That Was Then… This Is for Certain
As baseball’s regular season entered its final week, the Brewers were in the thick of the National League playoff race—though not as contenders. By finishing their schedule against Philadelphia, Colorado and St. Louis, they had a big role in deciding the wild-card winner, first-round matchups and home-field advantages. Meanwhile, the Observers reviewed, with some reluctance, what they predicted for baseball six months ago.
Frank: Here’s the April 2 issue containing our fearless forecasts.
Artie: I thought we agreed to shred all the copies we could find to destroy the evidence. Oh well, how’d we do?
Frank: Actually, we had pretty good batting averages in picking playoff teams.
Artie: Let’s see... Holy cow, I’m 3 for 4 in the American League with the Red Sox, Yankees and Angels. A cool .750!
Frank: Your one whiff is a doozy. The Indians will come close to a hundred losses.
Artie: I must have thought they had CC Sabathia again.
Frank: I had Boston and the Angels, too, and I’ll be 3 for 4 if the Twins overtake the Tigers. But I thought Tampa Bay would build on its 2008 miracle and beat the Phillies in a World Series rematch. And I snubbed my own team, the Yankees.
Artie: Cripes, even I was sure the Yanks would spend, um, battle their way back to the playoffs.
Frank: I thought they’d have too many holes, even after spending a bazillion bucks on Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira. But their bullpen stepped up, Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera revived and Teixeira had an MVP year. So did Derek Jeter, of course. Teixeira probably will deny him the MVP, but that won’t be as bad as 2006, when Justin Morneau did it.
Artie: I remember you in ‘07 when the Twins played here, yelling “Usurper! Usurper!” at Morneau.
Frank: And the guy next to us asking, “Why are you calling him a ‘Surper’?”
Artie: In the National League we each batted .500 with the Phillies and Dodgers.
Frank: We both goofed on the Cubs.
What were we thinking—a team that signed Milton Bradley for three years and $30 million? It’s almost as nutty as a team giving Oliver Perez $36 mil for three years.
Artie: Namely the Mets, who’ll pass 90 losses. I had them in the World Series, losing to Boston, but injuries wrecked most of their key guys—Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado and about half the pitchers, including Johan Santana.
Frank: And Perez, although he stunk so much that it hardly mattered.
Artie: In the NL Central, we both brilliantly tabbed the Cardinals for fourth.
You picked the Brewers to take the division.
Frank: I thought their offense would overcome their pitching questions.
Artie: Questions like, “Why is Jeff Suppan out there every fifth game?”
Frank: Back to the bright side. You’re 5 for 8 overall in playoff predictions, a whopping .625.
Artie: Bill Hall and J.J. Hardy, eat your hearts out!
Frank: And I’ve got a shot at that if the Twins pass the Tigers. Otherwise, I’m .500 overall.
Artie: It’s amazing how the Twins are making their run without Justin the Usurper, who’s out with a bad back. And speaking of late runs, how about that NL wild-card race?
Frank: We didn’t foresee the Rockies or Giants as contenders, and we sure didn’t consider Atlanta, which was just two games behind Colorado with six to play thanks to a 16-3 surge. The Braves are playing like the 2007 Rockies, who won 21 of 22 to grab the wild card and reach the World Series.
Artie: Like the Giants, the Braves are doing it with pitching. And get this: They finish with four games at home against Washington while the Rockies play in L.A.—after three games against the Brew Crew.
Frank: Back to the AL—I hope the Yankees go all the way, but I’m worried about the starting pitchers. Burnett has been either very good or very, very bad. And Sabathia is 0-3 in the playoffs the last two years.
Artie: Game 2 against Philly last year, Shane Victorino grand slam... ugh.
Frank: Maybe Alex Rodriguez will finally live up to his money in the postseason, but why should we expect that?
Plus, the Yankees have lost playoff series to Boston, Detroit and the Angels in recent years.
Artie: They’ll have Detroit or Minnesota in the first round, where the best-of-five means you can win with two sharp pitchers. The Tigers could have them in Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson.
Frank: Same for the Red Sox, with Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. And they’ve owned the Angels in the playoffs.
Artie: But nothing is a lock. Three years ago the Cardinals won only 83 games but ended up the champs.
Frank: The ‘06 Cardinals are one side of the “who knows?” coin, and the other is the 2001 Mariners. They tied the alltime record with 116 wins but lost the AL Championship Series to the Yankees in five.
Artie: In the NL playoffs, the Cardinals and Phillies have the best starting pitchers by far. The Dodgers’ bullpen is carrying them, but St. Louis has the Big Three of Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Joel Pineiro.
Frank: And the Phillies look strong with Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and this kid J.A. Happ.
Artie: But who’s gonna close games for Philly? Brad Lidge is a disaster, a year after being Mr. Automatic.
Frank: On paper, the Cardinals and Phillies should meet in the NLCS. But last year the Cubs had the best record in the NL and got swept by the Dodgers. Meanwhile, the Angels had 100 wins but got beaned by Boston for the third time in five years.
Artie: Every team has its kryptonite.
For Philly it’s closing, for St. Louis it’s shaky left-handed hitting...
Frank: For the Yankees it might be their own ballpark. The new Yankee Stadium is a launching pad, and who’s to say a “cheap” homer won’t come off an opponent’s bat at a crucial time?
Artie: The World Series should be a version of Yankees/Red Sox vs. Cardinals/ Phillies. But we could get my dream series, which would have the TV executives wailing in small-market misery— Colorado-Minnesota!
Frank: In short, we are absolutely certain that we have no idea what’ll happen.
Artie: And neither does anyone else.
That you can take to Vegas.
On to Minnesota
skipped the Packers’ game in St. Louis to catch the Brewers’ home
finale. After the disaster against Cincinnati, the Pack handled the
Rams pretty easily, so I guess we can quote Kevin Bacon from Animal House when he told the panicking crowd, “Remain calm, all is well!”
Artie: Just before he got trampled. I guess the Pack is OK again, although that offensive line still strikes me as less than impressive. As for the penalties, let’s just say there were fewer of them. And of course, Mike McCarthy will say that any problems will be “fixed” or “cleaned up,” whatever the mantra is this week.
Frank: Next, of course, is the first showdown with Mr. Purple, Brett Favre. He kept the Vikings undefeated with a last-second TD pass against the 49ers.
Artie: That’s his one miracle for this year. I’m betting he can’t do it again.
Frank: Also playing in Minnesota this weekend are the Badgers, who went to 4-0 by beating Michigan State.
Artie: They looked good! None of the usual “hand it back to the other team in the second half” stuff. How nice to see UW with an actual quarterback; this kid Scott Tolzien is impressive.
Frank: Now, though, the Badgers finally leave Camp Randall to play the Gophers and mighty Ohio State.
Artie: Minnesota will be psyched. It’s the Big Ten debut of their new outdoor stadium.
Frank: Plus they want to reclaim Paul Bunyan’s Axe. It’s been in Madison since ‘04.
Artie: Let’s hope the Badgers don’t make it a housewarming gift.