Hi there in Philly. I am now in Thailand up by the Cambodia border. I have listened to almost every one of 162 season games and only missed a few when I was traveling.
It has been a beautiful year for Philly baseball. I've been a hardcore Phillies fan since 1950 when I was a kid living in southwest Philly and the Yanks took four stright from the Whiz Kids. I enjoyed all those years with Phillies announcer Richie Ashburn.
Now for the present.
This is a very good team here and if they win this last series of the year they will be a great team. I do believe they can do it. I am looking forward to some good baseball and the teams both have speed which makes for exciting baseball. The art is to keep the rabbits off the base paths which is no easy task and I believe that the team that does that will likely win.
It's is a game of firsts; fist win, first strike, first out, all positives. First error, passed ball, wild pitch, misplayed ball and bad baserunning all negatives.
Both teams have good managers who will have to make adjustments with the DH rule. If the Phillies lose the first game with their ace, they will have an up-hill climb. One thing I liked about the Phillies all year was their ability to climb that hill.
The Phillies pen is the best in baseball today and if they can get to the Ray's pen, their chances of winning are greatly improved.
I think the series will come down to errors and bad plays more so than anything else. A lot of that comes from immaturity and I think Philly has the edge there.
The most important game after the first will be the fifth, if the series is tied. I do not have a crystal ball, but I would go with the Phillies in six or seven and hope they can do it in four.
If the Phillies play like they played in September, it's a lock.
The Phillies will win be the 2008 World Champions. They have been close to the playoffs, in the playoffs, and now in the series. They have the talent and the experience to bring home a World Championship to the champion-starved city of Philadelphia.
The Rays have had a spectacular season, but will fall to the Phitins in five games.
Hamels will win both his starts including the clincher. Howard will break out a bit with three home runs, including a game winner. The MVP will be Pat Burrell who will get on track and punish the Rays early as they try to pitch around Howard.
Victorino will continue his spectacular defense and contribute offensively and the Phillies will be swiping bases at a record success rate. Lidge will continue his perfect season with two saves in two chances.
Game 1: Phillies 7 Rays 2
Game 2: Phillies 3 Rays 5
Game 3: Phillies 9 Rays 7
Game 4: Phillies 7 Rays 2
Game 5: Phillies 5 Rays 3
It's been a wonderful season.
OK, lets talk about Game 1 and what the Phils need to do to win.
First, Hamels I believe has turned the corner in his career and will pitch another great game. If he has a weakness, it's losing concentration against hitters you don't expect to hit HRs and he gets the ball up where they can drive it. This past summer he had some trouble with this in the middle innings and many times it resulted in a no-decision for him. I think for him to be up against any hitter he must be up just out of the zone.
Next is the Ryan Howard riddle. Will he show up or be a non-factor? I think the answer lies in patience for the most part. Opposing teams rarely give him anything to hit because they know he is so aggressive and once they back him off the plate he's a dead duck on the outside corner. If Ryan would look for that pitch away and take it down the left field line it would go a long way toward defeating the shift and the way they have been pitching him. Ted Williams said "You have to get a good pitch to hit" but that doesn't necessarily mean one in the strike zone just one that will allow you to do what you need to do in that situation.
During the offensive dry spell this past summer the Phils had to find ways to win that they were not used to and I believe it was a great lesson for our players who were locked in on the long ball. Move-up baseball has been the bread and butter of some of the greatest teams in history. We need to remember what we have come through this year and keep using all those tools. Speed on the base paths is something you have to use to be effective. Stretch the double into a triple if there is a bobble or the outfielder takes too long getting to the ball. With Victorino at the bottom of the order send him early in the count before Carlos gets a chance to hit into a double-play. How about a squeeze play if we get Rollins on third and Utley at the plate?
Personally, I believe the Rays with all the left-hand pitching and especially in relief, may be a problem for the Utley-Howard combination in the late innings. I think until you see how they will pitch to Utley and how he does in the late innings you must separate them with a right-hand bat. How about Coste as the DH in the number three spot? Against Kazmir it would be Rollins, Utley, Coste, Howard, Burrell, Victorino, Feliz, Ruiz and Werth. The other possibility would be to just swap Coste and Werth in the lineup retaining Coste as the DH.
One final thought on the World Series roster is that we need to put Lou Marson on the bench. He gives flexibility at the catching position to accommodate the use of Coste as the DH and provide right-handed offense off the bench. The kid is a .300 hitter and may prove to be the secret weapon for us in the series.
P.S. I've been a devoted Phils fan for 55 years and as this first game of the World Series gets closer I just can't describe how excited I am for our city, fans and especially this team.