I must admit I was a bit surprised when the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs became the final twosome to compete for the National League pennant. No, actually, I was shocked.
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This was supposedly the year the dangerous Los Angeles Dodgers couldn’t be denied. The big stage in the Fall Classic was almost automatic. Instead, Earvin “Magic” Johnson and his Guggenheim partners learned that all the money in the world can’t buy chemistry. Magic should have saw it coming. The Dodgers have too many guys who forgot to check their egos at the clubhouse door, and it might cost skipper Don Mattingly his job.
On the other side of the coin, the St. Louis Cardinals simply weren’t deep enough to deal with a season-long epidemic of physical injuries, the knockout blow coming when flame-throwing right-hander Carlos Martinez went on the shelf. The Redbirds were also woefully short on offense in the post season and may have to muscle up and retool this winter, especially if Jason Heyward decides to take his talents elsewhere.
So now we have the battle of the Cuban sluggers. It’s Yeonis “La Potencia” Cespedes of New York vs. Chicago’s Jorge Soler, who makes Hulk Hogan look like a sissy. The multi-million dollar question is this: Will the young Mets arms be too much for the equally youthful Cubbie bats? It’s an interesting showdown, but pitching usually prevails in these situations. I predict that New York emerges victorious in seven games.
In the ALCS, you have the same type of scenario. Will the Kansas City Royals with its trio of Latino pitchers – Yordano Ventura, Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez – be enough to hold down the Toronto Blue Jays? The Canadians offer the power of Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki, scoring more runs than any team in baseball this season. But we witnessed a brief preview in game one of this series when the 32-year-old Volquez, a veteran with a lot of baggage, mowed down hitters with an unusually electric fast ball. Aren’t the Jays known for hitting the heat? Also troubling was the early exit of Encarnacion, who injured a finger ligament in his left hand.
Kansas City had concerns of their own when durable catcher Salvador Perez was struck on his glove hand by the bat of Donaldson and appeared to be in extreme pain throughout the remainder of the series opener. These Royals are grinders, though, as demonstrated in their comeback wins against the gutsy Houston Astros. Guys like Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Kendrys Morales, Ben Zobrist and Perez know how to prolong at-bats, or tee off on the first pitch like Alcides Escobar usually does. Bottom line: they are defending champions and have learned to make adjustments.
The outcome of this battle could come down to the bullpens, and that’s where the Royals, even without Greg Holland, have a huge edge over the Jays depleted forces. Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna are talented young relievers, but both kids have extended their work loads into uncharted waters, especially Osuna. With that in mind, I’ll take Kansas City in a war that could be over early.
Obviously, the Kansas City-Toronto series piques my interest, just because there are so many Hispanic variables that could change the eventual outcome. That said, I’m a baseball junkie first and foremost, regardless of whether a player is white, brown, black or canary yellow. So I want to give a shout out to the New York Mets, a diverse club that stands out to me as a class act. That’s not to say that Joe Maddon’s group on the north side of Chicago are not solid citizens. Quite the contrary. It’s just that I truly respect guys like David Wright, Curtis Granderson and Daniel Murphy, who have clearly set a gold standard as role models for this young New York team. It’s that chemistry thing that I mentioned earlier. You either have it or you don’t.
That’s my two-cents opinion, and I’m sticking to it.