So it comes to this. The Indians of Cleveland versus those villianous and vile arch-fiends from the Bronx, the Yankees. What else could it have possibly been?
Fine. If I have to agonize while looking at Derek Jeter's goddam face, so be it. Let's start by forgetting the fact that the Yankees swept the season series six games to zip. Please. I don't want to hear a peep about the Indians being intimidated. They won't be intimidated and they won't be swept. Regular season's over Yankee fans. Gone. Goodbye.
Let the real games begin.
This should prove to be a great series. Of course if the Yankess win, I will vomit, cry, and vomit again. God forbid.
Before I begin my position by position analysis, let's make a little payroll comparison, shall we. The Indians squeezed 96 wins out of a $56,795,867 payroll. Very gratifying. The Yankees? They spent considerably more. This season a payroll of $198,662,180 bought 94 wins. 23 million went into Jason Giambi's 13 home runs. 22 mil. was dedicated to Roger Clemens and his two September starts. How many millions are they paying Carl Pavano to never start two games in the last two years? Why exactly does GM Brian Cashman still have a job? Christ, I hate the Yankees.
It boils down to this: The Indians have great pitching and suspect hitting. The Yankees have great hitting and suspect pitching. They say good pitching beats good...well, you know how it goes. But what about fielding? It's about as even as it gets on paper. Both teams sport a .985 fielding percentage and are among the best in the league. Bullpens? The Yankees' pen has blown seven more saves all year than the Indians'.
Now, down to the minutiae...
1B: Ryan Garko vs. Doug Mientkiewicz. I'm assuming that Mientkiewicz is going to play first, which has been the Yankee's flakiest position this season. Giambi has seen time there. So has Shelley Duncan. Guys named Shelley don't scare me. So, let's say Mientkiewicz. At this position, Garko is the much better hitter, especially with Mientkiewicz not at 100%. Mientkiewicz, however, is the superior fielder. Gimme the meat. Advantage: Garko.
2B: Asdrubal Cabrera vs. Robinson Canó. Yikes. All right. Canó is a big-time hitter. He's got a big arm, but let's face it: he's a hitter and, barring any unforseen circumstances, will be a longtime star in the league. With three years under his belt, he has a world of experience compared to rookie Asdrubal Cabrera, who will also be a star, sooner than later, and at shortstop. But this is about now, and it's about second base. Canó is established and has playoff experience. Cabrera does not. Cabrera has done nothing but impress since his midseason call up, and he is the best fielder on a good fielding team. Still...Advantage: Canó.
SS: Jhonny Peralta vs. Derek Jeter. This is a huge mismatch. I hate Derek Jeter, but he is a great hitter and an able, if slightly overrated fielder. Peralta is a good hitter and in the field, well let's just say he doesn't embarrass himself. Advantage: Jeter.
3B: Casey Blake vs. Alex Rodriguez. This is the biggest mismatch of the series. Rodriguez is a top five player of his era. He is a monster in every way (though no Brooks Robinson with the glove). Casey Blake? Everyone loves him and I get it--Blake plays hard. He's a great guy. He's competant at the plate and at many positions in the field. He was an integral part of this team's 96 wins. One could argue, however, that Rodriguez is the greatest player of all time. Blake doesn't normally even enter into the discussion. Advantage: Rodriguez. No, I won't call him A-Rod. Piss off.
LF: Kenny Lofton vs. Johnny Damon. Message to Eric Wedge: I don't want to see Jason Michaels ever in this series. Thank you. Johnny Damon is among the more annoying players in recent history. That said, he's awfully pesky. When he's good, he's very good. When he's at his best, he's no Kenny Lofton. Lofton is eight years older than Damon, but he still hits, runs and fields every bit as well and, this year, better. Advantage: Lofton.
