Welcome to the Fall Classic, where legends are made and dreams are dashed. It’s kind of like school on a Friday, but it only happens on a year during a brisk fall week. This years World Series could be called the Little League World Series, featuring two young, energetic teams. The Philadelphia Phillies stormed through the National League series with little effort, demonstrating that a thundering lineup and a lights-out bullpen is the recipe for success in October. The Tampa Bay Rays caught lightning in a bottle and ran, hit, and out-pitched the defending champion Boston Red Sox, demonstrating that spunk is the unspoken variable in the postseason.
Without further ado, here’s the ULOT analysis of the 2008 World Series, brought to you by those clever fellas at the ULOT.
Philadelphia Phillies versus Tampa Bay Rays
I’ll say there are probably less than five people in the entire Universe who picked these two teams to be in the World Series at the beginning of the season. The Phillies, here for the first time since 1993, are better known for their October chokes than successes (see: Joe Carter). The city of Philadelphia might be known for underdog success stories (see: Rocky), but in non-Hollywood real life, Philadelphia is a city for underachieving sports teams (76ers, Eagles). But these Phillies aren’t a team you can shake a cheese steak at. A lineup with power and speed from top to bottom compliments surprisingly good pitching and a bullpen that shrinks games from 9 to 7 innings makes these Phillies contenders. Don’t let their competition fool you into thinking they’re overrated. After all, it’s not their fault they played crappy teams in the Division and Championship Series’.
And then there are those Rays, those wunderkids who stormed onto the national stage. Someday they’re going to make a Disney movie about the Rays, the team of young misfits who suddenly learned how to play ball together, stay healthy and motivated, and win ball games. Imagine combining Little Big League, Rookie of the Year, Major League, and Angels in the Outfield and you’re starting to get a glimpse of how miraculous this really is. A few years ago, I swore that I’d never see Tampa Bay in the postseason, let alone the fall classic. Now I’m eating my words, which doesn’t feel quite as bad because I’m definitely not alone.
But these Rays have mad skills. BJ Upton and Evan Longoria have become postseason sluggers and have powered an offense that can drive a pitcher absolutely bonkers by stealing any base at any time. Pitchers James Shields, Scott Kazmir, and Matt Garza look like Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Greg Maddux. And Joe Maddon is the best manager in baseball, taking a small-market team and besting even the mighty Yankees and Red Sox. These aren’t your daddy’s Devil Rays. They’re back, pumped, and ready to win now.
ULOT X Factor: BJ Upton and Evan Longoria. Tampa was able to withstand a Boston onslaught by riding the hot bats of both Upton and Longoria. As long as they’re raking, Tampa will win. If they cool off, Tampa can’t and won’t win.
Bold Prediction: Phillies in 6. I hate to be the skeptic, but I can’t see Tampa go on much longer like this. They’ve been a lab rat on speed up to now, which has been a heart-warming story and truly a testament to their turn-around. But the World Series always reveals the best team in the league, and Philadelphia has the solid parts to win. Tampa is red hot right now, which has enabled them to be where they are right now. But eventually everything cools off. If they cannot keep up with Philly’s bats, power arms, and speed, this will be a short series, which is too bad. A Tampa Bay World Series victory would have been a sweet victory, but it’s not their year. It’s time for the World Series trophy to run through Downtown Philadelphia. Victory never tasted so sweet, even with whiz on the side.