The World Series starts tonight. While my beloved White Sox aren't in it, as a baseball fan I'm filled with anticipation. I even like the teams; the Giants and Rangers, besides deserving their dance tickets, are a breath of fresh air that I think baseball needs after back-to-back all-East Coast affairs.
I've sort of grown fond of the Giants over the course of the year. Loaded with White Sox '05 World Series heroes Aaron Rowand and Juan Uribe, and a bevy of young stars like Tim Lincecum and Buster Posey, I find the team kind of heart-warming. They play good baseball, with solid defense and pitching, and have a hard time beating themselves. They're fun to watch, and I've been silently rooting for them, even though they had to leap-frog the Rox to get to the Postseason. Above all, Posey was a big reason why I won my fantasy league title this year, and I'm crazy loyal to guys like that (see: Gagne, Eric).
(El Profundo!, so named because of his profound buttocks, is a South Side hero that I will root for regardless of current team affiliation)
The Rangers have been a power-house in waiting for years. Since their last playoff appearance in 1999, the Rangers have had 8 losing seasons out of 11. Yet, for essentially the entirety of the past decade, baseball fans have seen some good young talent end up on the Rangers; struggling for 11 years will get you quite a few high draft picks, after all. While I've heard about their young players, I always wondered if they'd ever get enough pitching to put that talent to good use. With the addition of Cliff Lee to a staff that already boasted some strength, that pitching is in place, and a berth in the World Series is the reward. Now can it be enough to get them a ring?
In a perfect world I'd love to see the Giants win. I find them eminently more likeable than the Rangers who are run by a coke fiend and powered by a Jesus freak. Ron Washington may be hilarious, and Josh Hamilton may be crazy-talented, but I want them both to fail. However, in the end you always have to give the edge to the team with the most pitching, and that's not the team who will send Madison Bumgarner to the bump (talented though he may be). Give me the team with Cliff Lee, and give me them in 6.
(Cliff Lee is too dominant to ignore; with him available to pitch 3 games, the Giants are all but doomed)
One additional thing I would like to mention: start dates. Since the addition of the wild card (and another round of playoffs) in 1995, the World Series has generally started sometime between the 17th and 24th of October; this has been annoying, but tolerable. The only exceptions were 2001 (when a week of games was postponed because of 9/11; series stated on the 27th) and last year when the series started on the 28th of October. This year, we're again having it start in the final week of October. I get why these the late starts are happening (FOX gets what FOX wants), but baseball needs to seriously look at finding a way at fixing this. It was 5 years ago yesterday that the '05 series ended (with a White Sox victory!), and we're just getting this thing started today? This late start is not only going to hurt play (the weather in San Fran is not going to be pretty), but I imagine it's going to hurt ratings as well.
Had the series got started last week, like had been tradition, baseball might've bypassed the start of the NBA season. As it is, all major sports are now in play, and this weekend there are a bevy of interesting football games on. Add in the kiddies out trick-or-treating on Sunday and Election Night distractions next week, and you've got a recipie for a lightly watched series. Good job MLB!
Baseball can only blame itself; they can milk the season schedule however they want after all. They've been talking about reducing the number of regular season games, but only in exchange for more rounds of playoffs; that's just changing the tune but keeping the same dance steps. Last year the series ended on the 4th of November; this has got to change. A Summer sport shouldn't have it's title decided in November.