And now, all 10 spots have been filled for Major League Baseball's silly season (playoffs). Let's just take a look:
Wild Card round: Houston @ Yankees: The Astros have been the Cinderella story in the AL this season, and won the season series from the Yanks. Ex-Tri-City Valleycat Dallas Keuchel figures to get the ball Tuesday night, in the biggest game of his young career. The Bronx Bombers have turned into pop guns at the worst possible time, losing six of seven in the season's final week, including getting swept by Baltimore over the last two days.
Still, if there is any solace for the Yankees, they can forge ahead, dedicating this postseason to the memory of Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, who passed away 2 weeks ago. They won't have CC Sabathia pitching for them, however, as it has been reported that Sabathia has elected to go into alcohol rehab and forego the playoffs. Still, it's a must win for the Yankees, given the spoiled, rabid fan base in NYC, and a loss here could spell the end for Joe Girardi after 8 seasons in the Bronx. They do need to do some housecleaning in Yankee Stadium, anyway. The winner, however, gets defending AL Champ Kansas City, so a win just prolongs the inevitable.
The pick: Houston.
ALDS: Houston @ Kansas City: The last time the Royals had reached the playoffs in consecutive years was in the 70's, when Whitey Herzog was the manager, before he crossed the interstate to manage St. Louis. Houston is in for the first time as an AL Club, and last made the playoffs 10 years ago, losing in the World Series to the White Sox after upsetting Atlanta in the NLCS. The Astros have progressed further & faster than anyone imagined, but, as the old saying goes, you have to learn to walk before you can run, and the Royals would love to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their lone World Series title in style.
The pick: Royals in 4.
Texas @ Toronto: It's been 22 years since Joe Carter led the Blue Jays to their 2nd consecutive title, upsetting Philadelphia in the process. While I personally question the logic in their July swap of veteran shortstops, sending speedy but injury prone Jose Reyes to Colorado for injury prone slugger Troy Tulowitzki, I have to say the Blue Jays fall into the walk before you can run category.
The Rangers, meanwhile, aren't too far off from their consecutive losing appearances under Ron Washington in the Fall Classic, but, like the Astros, no one expected them to get this far. Getting Josh Hamilton back from the Angels certainly was a plus, but he's not the featured star on the team anymore. However, I can't see the Rangers going any further.
The pick: Blue Jays in 5.
Wild Card round: Chicago @ Pittsburgh: Joe Maddon came to Chi-town with one goal in mind, and that was not only to get the Cubs into the post-season, but all the way to the World Series as well. The young nucleus of talent is jelling quicker than expected, and there's more where that came from. As for all the whining from Scott "Turf Builder" Boras at the start of the season in re.: Kris Bryant? Forgotten, especially if the Cubs can win it all. Maddon, Theo Epstein, et al, knew what they were doing with Bryant all along, even if the greedy but clueless Boras acted like he didn't. The Pirates are this generation's Atlanta. And so it goes.
The pick: Cubs.
NLDS: Cubs @ Cardinals: There are, I think, some people who'd like to see a rematch of the '85 Series between the Royals & Cardinals, but it isn't going to happen. Yes, St. Louis gets Adam Wainwright back in time for the playoffs, but that isn't going to be enough. Jake Arietta looks more like a Cy Young winner than the Dodgers' 2-headed monster (see below). The Cardinals may not have All-Star catcher Yadier Molina, and that might be a big difference.
The pick: Cubs in 5.
Mets @ Dodgers: Like the Yankees, the Mets backpedaled into the playoffs, losing 5 of their final 6, and their offense has gone back to June swoon mode at the wrong time. They need to wake up the bats to back up the pitching, especially knowing that Clayton Kershaw & Zack Greinke await this weekend in LA. Yes, the Mets won the season series, 4-3, and that was before the roster makeover at the end of July. One of those summer pick-ups, however, may not be available, as Juan Uribe missed the better part of the last week with an injury, reducing the Mets' bench & infield depth considerably. Terry Collins has waited his entire managerial career to reach the playoffs, and has the horses to ride the series to the limit. The idea is to make sure Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, and either Bartolo Colon or Steven Matz can go at least six, then turn it over to the bullpen. The Dodgers are going to wish they never let Dee Gordon go......
The pick: Mets in 5.
Of course, I could be wrong.