In a little more than a week, the baseball playoffs will begin. Once again, both wild cards come from the same division (Central) in the National League, and since all five playoff spots have been filled in the NL, we'll take a look at that first. AL preview on Sunday.
Wild Card round:
Since the Cardinals, Cubs, & Pirates are all tightly bunched, the division hasn't been decided as of this writing. However, let's assume the Cards hang on to win the division, leaving the Cubs & Pirates to duke it out to take on their division rival. If anything changes by the weekend, we'll note it on Sunday. Anyway, Cubs management brought Joe Maddon over from Tampa Bay to finally get the team back to the post-season, and he's succeeded. A division title would've been even sweeter. The Cubs are young, hungry, and barring injuries and/or stupid decisions by management or certain greedy "agents" (Scott Boras, especially), they'll be here for a while. We like the Cubs over Pittsburgh, and, then, to upset the Cardinals in the division series.
The sure matchup was finalized on Tuesday when the Los Angeles Dodgers repeated as NL West champs, eliminating defending World Series champ San Francisco on the strength of a 1-hitter by Clayton Kershaw. All that's left is to decide who gets home field for the division series vs. the East champion Mets, beginning on 10/9. While Don Mattingly's club has two solid aces in Kershaw and Zack Greinke, the Mets' "Young Guns" (Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom) have become media darlings, although Harvey has that albatross on his neck (Boras). Kershaw has flopped in the playoffs the last two years, but, if I'm right, he won't see St. Louis this year anyway. The Mets won the season series between the two teams, 4-3, winning 2 in LA and splitting a 4-set at Citi Field, all in July. The changes they made since the latter series have made them a more dangerous proposition.
The Pick: If the Mets can get into the Dodger bullpen, as they did vs. Greinke in July, they could pull the upset, and that would spell the end of Mattingly's time in LA. Mets in 5. Cubs in 5.
The Central Division was the Mets' kryptonite this season, as they went 0-13 vs. the Cubs & Pirates, but swept Cincinnati, winning all 7 meetings, to finish 13-20 vs. the Central. They'll play the Cubs in the NLCS with revenge on their minds, plus the fact that the Cubs haven't seen Matz yet. Right now, Terry Collins and Joe Maddon are 1-2 for Manager of the Year in the NL. That's not going to change.
Of course, I could be wrong.