I WAS WRONG about every divisional series.
Yankees. Red Sox. Braves. Yes, even the — gulp — Padres.
Hey, at least I was consistent. If I was right about just one series, notably the Yankees, then I would have looked worse. “Oh, way to go out on a limb and pick the team with a $200 million salary.”
0-and-4 is beyond bad. 0-and-4 is gloriously off-the-mark. It’s a direct result of over-thinking, over-analyzing, and having the brain capacity of pine tar.
I FIGURED THE Yankees had enough quality starting pitching, experienced clutch hitting and a guaranteed lockdown by Mariano Rivera in the last 1 1/2 innings of each game.
And Mike Mussina did pitch a gem in Game 1, with 5 2/3 innings of shutout ball. Shawn Chacon had a gutsy outing, 6 1/3 innings allowing 2 runs and putting his team in a position to win Game 4, which they did.
But Randy Johnson got shelled in Game 3. And rather than starting diamond-in-the-rough Aaron Small, they gave the ball to rookie Chien-Ming Wang in Game 2. Finally, Mussina was hit early and often in Game 5.
And when Bartolo Colon went down for the Angels after an inning with an injury in the deciding Game 5, I thought I’d have that one correct prediction. But rookie Ervin Santana went 5+ innings, outlasting Mike Mussina and earning the win over Randy Johnson in the same game. I don’t think anyone else can say they beat 487 career wins worth of pitching in a single game, let alone someone with 12 career victories.
I FIGURED THE White Sox was the season’s surprise team whose division title was a fitting prize, but that was all coming their way. Plus the Red Sox had been here before.
But it wasn’t the same Red Sox team, and their monochromic footwear foes exposed those holes — specifically, starting pitching and second base.
I figured the White Sox were too new to this whole playoff thing. New? Paul Konerko was there when they were swept in 2000. So was Mark Buehrle. Three-ringer Orlando Hernandez gave them a legendary relief appearance in the clinching Game 3. Manager Ozzie Guillen has played in a World Series. So did Jose Contreras and Jermaine Dye. In all, nine of the 20 who played for the White Sox in the series had been in the postseason before.
I FIGURED THE Braves had enough magic to go deep into the playoffs. They just didn’t have enough bullpen.
I thought Houston barely beat out several good teams for the Wild Card that Atlanta pulled away from much earlier than the last day of the season, when the Astros wrapped up the Wild Card.
I thought Atlanta had veterans with vast playoff experience. And John Smoltz and Andruw Jones did their part. But Chipper Jones did not, just like the rest of the rookies — Jeff Francoeur, Brian McCann (except for one big grand slam, he was 2-for-15), Joey Devine (drafted this year, gave up Chris Burke’s 18th inning walk-off HR).
The Astros have done this before. They beat Atlanta the last time they locked horns in October.
I FIGURED THE Padres … oh, shut up.
SO I WAS just plain wrong. Way off base. Nowhere near-perfect.
But that’s OK. There are advantages for throwing a goose egg in playoff predictions.
A team can pay me to pick the other team to win. But I don’t think the White Sox will take up this offer, as they learned from that mistake 85 years ago.
American League: Angels vs. White Sox
CONGRATULATIONS HALOS! YOU’VE knocked off the hated Yankees! Your prize: a plane to Chicago that leaves in about 10 minutes. You play tomorrow. You have a tired team, especially on your pitching staff. Colon is hurt, Santana was tapped today, John Lackey pitched Sunday, so you have no choice but to use your rotation’s weakest link, Paul Byrd, who was hit up for four runs in 3 2/3 innings in Game 3. Meanwhile, the White Sox are rested, having only played three games, and their starter, Jose Contreras, will pitch on six days rest. Good luck.
National League: Astros vs. Cardinals
WITH SO MUCH attention on the NL East and its depth, the only two remaining in the NL hail from the Central Division. St. Louis flew through the first round with little resistance from the outmatched Padres, while the Astros handled the addled Braves in four games. Since this series doesn’t begin until Wednesday, Houston will have time to rest up before flying up to St. Louis and start Andy Pettitte, whose 13-8 postseason record will match up against Chris Carpenter, who won in his first career playoff game last week.