So here we are about 6 hours from the start of the 2008 World Series and if you had the Tampa Rays vs. the Philadelphia Phillies as your World Series matchup in spring training congratulations. (And give me a call b/c I need some advice on betting.) Anyway I am very excited about this world, more then usual. Not only are there a lot of good young players and guys who deserve the national spotlight, but the Red Sox are not in the World Series and I can enjoy some good baseball and not care who wins in the end (even though I will be pulling for the Rays.)
Lets Break it down by Position:
Catcher: Dionner Navarro vs. Carlos Ruiz
This is pretty simple as Navarro was an All-Star this year and well basically Ruiz was far from it. The performance of both of these catchers will be key as these teams love to steal bases. Whomever can control the basepaths will go along way to helping their team win.
Firstbase: Carlos Pena vs. Ryan Howard
Pena would get the edge over most 1b but Howard is on the verge of his second MVP and puts up scary RBI and HR totals. Neither has a high avg and Pena's glove is superior but I will give:
Secondbase: Akinori Iwamura vs. Chase Utley
This is easy Utley again was an allstar while Iwamura is a solid player but isn't an elite player.
Thirdbase: Evan Longoria vs. Pedro Feliz
Longoria is the leader of this team at the age of 23 and he is already arguably one of the top 3 thirdbaseman in baseball. Again this is not close.
Shortstop: Jason Bartlett vs. Jimmy Rollins
Rollins is the defending MVP and the leader of the Phils. He gives the team the boost they need. While Bartlett is a great defender and has really helped solidy the defense his bat just doesnt measure up.
Left Field: Carl Crawford vs. Pat Burrell
Many Philly fans wanted Burrell gone two years only to see him turn into one of their most consistant and clutch performers the last two years, however he still doesn't add up to Crawford. Crawford brings a great bat, speed and defense to the table and as the Ray with the most service time with the team he would love to bring a ring to the Trop.
Centerfield: BJ Upton vs. Shane Victirino
As we saw in LA, Victirino is definelty an agitator and spark plug. He helped will the team to victory vs the Dodgers. But we also see Upton amass 7 hr's already this postseason, one off the all time record.
Rightfield: Gabe Gross/ Rocco Baldelli vs. Jayson Werth
Rightfield is not a strong suit for either team and is prob the weakest combined position in the series.
DH/Bench: Cliff Floyd/ Willie Aybar/Fernando Perez vs. Matt Stairs/ Greg Dobbs/ Geoff Jenkins/ Eric Bruntlett
The way the Rays DH has performed, especially Aybar they are the easy pick for the edge. But I have to say with the prospects of Burrell (DH Game 1 and Bruntlett in LF for another RH Bat vs. Kazmir is what I expect Charley Manuel to do) Stairs, and Dobbs getting some swings as DH I would expect to see the first NL DH HR since 2002 when Shaun Dunston did it for the Giants.
The Phillies throw the best pitcher out in game 1 in Cole Hamels but the rest of the matchups favor the Rays. Jamie Moyer could be the father of every other pitcher in this series as everyother starter is under 26 and he is pushing almost 45.
As we saw in Boston the Rays weakness is the bullpen (they couldn't even protect a 7 run lead.) The dominance of Balfour appears gone and the Phillies bolster Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson for late inning shutdown relief. Even if David Price closes for the Rays, which he should, their bullpen is still shaky.
Manager: Joe Maddon vs. Charley Manual
Could we have two bigger opoosites in managers? One is a talkative, jogger, tree-loving man with a mohawk vs a quiet soft-spoken manager. But both teams love their managers and would run through brick walls for them. The Phillies really want to win for Manuel who lost his mother last week.
Series Pick: Rays in 6