Steve Sell's sports column
You didn’t have to be a diehard baseball fan to enjoy the final couple of days of the 162-game marathon season.
Divisional races and wild-card berths came down to the final 48 hours, and fortunately everything was decided without the benefit of a 163rd game.
There was much skepticism when baseball czar Bud Selig added the extra team for a play-in game, but what it did was keep fans’ interest piqued and provided a lot of scoreboard watching for fans and players around the country.
Last year, the St. Louis Cardinals gained postseason entry on the final day of the season, then hopped on its magic carpet and rode all the way to the World Series title. Who’ll ever forget Games 6 and 7 of perhaps the most thrilling World Series ever played?
Who’ll be this year’s St. Louis? Will one of the play-in teams make it all the way, like the Texas Rangers? Or will our pick at the start of the year, the New York Yankees, flex their considerable muscles and return to the throne?
Here’s how we see things shaking out:
Play-in game — What a great story the Baltimore Orioles have been, but it’s going to be a quick exit as Texas should prevail in the winner-take-all game.
Oakland vs. Detroit — The Tigers meandered all year before making a final push, while the A’s were a fabulous story and have been baseball’s hottest team, even though people in Oakland apparently haven’t realized it, as fan support there is pathetic. The rule of thumb is to go with the hot team, but Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder won’t let the Tigers lose, plus we like the top of Detroit’s pitching rotation.
Texas-New York — The Yankees were our pick at the start and we have no reason to waver. Texas always seems to have trouble with New York and it’ll have to burn its top pitcher in the play-in game.
Detroit-New York — Again, we’re a big believer in the Yankees, because they can simply overpower teams with their home-run prowess.
Play-in game — As many of you know, no one is a bigger St. Louis fan than this editor. But the Cardinals have to go on the road and face Atlanta’s Kris Medlen, who has been almost unhittable with a 10-1 record. Atlanta has plenty of motivation after blowing the wild-card lead to St. Louis last year, then watching the Cardinals win it all. St. Louis is making a big mistake starting Kyle Lohse instead of Adam Wainwright, who is a more experienced big-game pitcher.
Cincinnati-San Francisco — We’re a big believer in pitching and nobody has a better staff than San Francisco, even with Tim Linceum experiencing a down year. The Reds’ bats haven’t been quite as hot down the stretch as they were earlier in the year and you have to wonder how many more 100 mph. fastballs Aroldis Chapman has left in his bazooka that hangs off his shoulder. Look for the Giants to advance.
Washington-Atlanta — What would be baseball’s best story is if Washington and Baltimore could somehow make the World Series. But we’ve already written off Baltimore, and we have a feeling the stage will be too big for Washington. Once the Nationals are out, the question will arise if they could have won it if Stephen Strasburg had been available. Atlanta moves on.
San Francisco-Atlanta — Good pitching trumps good hitting, so we’re giving the slight nod to San Francisco in what should be a low-scoring series.
New York vs. San Francisco — Nobody is taking up more space than us on the Yankee bandwagon. Yankees in six.
AL MVP — A lot of people pick Los Angeles’ Mike Trout, but come on, Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown after a 45-year drought. That wins it for us.
AVL Cy Young — Tampa Bay’s David Price showed why he’s a former overall No. 1 draft pick. Isn’t that what Kansas City’s Luke Hochevar was?
AL Manager — There’s no way we can decide between Oakland’s Bob Melvin and Baltimore’s Buck Showalter. Both teams were picked to lose 100 games. Give it to both.
AL ROOKIE — Los Angeles’ Mike Trout nearly gets a double-double, as he should be second in the MVP race.
NL MVP — There was nobody who just overwhelmed us, so we’re going with St. Louis’ Yadier Molina by an eyelash over San Francisco’s Buster Posey in an all-catcher race.
NL Cy Young — Again, a lot of solid candidates, but nobody that knocks our socks off. Give it to the ol’ knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who was a 20-game winner for a bad Mets team.
NL Manager — This should be a no-brainer, Washington’s Davey Johnson.
NL Rookie — Bryce Harper is the popular pick and he’s certainly worthy and splashier, but Arizona pitcher Wade Miley was more impressive.