2011 playoff preview: Baseball with the stars

Cole Hamels
The Phillies did everything they could to prevent the Braves from making the postseason. They started all starters, brought in Hamels from the bullpen and finished with their closers when the games didn't mean a thing. See, Girardi, that's how it's done!

Well, that was a heck of a playoff race, huh? I guess that’s why they call it the “wild” card. All the division winners got to shift over to cruise control as the season wrapped up, but Tampa Bay and St. Louis took advantage of the simultaneous meltdowns of Boston and Atlanta to secure their spots.

Last night was such a crazy night of baseball with so many different playoff scenarios flip-flopping around like a toddler in a kiddie pool after drinking his first can of Mountain Dew. Looking back over the last month at all the things that had to go right and go wrong for last night’s drama to line up the way it did, we see everything that’s great and horrible about following sports.

As a Red Sox fan, I am … [disappointed]. [Editor’s note: Due to the editorial standards of our website regarding profanity and any content which specifically states or gives the appearance of advocating for violence against any person’s physical body or any group of people and their physical persons, we have removed some of Mr. Rigney’s comment previously appearing here.]

But the Red Sox brought this on themselves with just about the worst month of pitching, hitting and fielding you could put together. And, of course, the hated Yankees had to come up short against the Rays the past few days. They say, “It takes one to know one.” Well, I’m an a-hole and I know another a-hole when I see one. Joe Girardi is an a-hole.

The Braves collapse was just as ugly. They just couldn’t seem to catch a break while also making a slew of mistakes. And, to make everything worse, the team chasing them, the St. Louis Cardinals, got to play the super-awful Houston Astros for their last three games, and the Braves had to play the best team in the league who played all of their starters and also used their ace closer in a game that was actually meaningless to them. See, Joe Girardi, you … [unflattering adjectives and nouns], that’s how it’s done.

Okay, so we’ve got all that out of the way. Now let’s see if we can sort out where the postseason is headed. In the playoffs, it doesn’t really matter who the best team is. There’s a lot of random chance involved when teams match up for a series. Last year’s San Francisco Giants are a great example. No one with any amount of intellectual capacity would say they were the “best” team. But with some exceptional pitching and some lucky hitting and adequate defense, they were the world champions. This year, with almost the same team, they didn’t make the playoffs – by a lot.

In the past 10 years, there have been nine different World Series winners. So, what I’m really going to do here is just try to make some educated guesses as to how this will all turn out. And this year, maybe more so than any year recently, there is no one team that really stands out as the one.

There’s another competition going on right now that has a very similar circumstance – with approximately the same number of participants and no clear-cut favorite to win it all as in years past. Each of the competitors has flaws, and most seem like they have the potential to go all the way.

Joe Girardi
Joe can take that finger and shove it up .... (Editor's note: Jed calm down.)

One of the sacrifices that a person makes when they get married is they wind up watching a lot of television that they would not particularly watch otherwise and of which they would even be ashamed to admit being a regular viewer. One of these shows is “Dancing with the Stars,” and if you don’t know what it is, then you don’t have a television or you aren’t married.

This season, they are really stretching the definition of “stars.” But I suppose that’s not surprising – after all, if they really were “stars,” they wouldn’t need to be on this show. In addition to being light on starry-ness, my wife tells me that it’s a fairly weak crop of dancing talent with not one standout. Of course, I say “my wife,” but really I just mean “me.” My pride is having a lot of trouble with the fact that I am knowledgeable about such things.

Anyway, it occurred to me that I could do my playoffs preview with a whole DWTS theme (yes, I even know the acronym for the show – but I’m okay with this, my wife is beautiful). I think it could be funny and I’m hoping this will somehow help me deal with my shame.

Let’s take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of these playoff teams and match them up with their corresponding dancing star. It sounds weird right? Okay, I’ll explain with a team that didn’t make the playoffs. Hmm, who could I pick? Um, hmm, um, okay, Boston. So, Boston was a lock to make the playoffs. This was an absolute certainty just a few weeks ago. And then things changed drastically and now they’re going to miss the playoffs entirely. DWTS contestant Chaz Bono also changed drastically. He used to be a she. And now, as a man, Chaz is ill equipped physically to compete and he’s got a bunch of injuries – just like the Red Sox.

Pretty simple, right? Good. I figured you’d get it. Hold on, one question. When we talk about Chaz before “she” became a “he,” do we still use “he” or is “she” the proper past tense pronoun? Probably not “it,” though, right? Okay, whatever.

Let’s do this.

American League

New York Yankees (East Division Champs) — The Yankees are as close as there is in this group to what you would call a favorite to win everything. DWTS contestant Chynna Phillips also looks like a slight favorite. She has the looks and she has enough basic dancey-ness. The Yankees have all the offense they should need and they have enough defense. If they have a fatal flaw, it’s that their starting pitching is suspect after CC Sabathia and even his last few starts have been rather unimpressive. Chynna’s flaw appears to be that while she comes across as nice, there really isn’t much personality there. And personality counts on a show where votes are required. She might be charming enough, but she’s going to need a really good sob story at some point here to get to the finals.

