams that haven't been as successful as the Sox and Yanks have been the last several years would read that and toss a "you should be happy you root for a big market team that can compete every year and has such a great rivalry" my way. I have to say, I really, really am.

There are a lot of good rivalries in sports, but only a handful of really great ones and I feel very privileged to be involved with two of them--not just having grown up and currently living in the Boston area, but also having gotten to do my undergrad work at Duke and witnessing Duke/UNC first hand in Cameron. But it's like we've talked about several times--as great as the 2004 ALCS was, could you really call it fun? I don't really think I enjoyed myself during that until the last few innings of game 7. Sox/Yanks is so all-encompassing during the regular season that I just don't know if I was up for another 7 game series there at this time. To draw a Duke/UNC analogy, in 1991, both Duke and UNC made the final 4. UNC lost to Kansas in the first national semifinal that night and Duke upset UNLV and in the postgame press conference, Coack K was asked a question something along the lines of "how great would it have been for UNC to have won and to have had a Duke/UNC national title game?" to which Coach K responded something to the effect that "it would be the worst thing to happen to the rivalry, the losing side would never live it down and it would create a hostile rivalry instead of the great, respectful rivalry it is now". You see that with Duke and Maryland which was a pretty good rivalry before 2001 but after they met in the national semi and Duke came back to win the game, that rivalry has become more hostile than good-natured. Of course, Maryland fans are troglodytes, so maybe that was destined to happen anyway. I think that's what these ALCS's between the Sox and Yanks have done--not that it was the most civil rivalry in the world before that, but it's gotten downright hostile in the wake of the ALCS meetings and I don't think I was ready to go through that again and amp it up even farther.

My point in telling all that is to address the Cleveland fans. I know dcat's friends Tom and Don are big Cleveland guys and I guess there's the possibility that one of the other 12 people that read this site are as well, so I wanted to let them know, I got nothing but love for you guys! Should the Sox lose this series I will be on board the Tribe's bandwagon in the World Series hoping they can pull out a win over whichever of the Johnny-Come-Latelys comes out of the NL. My dad spent a good part of his youth in Cleveland. In our attic, he still keeps a pennant from the parade for the 1954 Cleveland Indians that won 111 games I think it was but got swept in the World Series that he ripped off one of the vehicles that was passing by during the parade and that he later got signed by Early Wynn. While spending the last 30 years in the Boston area has made my dad a Sox fan, I know there's a part of him that is hoping to see Cleveland go all the way and if the Sox should bow out, it would make me very happy to see him have a chance to see the Tribe win it all.

As for the matchups--I mean, what can you say. As I said earlier, I wasn't nervous in the beginning of the week, but I've got those playoff jitters now and they have to do with two guys--Sabathia and Carmona. Those guys are sick. But the Sox will counter with Beckett and Schil. We could have four games that match up the 3 best pitchers in the AL this year and the best postseason pitcher of all time. The other 3 games will be pitched on both sides with Westbrook, Byrd, Dice and Waker, guys that the teams really don't know what they are going to get out of them. I think the pens are pretty much even. I think you have to give the Sox an edge in the lineup, although not a big one and I think you have to give the Sox a big checkmark in the closer category. I wouldn't be surprised to see either team win in 5 or to see it go the distance, but I'll take the Sox in 6, if only because I have bad visions of Dice opening up game 7 and what that might lead to, so I'm hoping it's over before that.

dcat: Not even a decade ago, I couldn't stand Cleveland. The 1995 team beat the Red Sox in the postseason, as did the 1998 team. By 1998 I was in Ohio for grad school and of course found Cleveland fans to be insufferable, which is generally the case any time you have to deal with ardent fans of a team that isn't yours. But then Tom and I became buddies, I reconnected with Don, and the Sox and Pats went on their recent runs. So I've no ill will toward the Indians, and unless something happens to make me hate them this series, I'll be thrilled for those guys if the Indians can win it all.

But right now this is business, not personal. So in that spirit: Fuck the Indians. They have intimidating frontline starting pitching, but I think our starters go deeper. Their middle relief is tough, but their closer is heart-failure inducing, and that usually haunts teams in the postseason. We have quite good middle relief and a lights-out closer. And while I'm sure I'll get nasty phone calls from Tom and Don, I'm not certain that the Indians have three guys who would start for this year's Red Sox team. Hafner, of course, you'd have to find a place for (where, though?), and Sizemore too, though defensively I'm taking Coco right now. Victor Martinez had a better offensive year than Varitek but, please.

That said, this isn't fantasy baseball, and the Indians proved their mettle by beating the Yankees in every aspect of the game. As for what it means not to play the Yankees? It means the Yankees weren't good enough to get this far. I agree -- it's not always fun to play them in these series, but more importantly, on the field the Indians earned their way here. They tied for us for the best record in baseball this season. I firmly believe that these are the two best teams in the game right now. So it's the Indians I want to play. First pitch cannot get here quickly enough. Sox in five.

(And then tomorrow, I head to Dallas, as I have tickets to the Pats-Cowboys clash in Irving. We'll catch Game 2 somewhere fun tomorrow night and then will get ready for the clash of the undefeateds on Sunday. It's a great time to be a Boston sports fan. Pats 34 Cowboys 24.)

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