We have new blood in the baseball playoffs and all the big markets are represented.
It should be a ratings bonanza for a sport that has found itself in the shadow of the NFL for quite a while and most likely trailing the NBA in terms of popularity.
TV execs have to be salivating at the prospects of having New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston in the playoffs as all are TV meccas.
The playoffs have a definite American League slant, as probably three of the best four teams reside in the AL.
Here’s a look at the matchups:
• Minnesota vs. New York (wild-card) – I would be utterly flabbergasted if the Yankees lose this game at home to the Twins.
Just remember the Twins were a 100-loss team last year, so it gives hope to all teams – not to mention those in small markets – that things can turn at the drop of a dime.
Ervin Santana will have to pitch the game of his life for the Twins to have a chance.
• Colorado at Arizona — Two teams that have been afterthoughts in recent years meet up in the desert.
Zack Greinke gives the homestanding Diamondbacks the edge. They have been a great team at home all season and I don’t expect anything to change.
Given those results, here’s how the Elite Eight stacks up:
• Cleveland vs. New York •
This is going to be better than the actual World Series. The winner of this game is going to be your World Champion.
It’s almost too bad this is a best-of-five. I picked Cleveland at the beginning of the year and what it has done since Aug. 1 is beyond jaw-dropping. Its stretch of 30 wins in 32 games left the Royals in the dust.
Cleveland has amazing starting pitching and baseball’s best bullpen. The Yankees can slug teams into submission.
I like the Indians in 5.
• Houston vs. Boston •
I’ll be honest, Boston won its division even though I don’t think it has the best team as the Yankees’ first half of the season did them in.
I like Houston in this one because of the addition of Justin Verlander. The guy has been nails since coming over from Detroit.
Boston also has to manufacture runs, whereas the Astros are much like the Yankees in that they can simply rake.
I like the Astros in 4.
• Chicago vs. Washington •
The Nationals are starting to remind me of those old Dodger teams in the 1950s that annually made it to the World Series, then lost to the Yankees.
For the Nationals, though, it’s a matter of getting out of the playoffs, something they haven’t done.
Washington has the better pitching, but Chicago was my pick at the beginning of the year to make the World Series and I never climb off the horse.
I like the Cubs in 4.
• Los Angeles vs. Arizona •
For about 130 games, the Dodgers were the best team in the history of baseball.
They were incredible for three-fourths of the season, but then reality set in. But they’re not nearly as bad as that 1-16 stretch they endured.
I don’t think it matters which team advances, neither of them can stand up to the Cubs.
I like the Dodgers in 4.
If all this plays out the way I expect, I like the Indians in 5 over the Astros and the Cubs in 5 over the Dodgers.
And then I will have my World Series matchup as I predicted at the start of the year — Cleveland over Chicago in 6.