Detroit Tigers (Central Division Champs) — The Tigers are an interesting playoff team. They’ve got the league’s best pitcher and one of the league’s best offenses, but with all the Wild Card noise, no one is really looking at these guys. No one really wants to look at contestant J.R. Martinez because of his severe burn scars – not directly at him anyway – just look at his legs. J.R. has some nice dance skill and his personality is sufficient, but he gets a huge sympathy boost. And he’s got a great back story – he’s a real-life hero who suffered his injuries in that hellhole Iraq. Also, Detroit is kind of a hellhole and the Tigers winning it all would be a feel-good scenario for a city that needs it.

Rangers are impressive all around and are Jed's pick to win it all.

Texas Rangers (West Division Champs) — The Rangers have been quietly going about their business this season with not much media attention. But they won their division easily and everyone forgets the Rangers were in the World Series last year. And almost everyone forgot that contestant Ricki Lake was still around. She’s back with a vengeance and she is milking every last drop of attention she can get. She’s solid all the way around and she’s got the super-personality going for her – the kind that most people love, but others who are more aware of how fake it is just want to dump a Jamba Juice Five Fruit Frenzy smoothie on her head. The Rangers are also solid all the way around and they have home-field advantage because they wound up with the best record. Ricki’s advantage is that she’s probably the most famous person on the show and she’s got her charm machine going at full blast. Try harder, Ricki. Just kidding. That would be impossible.

Tampa Bay Rays (Wild Card) — It wasn’t just that the Red Sox played like feces; the Rays played their butts off and did whatever it took to get the final playoff spot. Contestant Nancy Grace is also doing whatever it takes to compete – including an “accidental” wardrobe malfunction that showed us all more of Nancy than we ever feared we would see. By making the playoffs, the Rays are going to show us more than we thought we would see of them. And this is a pretty good team. Their pitching and defense are quite good, but their offense is lacking – though they do seem to get enough runs to get by. With a few lucky breaks, they could sneak into the World Series. And Nancy might do the same. She’s improved her dancer-ness, but with her personality lacking, she’s going to need some more “accidentals” to distract the judges and fans.

National League

Philadelphia Phillies (East Division Champs) — The Phillies, like the Yankees in the American League, are the default favorite in the National League. They have awesome starting pitchers – the best in both leagues. All the pieces are there, but does anyone really care? Contestant Hope Solo is a women’s soccer (I know, redundant) player and she also appears to have all the pieces – maybe too many pieces. Like those muscles – I haven’t seen obliques like those since Brad Pitt in “Fight Club.” When I see her, I keep thinking that it’s about time that someone wrote a song that’s the opposite of “Dude Looks Like a Lady.” She is kind of pretty – certainly adequate – and as long as she doesn’t talk so much, her personality will suffice. The Phillies offense is certainly adequate and their defense will suffice, but they will only go as far as their excellent pitching takes them.

Milwaukee Brewers (Central Division Champs) — With the Red Sox out of the playoffs, I think this is the team I’m rooting for. I like watching these guys play baseball a lot. And so it is with contestant David Arquette – by far my favorite “star” on the show. He looks like he’s having so much fun while he’s out there dancing, and he’s got that oddball personality that people could find charming. The Brewers have a good offense and very good pitching, but their defense is shaky. And it’s hard to tell just how good they really are because they play in the Central Division which is easily the worst division in baseball. They had 57 wins at home this year; another team in their division, the Houston Astros, had 56 wins … all year. It’s also hard to tell how good David is or if he’s actually taking any of this fake dance competition seriously – which makes me like him more.

Arizona Diamondbacks (West Division Champs) — The Diamondbacks are a team that could go all the way or they could get swept in the first round. They are young and there’s a lot about their success this season that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Which is quite similar to contestant Kristin Cavallari, who’s on this show because her “career” since “The Hills” has gone back and forth between ribbon-cutting ceremonies and nightclub appearances. Sure, she’s thought of as a slutty young rich kid with few redeeming qualities, but the ones she has could be enough to win this show. She’s got the looks, she’s been pretty good with the dance routines, and she has a huge following of texting and tweeting and voting young girls. The Diamondbacks could have enough to win it all and they have been pretty good at all aspects of the game, though I am suspicious of their pitching and defense. It’s a fun team, and their manager, the legendary Kirk Gibson, has gotten more out of this team than anyone could have hoped.

St. Louis Cardinals (Wild Card) — The Cardinals are here because of a combination of the Braves falling apart like Joaquin Phoenix’s career and a very easy schedule against the aforementioned worst division in baseball. Contestant Carson Kressley also really shouldn’t be here. He’s not really a star at all. He has no athleticism or dance-ishness whatsoever. But … he’s having a blast. He puts in more hours than any of his competitors and he really cares about this thing. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s his last chance to actually be a star. This might also be Tony LaRussa’s last chance with the Cardinals. He’s getting old and he may retire. This team did just overcome a huge deficit to win this spot and they should not be considered a pushover. But if there is an “un-favorite,” these would be the guys. Carson is also a long shot to win. He is very entertaining, but he needs to get his crap together or he may not last the week.

World Series

So, wait, now do I pick the team and contestant combos or just the teams? Crap, I should have thought this out. I’m going to pick just the teams. No, the combos.

I’m going with the Texas Rangers from the American League and the Milwaukee Brewers from the National League. So, that means Ricki Lake and David Arquette as the final two. I’m not too sure about that Arquette pick, but then I probably really shouldn’t be “sure about” anything regarding this show anyway.

And winning it all: the Texas Rangers and Ricki Lake.

Thanks for helping me work this all out and alleviating my shame (or doubling it.)

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