Monday, October 1, 2018

Joey's Soapbox: My 2018 Completely Unbiased Wild Card Game Picks

Remember, these are completely unbiased picks.  So this photo of me at gorgeous Coors Field is just a total coincidence.

Hey, everyone!  This is Joey Beartran, your furry fearless forecaster.  And just like you, I'm only now starting to recover from the David Wright Kleenex Fest this past weekend at Citi Field.  It's sad that the Captain's career is over, just like it's disappointing that the Mets are not in the postseason for a second consecutive campaign.

Because the Mets are emptying out their lockers instead of packing for an October road trip, that means we all have to watch teams in which we have no interest competing for a championship that has eluded our squad for nearly a third of a century.

Some of those non-Metsian teams were forced to play a 163rd game to determine who would get the chance to celebrate a division title and who would have to play in the same do-or-die game the Mets lost the last time they made the playoffs two seasons ago.  The Cubs and Rockies both lost their 163rd and final regular season games, forcing them to play in a 164th and first postseason game against each other, with the loser not getting a chance to play in a 165th game.  Meanwhile, the Yankees and A's already knew their wild card fate for some time, allowing them to prepare for the inevitable Yankee defeat.  (Oops, I should've said "spoiler alert".)

As your prescient prognosticator, it's my duty to share my knowledge of what's going to happen in the American and National League Wild Card games.  And hopefully, I won't spoil anything for you too soon like I did in the previous paragraph.  (On an unrelated note, don't you just love the photo of me at the top of this post?  Looks like the photo of a winning ballpark, doesn't it?)

National League Wild Card Game

Colorado Rockies vs. Chicago Cubs

Well, leave it to the Rockies to get so close to winning their first division title only to kiss it goodbye in their 163rd game.  Then again, the Rockies are no strangers to making it to the playoffs as a second-place team.  They've now qualified for the postseason five times in their quarter century of existence, with every appearance coming as the No. 2 team in the N.L. West.  Meanwhile, the Cubs surrendered the N.L. Central crown in their 163rd game but still made the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season; the first time they've ever done that in their long history, which dates back to 1876, or the year Scott Atchison was born.

The Cubs won four more games than the Rockies did during the regular season and have far more playoff experience than Colorado does.  Chicago manager Joe Maddon has taken his North Siders to the playoffs four times, immediately on the heels of taking his former team, the Tampa Bay Rays, to the postseason on four occasions.  Maddon has also won more pennants (two) than his counterpart, Bud Black, has managed postseason games (one).  And you can always expect the crowd at Wrigley Field to be raucous, especially in a do-or-die game.

Cole Hamels
Everything seems to suggest that the Cubs should easily dispose of the Rockies in the Wild Card game.  Colorado has to overcome a playoff-tested opponent managed by a potential future Hall of Famer.  They also have to play 4,683 feet closer to sea level than they're used to.

But the Rockies have one key advantage over the Cubs.  Colorado doesn't have Cole Hamels on their payroll.  Chicago does.  And really, that's all that matters to me.  Because no team that feels the need to fatten Hamels' wallet should ever be allowed to advance in the postseason.

Prediction: Colorado will advance to the NLDS.

American League Wild Card Game

Oakland A's vs. New York Yankees

The Yankees were expected to run roughshod over the rest of the American League this season.  They didn't quite do that, finishing eight games behind the rival Red Sox in the A.L. East.  Meanwhile, Oakland was expected to sell off their players at the trade deadline after a disappointing start.  Instead, they added pitchers Edwin Jackson, Shawn Kelley, Mike Fiers, Fernando Rodney and some guy named Jeurys Familia and went 63-29 in their last 92 games to comfortably secure the second wild card spot.

A's versus Yankees usually doesn't end up well for the team from the left coast.  The two teams have faced each other three times in the postseason (1981, 2000, 2001).  New York emerged victorious on each occasion.  (I have a selective memory, so I'm choosing to ignore what happened in the World Series in 1973.  If I ignore it, then it didn't happen.)

It's not just in baseball where New York takes care of Oakland in postseason affairs.  On December 29, 1968, the New York Jets defeated the Oakland Raiders in the AFL Championship Game on their way to their first and only Super Bowl title.

If it seems like no one can remember the last time Oakland defeated New York in anything (remember, 1973 never happened in my mind), that's because no one was allowed to see it when it happened.  I mean that literally, not figuratively.

Ever hear of "The Heidi Game"?  On November 17, 1968, the Jets held a 32-29 lead over the Raiders with under a minute to play.  The NBC television network was broadcasting the game, but because they were obligated to show the movie "Heidi" at 7:00pm, the game did not air to its conclusion and the football-loving audience instead saw the first few minutes of "Heidi" instead of two touchdowns by the Raiders, which turned an apparent New York victory into a bitter 43-32 defeat.

Sheldon, you're no Heidi.
The Heidi Game will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in less than seven weeks.  I can't think of a better way to celebrate that special moment in sports history - one in which no one saw a team from Oakland defeating a club that calls New York home - than by having the A's ending the Yankees' season, hopefully without TBS switching off the game to show reruns of "The Big Bang Theory."

Prediction: Oakland will advance to the ALDS.

No comments: