Here it is. Could be another of the biggest moments in Philadelphia sports history, or just another colossal failure. (You’ll have to excuse me, Phillies fans have had their fill of futility. And yes, the alliteration is amazing.)
Once more into the Phray:
PHI: Carlos Ruiz
TB: Dioner Navarro
ANALYSIS: I’m especially biased on this, because I “owned” Navarro a few years back – BEFORE he began living up to his potential. (The guy’s only 24, I should have been easier on him.) Offensively, he is far superior to Ruiz. Defensively, they’re both pretty solid. Navarro and the RAYS get the edge here.
PHI: Ryan Howard
TB: Carlos Pena
ANALYSIS: I have a feeling Howard will hit some BOMBS. Of course, at the two ballparks in question, many bombs are hit. Overall, these guys had kinda similar numbers…except for the Bombs, where Howard beats him handily. Howard gets the nod here for the PHILS.
PHI: Chase Utley
TB: Akinori Iwamura
ANALYSIS: Although I love saying his name (or any other Japanese player’s name) out loud in a deep, booming voice, Iwamura just is not even close to the offensive force that Utley can be. Utley wins hands-down. Go PHILS.
PHI: Pedro Feliz/Greg Dobbs
TB: Evan Longoria
ANALYSIS: I’d love to try to make the argument that the Feliz/Dobbs combo can almost equal Longoria, or that Longoria is due for a letdown. But I can’t. Advantage RAYS.
PHI: Jimmy Rollins
TB: Jason Bartlett
ANALYSIS: It was in this space of my Phils/Dodgers analysis that I picked Rollins over Furcal. Of course, I really didn’t foresee Furcal’s three errors in one inning that basically cost them the NLCS. Although Jimmy Rollins is a far better player, all the “experts” believe that Bartlett is the kind of guy who can/will make a crucial play or get a clutch hit to carry his team. Still, the PHILS have the edge here.
PHI: Pat Burrell
TB: Carl Crawford
ANALYSIS: CC wears my number (13), and he is one of the ultimate seven-tool players. (Not just the typical “five tools” that scouts love – Carl does it all and then some.) He was banged up near the end of the season, but he’s still better on many levels than Pat the Bat. RAYS win this one.
PHI: Shane Victorino
TB: B.J. Upton
ANALYSIS: Upton is also a seven-tool guy, whose power numbers this year were hurt by a lingering injury. But Victorino has had a magical ride the past month or so, and it’s hard to just say “Upton is superior.” He is, talent-wise, but when it comes to getting the j-o-b done, Shane-O-Vic is right there with him. Argh, this one hurts me physically, but Upton and the RAYS get the call here.
PHI: Jayson Werth
TB: Rocco Baldelli/Gabe Gross
ANALYSIS: I’m a Werth-believer. I’m not Werth-y. I enjoy Werth-er’s Butterscotch Candies. (Enough!) I’ve got to take the 20/20 guy over a platoon including a guy battling a strange and awful disease (mitochondrial disorder?) and a guy whose offense doesn’t exactly scare people (.242 batting average with TB). Give this one to the PHILS.
PHI: ??? (Dobbs, Jenkins, Stairs?)
TB: Willy Aybar/Cliff Floyd/Eric Hinske
ANALYSIS: Phils manager Charlie Manuel is not announcing his DH until the actual game, but it’ll likely be one of those guys above (or maybe Burrell, with Eric Bruntlett or Dobbs in left field). Aybar has been playing out of his mind for the past few weeks, and Floyd and Hinske are nice veteran role players who have some pop. This category has too many question marks, though, so I call it a TIE.
PHI: Cole Hamels/Brett Myers/Jamie Moyer/Joe Blanton
TB: Scott Kazmir/Jamie Shields/Matt Garza/Andy Sonnanstine
ANALYSIS: The “experts” say Hamels is the best pitcher in the Series, and I agree. But I don’t agree with their assessments of the rest of these guys. They’re all over the Phils, saying they really have no depth beyond Hamels and that the Rays kids are flat-out awesome. Not taking anything away from them, they’re good and they faced tough competition all year in the AL East. I just think this matchup is closer than many might think – that there’s something to be said for Moyer’s experience and smarts, and Blanton’s ability to keep the ball down.
All that being said, I do have to give the Slight Edge to the RAYS.
PHI: Brad Lidge/Ryan Madson/J.C. Romero/Chad Durbin/Clay Condrey/J.A. Happ/Scott Eyre
TB: Troy Percival/Dan Wheeler/Trever Miller/J.P. Howell/Grant Balfour/Jason Hammel/David Price
ANALYSIS: Again, the “experts” are loving the fact that the Rays have three lefties, who will allegedly shut down the big lefty bats of Philly (Utley and Howard). And Price is this amazing wild card who will likely have an amazing career. But the Phillies’ bullpen has been and will be a great strength here, and deserves respect. PHILS get this one.
PHI: Greg Dobbs/Matt Stairs/Geoff Jenkins/Eric Bruntlett/So Taguchi/Chris Coste
TB: Floyd/Hinske/Aybar/Ben Zobrist/Jonny Gomes/Shawn Riggans/Fernando Perez
ANALYSIS: Dobbs is playing so well, there are people who want the Phils to let Burrell go away via free agency and play him every day in left. Stairs could be a great DH against righties (and so could Jenkins). But there is plenty of pop on the Rays bench, and some amazing speed in Perez. This one goes to the RAYS in a very close race.
PHI: Charlie Manuel
TB: Joe Maddon
ANALYSIS: Uncle Cholly’s recently-passed mom is watching over this team, and he’s somehow managed to keep it all together and get to the Series. Maddon’s mom is watching from upstate Pennsylvania, and her boy is regarded as this kind of mad genius or rare intellectual who somehow completely inspires his young team. (Oh my, he drinks wine instead of beer! He reads books instead of magazines! Heavens to Murgatroyd!)
But seriously, this one is a TIE because each guy has done an amazing job this year, and Manuel’s occasional mistakes cancel out Maddon’s occasional crazy-looking moves (like a bases-loaded intentional walk).
FINAL SCORE: Rays 6, Phillies 5, one tie.
FINAL ANALYSIS: I think it goes 6 or 7, and I think the RAYS win.
(P.S.: Reverse-jinx accomplished!)