In case you can’t get enough fill of baseball playoffs in the AL, the senior circuit also has it’s own five-team tournament going on. As a Red Sox fan the NL is the more intriguing for me this season because these teams are even farther removed from the debacle that was the 2012 Red Sox. Watching the San Franciso Giants is at no point going to remind me of some miserable point of this past season. But who should Red Sox fans be hoping to play the Athletics (as decided on yesterday). Well let’s take a look.
Why you should: Three words. Chipper Mothereffing Jones. Before the season Chipper declared this as his final season and all he did was put together a solid season (.287/.377.485, 14 HR, 62 RBI) in 112 games. Chipper is the Derek Jeter of the NL. Now before you take that to mean an insult coming from a Sox fan I mean it like this: he is respected across the league, dominated during the steroid era without a smidge of suspicion that he juiced and if he doesn’t get into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot with 98 percent of the vote I’d be stunned. Plus Chipper has one of the great old-school nicknames that Major League Baseball is sorely lacking. Whatever happened to guys named ‘Goose’ or “Oil Can” or “Catfish”. Now we are just lazy. We just hyphenate last names (K-Rod, A-Rod) or shorten last names (Naps, Salty). Moving on from that tangent this team also features some of the best young talent in the game including Jason Heyward (.269/.335/.479 27 HRs, 82 RBI), Freddie Freeman (.259/.340/.456 23 HR, 94 RBI) and the unhittable Craig Kimbrel who had 42 saves this season, just missed out on a sub 1.00 ERA and has one of the best names in baseball.
Why you shouldn’t: Contrary to what I said before, Atlanta actually might bring about the most mentions of the terrible Sox. Both teams had epic collapses last season but the Braves did what the Sox couldn’t and came back with a vengeance to win 94 games and earn a playoff spot.
Why you should: This is the first playoff appearance by the Nationals/Expos since 1981. That’s right 1981. This team has never won a
division (1994 strike robbed it of that) and this year pealed off 98 wins and dominated in the NL East. So in terms of parity this the team to pull for. You can’t say “Oh, I’m tired of the Nationals they are always there.” The Nationals haven’t even been relevant past the month of May since 2002 (as the Expos) let alone at this late junction in the season. They have probably the biggest steal of last winter’s free agent race in Gio Gonzalez (21-8, 2.89 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 207 Ks) who is in a three-way battle for the Cy Young award with R.A. Dickey and Johnny Cueto. (Personally I think Dickey should get it but I have always had a soft spot for fantasy fiction loving knuckle ball throwers). Plus you want good young talent. Let me throw you some Bryce Harper (2.70/.340/.477, 22 HRs, 59 RBIs) who seems to have wiped off that slump he had in the middle of the summer. The Nationals even have a fun pitching staff without ace Stephen Strasburg with Jordan Zimmerman and Edwin Jackson pitching well entering the postseason.
Why you shouldn’t: That’s a clown question bro but if you want to Natpick (see what I did there) Bryce Harper is kind of a douche plus this might reinforce the decision to sit Strasburg for the playoffs which still seems like the wrong move to me. Other than that there is not a whole lot of reasons not to go for the Nats.
Why you should: Part of this is going to be a why I will more than why you should. That section starts now. DatDudeBP! Bradon Phillips might be my favorite non-Red Sox player out there right now. Bro has swagger for days plus the production to back it up
(.281/.321/.429, 17 HRs, 77 RBI, 15 SB) plus he is good for at least one web gem per game. Whether he’s laying out to snag a liner or flipping the ball backhanded out of his glove to start a double play. On top of that he rocks the “hat-titled-to-the-side-slightly” look better than most players including C.C. Sabathia. Okay enough of my irrational love for BP. The Reds play in one of the best looking stadiums in the game, so seeing more HD baseball at the Great American Ballpark is always a positive. You want young talent too? How about ome Jay Bruce (34 HRs, 99 RBI) and Todd Frazier (19 HR, 67 RBI) all up in your grillmix. Plus they have the most electric closer in the game in Aroldis Chapman. He slowed slightl down the stretch which is a concern but at his best his line looked like this (1.0 IP, 3 Ks, O R, S) 99 out of a 100 times. The other one time was with three strikeouts. Also love the Reds uniforms. I realize that isn’t a big deal but that red hat with the black brim is one of the best in the bigs.
