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Pheiffer Takes Indians To Win It All This Year

By Rory P. Pheiffer

SPORTS COLUMNIST

So the predictions for the division champions of each league are in, which means it’s time for playoff predictions. Considering the NHL and NBA playoffs both are still far from over, it probably is a bit early to start talking Major League Baseball season, but then again, the way the schedule is set for the NBA playoffs, we might have a NBA world champion crowned at the same time the first pitch for the World Series is thrown. Regardless of the time though, let’s delve into a dissection of potential playoff match-ups.

National League Playoffs

In the playoffs, the Atlanta Braves, the National League’s top team will face the wild card team, which will be determined in a heated wild card race between the Mets, Reds, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, and Giants. I look for the Mets to edge the Cardinals for the wild card spot though. The acquisition of Mike Hampton in the off-season, coupled with the experienced and dangerous potential of the New York Mets batting order to put them over the top in the wild card race for the second year in a row.

One playoff match-up should pit the Atlanta Braves against the Houston Astros; in the other the New York Mets will square off against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Houston faced Atlanta last year in the first round of the playoffs, winning the first game of the series and then dropping the next three. They also faced three years ago, with Atlanta also winning that match-up. Thus, these two teams know each other well when it comes to the postseason. One more match-up shouldn’t change things much as Atlanta has Houston’s number, and with it, a trip to the NLCS.

As for the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets, I foresee a hotly contested battle between two quality ball clubs. The Mets have a little more depth in the pitching staff, but I think the Dodgers batting order is a bit stronger than that of the Mets. This series could easily go to the fifth and deciding game, and if it does, I think the Dodgers will save Kevin Brown for it. He will be the decisive factor to bring the Dodgers its first trip to the NLCS since they won the World Series back in 1988. This would mark quite a turnaround for the Dodgers who finished with a losing record last year. However, the turnaround will not be as good as some Dodgers’ fans might like, because the winner of this series earns the right to be trounced by the perennial National League champions, the Atlanta Braves.

As I stated in my previous article on Atlanta, they have a solid pitching staff and a deeper batting order than they did last year. The Dodgers cannot match-up against the Braves in any of the facets of the game and as a result, Atlanta should await the champion of the American League to square off in the Fall Classic.

American League Playoffs

The three division winners in the American League will be the Yankees, Indians, and Mariners. The wild card race should be rather interesting, with some young teams in the Chicago White Sox, the Toronto Blue Jays, and possibly the Oakland Athletics giving chase to the Boston Red Sox, but the Bosox will hold strong and once again stake claim to the wild card spot.

This should set-up a playoff situation similar to last year with the Yankees taking on the AL West champion and the Indians getting another crack at the Boston Red Sox. Much like the National League, New York has been in control of their respective league lately. The Mariners know this and probably are not looking for much success against New York, which is good because they won’t find much. Not much explanation is needed, New York is loaded, and even if this Seattle team still had Griffey, the couldn’t match-up with the pitching or hitting of the New York Yankees.

In the other playoff series, it is the match-up the Indians will be looking forward to all season, a chance for revenge against the Boston Red Sox. Last year it looked like the Indians were going to be on cruise control after they beat the Red Sox in two straight and Pedro was injured. However, Martinez made a spectacular comeback in game five to pitch six innings of no-hit relief ball. Cleveland is not soon to forget how embarrassed they were last year in Fenway, dropping one game by the humiliating score of 23-7 (Boston must have missed an extra point).

This year I look for Cleveland to knock off the Red Sox, in what once again should prove to be a thrilling series. Pedro can probably silence the bats of the Indians twice, but Cleveland has the best line-up in baseball, a line-up one cannot stop but only contain. Boston cannot contain Cleveland’s line-up for the entire series this time, and Cleveland has beefed up their pitching some to prevent Boston from putting up the offensive numbers they did last year to out slug them. Anyway, much to the dismay of many readers, I’m predicting a New York-Cleveland ALCS.

Now the question remains if New York can advance to the World Series yet again. I say no. Sure on paper New York should beat the Cleveland. The Indians have a stronger batting order, but the Yankees have a much stronger pitching staff than the Cleveland. Great pitching is usually the definitive quality of championship teams, but in the year when baseball is putting up astronomical offensive numbers, I think the more offensive team will win this series. That is why I’m taking the Cleveland Indians to march on to the World Series to face the Atlanta Braves.

As I said back in my AL Central article, the Indians have a line-up that has strike fear into any opposing pitcher. Speaking of starting pitchers, the Indians have a strong starting rotation. Which leaves their susceptible bullpen. Don’t think the Indians don’t realize this. Their organization knows that they are pretty much a strong closer or more powerful middle relief away from a trip to the World Series, and as a result, I look for them to acquire some help before the end of the season. One option might be Roberto Hernandez of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. They also might splurge to get yet another quality starter in Brad Radke of the Minnesota Twins. Both Hernandez and Radke are rumored to be on the trading block and be donning different uniforms sometime before the end of the season. If Cleveland wants to beat the Yankees, they will definitely be in the bidding wars to acquire these two talents. In the end, the Cleveland Indians should make the right moves to meet the Atlanta Braves in the World Series.

World Series

A match-up between the Atlanta Braves and the Cleveland Indians in the World Series would definitely stir some interest in the fans. On one hand you have the Braves, the Buffalo Bills of baseball (well almost, they do have one Series championship to show for their five appearances in the ’90s), while on the other you have the offensive-minded Indians, who have made it here twice in the past five years, losing in both attempts. What some might team deem as the “Series of the Also-Rans,” I look for the Cleveland Indians to end their 52 year drought by winning (or rather slugging) their way to victory against the Atlanta Braves.

In just a few short weeks of the season, offense has been the story, and I look for this trend to continue throughout the season and into World Series. Yes, the Braves have a strong arsenal of pitchers, but so did the Yankees, and much like the Yankees, the Braves’ starters will only be able to hold the Indians for so long before their potent line-up goes on a tear. Chalk up Atlanta’s first loss in the World Series, and based on the ’90s, most likely not their last, as the Cleveland Indians will prevail this season, once and for all putting a stop to the cracks they have taken in the “Major League” movie series. Now if only the Cubs could put it together... no, I think we still have a long wait for that one. Related stories: