WORLD SERIES PREVIEW
First, a look back.
There are few things worse than having your team go down 3-0 in a seven game series. The end is inevitable and you watch the next game more out of responsibility and loyalty than out of rooting interest. When the Braves took the first three from the Mets, despair ruled Metland. These guys had whipped us mercilessly over the last month, 8 of 9, most close, but all convincing in their own way. It was hard to even look forward to next year, hard to see what might change to help the Mets beat the Braves when it counted. By the end of game six, that had all changed. After three emotionally draining games, two wins and the ultimate loss, the Mets and Braves had battled as equals. If they meet again next year, this Met team will carry the memory of those games with them, and will truly believe. I'd like to thank these Mets for not going quietly, for showing all the guts you could want from your team. Kenny Rogers won't be back next year and with any luck, neither will Bobby V. Even if Valentine does return, we may be able to overcome his indecisiveness and stupidity. Wait 'til next year.
The Yankees demonstrated that they were easily the class of the American League. El Duque is a great post-season pitcher and Andy Pettite is rounding into form. They also have a relief pitcher who never gives up a run. It's been three months since anyone's scored on Mariano Rivera. Still, that series might have looked different if the Red Sox were able to catch the ball and the umpires were able to see it. In any case, it was wonderful watching Pedro Martinez in action, it was a brilliant season for him and an equally brilliant postseason.
Both the Yankees and Braves have a lot of class. They have been in this situation often, they know what it takes to win. Frankly, I'd rather have Torre over Cox in the pinch, but they both have plenty of experience in the dugout.
The starting pitching is uniformly excellent, based on Pettite and Cone's performance in the Boston series. Clemens and Smoltz, the fourth game starters have been erratic, the Braves get an edge in that game because Roger has been a rather awful postseason performer -- he may be hurt, or maybe just gutless.
The bullpens are comparable. The Braves have the lefties to neutralize the heart of the Yankees order. The Yankees have Rivera. Overall, I give the Braves a slight edge over the Yankees in pitching.
I don't think either of these defenses will give away much, unless it's Chuck Knoblauch tossing the ball into a first base box.
Hitting is interesting. Let's look at the lineups:
Top of the order:
Yankees have Knoblauch and Jeter, the Braves have Gerald Williams and Boone. Huge edge for the Yankees. Jeter is one of the best hitters in baseball, Knoblauch gets on base better than either of the Braves duo and frankly, the Braves bat those guys first because someone has to bat first, not because they have any real business being there.
Heart of the order:
Yankees: O'Neill, Bernie Williams, Martinez, Ledee/Strawberry/Curtis
Braves: Larry Jones, Jordan, Klesko, Andruw Jones
I think the Braves have a sizable edge in here. Not as sizable as it would be if Andruw J. was actually hitting the ball hard. He hasn't homered in a month and if he starts going deep could be a key factor in the Braves wining. If he and Klesko are quiet, it could be a big factor in their losing.
Bottom of the order:
Yankees: Posada/Girardi, Brosius -- add Chili Davis or Ledee if there's a DH
Braves: Perez, Weiss -- add Jose Hernandez if there's a DH
Last year, a large part of the Yankees utter dominance came from the fact their lineup never stopped. Brosius had a great year and Posada hit like Piazza. Not this year. Brosius is back to being less than mediocre, the Yankee catcher have been awful
Eddie Perez comes off a big series against the Mets (damn him), but it's hard to believe he'll do it again. It's hard to believe Weiss will do anything, but the Braves have two other SS, so he can be removed if need be.
The DH possibilities give the Yankees a slight edge, but not enough to make this a likely source of anything big.
All in all, Jeter has to establish the beachhead, and Bernie will have to have a big series for the Yanks to gain an edge here.
All the analysis is meaningless in light of what we'll call the Al Weis factor. In the World Series, an unlikely player could go crazy and turn the whole thing around.
Many people have been assuming the Yankees are my team now, since I am a Met fan and they are going to defend the honor of my birthplace against the boors from the South. Well, unless the Braves attack Brooklyn Jewish Hospital, my birthplace isn't the point. I hate the Yankees. I have always hated the Yankees. And while I don't much care for the Braves, I do not want the Yankees celebrating, Rudy Friggin' Giuliani getting drenched in champagne, and the Yankee fans gloating over how they did what we couldn't. So I'll root for the Braves, thank you very much.
Since I don't pretend to know who is going to win this, I'll pick the Braves in seven.