Why you shouldn’t: This is another team where it is tough to find reasons to root against it. The Reds haven’t won a World Series since 1990 or a playoff series for that matter since 1995. Perhaps you can root against the Reds because of Barry Larkin who I still think has yet to make a definitive statement in his time as an analyst on ESPN. Come on Barry, just once say something with some conviction before its obvious. For example: In stead of waiting until two games left to say you think the Cardinals, with a two-game lead, will win the wild card but the Dodgers still have a chance, you could have said last Friday that the Cardinals will win the Wild Card period.
Saint Louis Cardinals
Why you should: Speak of the devil. Who knew that the the Cardinals made it to the playoffs and won World Series in recent years
despite Albert Pujols? I kid of course but this season the Cardinals are headed to October while Pujols hits the links (all while being told he isn’t better than that young kid that got brought up in May). The Cardinals didn’t need the epic run it made last season to make it in 2012 but they do have a worse record (88-74). Perhaps if you liek rooting for outfields the Sox probably should have gone after rather than Carl Crawford like Matt Holliday (.295/.379./.400, 27 HRs, 102 RBI) or Carlos Beltran (.269/.346/.496 32 HRs, 97 RBI) this is your squad. Although at 35 Beltran wouldn’t have been worth it down the road. Or maybe it’d be good to see Kyle Lohse lead a team to a championship as the ace (16-3, 2.86 ERA) after having a largely mediocre career.
Why you shouldn’t: I was really grasping at straws for checks in the pro column for the Cardinals. They won it last season so they’re basically eliminated unless there is some sort of familial attachment or you bet on the Cardinals in the beginning of the season to win it all at some crazy odds.
San Francisco Giants
Why you should: Let’s poor a little out for Cody Ross. Can’t say enough about how much I loved having him on the Sox this season and hopefully for the next few, but Mr. Ross really got hosed with his decision. He left San Fran who made the playoffs to play for the
Henry-Lucchino-Valentine Circus. I still feel like Ross will be pulling for his boys back in the Bay Area and I could get behind that. The Giants are also blessed with what looks to be the NL MVP in Buster Posey. Buster led the league in batting (.336) while smacking 24 home runs and 103 RBIs all while being a very good catcher for most of the season. He was one of only eight players in the NL to have 100 or more RBIs and the only one to do it in less than 561 ABs (530). Plus his team made the playoffs so he doesn’t have that hanging over him. So I say he slightly edges out Ryan Braun (still pretty certain he was juicing) and Andrew McCutchen, who like the Pirates fell apart down the stretch.
Why you shouldn’t: The Giants didn’t win it last season but two years ago isn’t exactly a Chicago Cubs like streak. Plus it’s unclear how many games they won because Melky Cabrera pumping himself up with testosterone and setting up a fake website to cover it up.
So this is really a three-team race. Despite my man-crush on Brandon Phillips I have to say no to the Reds and even though the Nationals are a great story and an awesome team, they will be there for awhile. Meanwhile Chipper could go out on top of the baseball world with a second ring. You can’t go wrong with any of those three but I got to go with Chipper and the ATL.
P.S. Here are my final predictions. Atlanta beats Saint Louis in one-game playoff. Atlanta over Washington in five. San Francisco over Cincinnati in five. Atlanta over San Francisco in six.
In the AL I said yesterday that the Rangers and Detroit meet in the ALCS. Give me Texas in seven and Rangers win it all over Atlanta in six games.
What team is the one to beat in the NL? Which squad is taking the whole thing? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.