2006 MLB PLAYOFFS â€“ ALÂ DIVISIONAL SERIES
by Patrick Stanton
Oakland Aâ€™s vs. Minnesota Twins
Neither team exactly set fire to the offensive statistic books this season, but when you have such weapons as Frank Thomas, Nick Swisher, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau in your arsenal, statistics become a moot point. As both teams have shown, they are more then capable of scoring runs when they need to and the playoffs should be no different. Statistically the Twins hold the advantage but I hate statistics.Â Â Â
The Twins are healthy, rested and ready to go while the Aâ€™s are without their infield backbone, shortstop Bobby Crosby. The magnitude of a key personnel loss becomes apparent when your future is on the line and it doesnâ€™t get anymore sudden death then this.
Itâ€™s hard to really compare and pick one of these bullpens above the other because in reality they are both very good. However, there has been no hotter bullpen then that of the Twins and I canâ€™t see any reason for that to change.
Yes the Twins have Johann Santana who with well timed rest is now as guaranteed to throw twice in this series if necessary, but the Aâ€™s donâ€™t exactly have chopped liver on the mound. Zito and Harden look good while the rest of their rotation has been adequate to a point in the second half of the season. The Aâ€™s have a little more depth then the Twins but not enough to make me pick one way or another. Yes, I took the easy way out.
Not to detract from the season the Athletics had, but you have to admire what Gardenhire did to resurrect the Twinsâ€™ season and earn a division title. I think Gardenhire also gets the edge when it comes to managing the finer points of the game.
Prediction:Â In it for the long haul. Twins take the series, 3 games to 2.
Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees
This wasnâ€™t how it was supposed to be.Â The Tigers werenâ€™t supposed to play the Yankees until the ALCS. The Tigers were supposed to be AL Central champions with home field throughout the playoffs. They should have been playing the Athletics a mere 15 miles from my house. Of course I was supposed to be a F-15 pilot in the Air Force too, so thereâ€™s no use crying over what should have happened. Swept by the lowly Royals and all but smoked by the Blue Jays, the Tigers bought themselves a ticket to New York City instead and although they might deny it, it has to be on their minds. What should be on their minds however is the fact that the Tigers had one of the best road records in baseball and sometimes a road trip is the perfect anecdote to take a teamâ€™s mind off of their respective issues. Offense:
Not even the biggest Tigers homer in the planet will try to deny this one. The Yanks have one of the most potent lineups in the game right now and Tiger pitching will have to tread lightly. While NY will throw the kitchen sink at the Tigers staff, Detroit will be hoping that Rodriguez, Ordonez, Guillen and Monroe are on top of their game if theyâ€™re going to have a shot.
While it may be easy to point fingers at Brandon Inge and Carlos Guillen for the numbers of errors committed this year, the Tigers defense is not that bad at all and those two, especially Inge, have also made some great plays. They have speed in CF with Granderson and a solid glove in that of Monroe. While they arenâ€™t bad in RF with Ordonez, his lack of speed is growing apparent and some plays that might have been made by some, heâ€™s just not willing to make. Speaking of errors, it seems it was just yesterday Yankee fans were ready to run A-Rod out of town for his proneness to commit errors yet as we all know, that criticism only lasts while the Yankees are losing. In all fairness, A-rod has been solid as of late no one can knock Jeter when it comes to defense.
Advantage: Yankees by a little bit.
Despite the recent meltdown, the Tigers Bullpen has been one of the top in the league, anchored by the excellent arms of Zumaya, Walker & Rodney. Todd â€˜Roller Coasterâ€™ Jones is no Rivera, but he has gotten the job done when it comes to saves. Speaking of Rivera arguably the best closer in the game, is in some pain right now and may not be able to execute his normal playoff role. As for Proctor and Farnsworth, well letâ€™s just say if we remember the season series, the Tigers would welcome them with open arms.
As little as 3-4 weeks ago, this paragraph would have been one line and in favor of the Tigers easily. Yet since the break and specifically in the past month, consistency has been anything but wellâ€¦consistent. The Tigers rotation is all over the board right now and they need regain their position when they an untouchable ERA. The Yankees were in solid shape until news of Randy Johnson broke last week but in reality shouldnâ€™t be concerned. Wang and Mussina easily match up against Verlander & Bonderman when comparing staff studs and the bottom of their rotation isnâ€™t bad at all.
These arenâ€™t two spring chickens out here and as far as a managerial chess match goes in the playoffs, this is as good as it gets.Â Both managers execute their game plan well, make sound tactical decisions wonâ€™t be flustered by the post-season hype. However with a few more weapons at his disposal, Torre may be more comfortable executing an aggressive game plan to take the Tigers arms our early.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Prediction: As upset as I am at them for blowing the division, they didnâ€™t get to the playoffs by accident. Call me crazy, but Iâ€™m picking the Tigers 3 games to 2.