If you talk to most fans, they're looking forward to a meeting with the Yankees in the World Series. The Los Angeles Angels have made that a little tougher with their win last night, forcing both teams to take a dreaded cross-country flight to New York to continue the series on Saturday. Taking the emotion of potentially redoing the 1950 World Series out of the equation, which of the remaining American League teams would be a better match-up for the Phillies?
Just going on record, the Yankees were the best team in baseball and the only team to win more than 100 games. The Bronx Bombers won 103 games this season, six more than the Angels, who had the second best record in all of baseball. In other words, if the Phillies and Yankees were in the same division, the Phillies would have finished a full ten games behind the Yankees. It's hard to argue against the fact that the Yankees were the best team in the majors this past season. Yes, you can say that they bought those wins. Yes, you can pull out the old "the best team money can buy" argument. Yes, you can argue against them simply because they're the hated and dreaded Yankees. Still, 103 wins is impressive and if you have to be completely honest, the Yankees were the best team in the majors during the regular season.
The Yankees finished second in the American League in hitting, behind only the Angels, who hit .285 compared to the Yankees .283 during the regular season. Among pitching staffs, the Yankees tied for third in ERA in the American League with a team mark of 4.26 on the season. In comparison, the Phillies hit just .258 as a team, but posted a 4.16 overall ERA.
A match-up with the Yankees would have good friends - and Cleveland Indians alumni - Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia potentially going against each other in the series opener. The Phillies handled Sabathia pretty well last year in the NLDS when they knocked the big right-hander around for five earned runs in 3 2/3 innings. In regular season games, Sabathia is 1-1, 4.35 against the Phillies in his career, while Lee is 4-4, 5.02 in nine career starts against the Yankees.
Meanwhile, if the Angels comeback from the abyss to advance to the World Series, there are some interesting storylines to follow.
First, is the most tragic of storylines. Both teams faced the ultimate loss this season when the Phillies lost Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas and the Angels lost a bright young pitching prospect in Nick Adenhart to a fatal car crash. In many ways, both were taken too soon and both teams have honored their fallen comrades throughout the season. For the Angels, their dugout is adorned with Adenhart's uniform hanging as inspiration, while the Phillies honor Kalas by having his colorful jacket and white leather shoes displayed prominently.
Bobby Abreu, an old friend, would be coming to town as a member of the Angels. Yes, he's still pretty much the old Abreu, although his home run numbers have dropped from the mid-20s to the mid-teens. In 2009, Abreu hit 15 home runs and stole 30 bases for the first time since 2006. It turns out that Los Angeles has been a good fit for Abreu, who went from the Phillies to the Yankees to the Angels as a free agent prior to this past season, where he has enjoyed somewhat of a rejuvenation.
In addition to Abreu, the Angels would also bring Gary Matthews Jr. into town. That would give Phillies broadcaster Gary Matthews a chance to see his son play in his first World Series. Matthews Sr. - known as Sarge around these parts - played in the 1983 World Series as a member of the Phillies, hitting .250 against Baltimore with one home run. Somewhat ironically, Junior hit .250 on the season with the Angels.
While the Angels hit .285 as a team, their pitching staff posted a 4.45 ERA this past season. But coming off what would be a surprise, come-from-behind series win over the Yankees would give the Angels an added boost coming into the World Series.
No matter which team you're hoping to see the Phillies play, there will be storylines to follow with either team. The Phillies are no longer just a team happy to be there. They're defending World Champions and there is something to be said about defending that title against the best of the best. The oddsmakers say we're going to see the Yankees in the Fall Classis. If that's the case, so be it. This Phillies team is ready, willing and able to take on any team that the American League wants to throw out there.