CF: Grady Sizemore vs. Melky Cabrera. This is a giant advantage for the Indians. At bat, Cabrera is weak. He doesn't get on base much, doesn't hit for power and doesn't run. Grady does all of these exceptionally well even in an off year like this one has been. Both center fielders are young, but Sizemore is much further along at this point. Advantage: Sizemore.
RF: Franklin Gutierrez vs. Bobby Abreu. Abreu shook off a long slump and compiled over 100 RBI yet again. While his HRs and batting average were down from his usual, he is a major cog in this ferocious lineup. Gutierrez is a promising rookie with a long swing and some flaws as a hitter. There is no doubt he's a better option than Trot Nixon, but his playoff experience is zero and nil. In the field, though, he is much better than Abreu. Advantage: Abreu.
C: Victor Martinez vs. Jorge Posada. Though he plays for the biggest market there is, Posada seems to somehow have been underrated in his day. He's still a great hitter (.338, 20, 90 in '07!) and in the field he's no slouch. But we have a great hitting catcher of our own (.301, 25, 114), whose fielding has improved by leaps and bounds in this, a completely healthy 2007. Very close call, but if I'm picking a starting catcher, someone who is a great team leader, who knows how to handle a pitching staff as well as any in the league, who has a handshake for every occasion, it's gotta be...advantage: Martinez.
DH: Travis Hafner vs. Hideki Matsui. Matsui's bum knee relegates him to a DH role. That is no bad thing for the Yankees. They didn't call him Godzilla for nothing in Japan, and when the Yankees shelled out for his services, he repaid them in kind. His best season, however, is only slightly better than Travis Hafners' worst. In spite of a season long slump, I'll take one of the best hitters in the game as my DH. Advantage: Hafner.
No. 1 starter: C.C. Sabathia vs. Chien Ming-Wang. This is a duel between 19 game winners, but let's be realistic. If C.C. had Wang's run support, he would have won 23-25 games this year. Ever since he decided he was the Indians designated badass, I would choose Sabathia over any other pitcher in the league to start a playoff series. Advantage: Sabathia.
No. 2 starter: Fausto Carmona vs. Andy Pettitte. This is a more even matchup. Pettitte isn't what he once was. That's what the media keep saying, but it seems to me that a 15+ game winner with a 4.00 era is exactly what he has always been in an average year. And he's still a great competitor. Fausto is one of the more electric young pitchers in the game, having just won the ERA title and 19 games in just his second year in the league. Pettitte NEVER had a year like Fausto just had. This is a matchup of experience vs. arm. I'll take Fausto's arm with the confidence that Victor can keep him calm on the mound. Advantage: Carmona.
No. 3 starter: Jake Westbrook vs. (presumably) Roger Clemens. Roger Clemens. He's pitched 2 games and ten innings since September 1st. No doubt he will shut the Tribe out. I love Jake Westbrook, and let's hope his sinker is sinking on October 7th. Otherwise, Clemens and his 45 year old arm will somehow prevail. If he even pitches. 22 million for 18 games. Nice fucking team. Assholes. Advantage: Clemens.
Long relief/additional starter: Paul Byrd vs. Mike Mussina. Mussina has had an AWFUL year. Byrd was reliably competent, just what the Tribe signed him for. If these guys pitch, that means a starter has melted down. Advantage: Byrd.
Bullpen: Rafael Perez, Rafael Betancourt, Aaron Fultz, Jensen Lewis, Tom Mastny, etc. vs. Luis Vizcaino, Kyle Farnsworth, Mike Myers, Bryan Bruney, Scott Proctor, etc. Perez and Betancourt are the ones that count, and they are worth the Yankee's pen put together. Advantage: Indians.
Closer: Joe Borowski vs. Mariano Rivera. I don't care if Rivera has had an off year. I don't care how old he is. He's one of the best closers of all time, and he's closed some of the biggest games. Borowski is walking heartburn. Advantage: Rivera.
Nate's official prediction: The Tribe has too much pitching. Fuck the Yankees. I hate them so very, very much. Indians win 3-1.