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Phillies-Yankees World Series Preview: A Tale of Two Franchises

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When you come to think about it, there aren't any two teams on such opposite ends of the baseball history spectrum as The Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankees.  So it's kind of ironic that on Wednesday night, the two teams will be squaring off against each other as the World Series finally begins.

In the Phillies, you have one of the oldest franchises in the history of Major League Baseball. They have also lost more games than anyone in professional sports history.Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies The Phils are trying to become the first National League team since the 1975-76 Cincinnati Reds to win back-to-back World Series titles. The only other NL team to achieve this feat: The New York Giants of 1921-1922. This mark was also matched by the 1907-08 Chicago Cubs, but we're not going back THAT far. Sorry Cubs fans. Several teams in the modern era have tried (Hank Aaron's Milwaukee Braves, the Koufax era Dodgers, Bob Gibson and the Cardinals, the Braves of the 1990's), and all have failed. What makes this even more impressive if the Phillies pull this off is that they had only one previous title in their history prior to last year's championship. Finally, in their 127th year in existence, they are on the verge of their official "Glory Era," and could cement this with another ring in November.

Then there's the New York Yankees. Unlike the Phillies, there's never really been a time when the Yankees have not been the center of the baseball universe. That will happen when you have 26 titles to your credit. Moreover, if you think it's a big deal for the Phillies to go back-to-back, not only have the Yankees accomplished this feat on three occasions, they have also had stretches of four championships in a row (1936-39), five (1949-1953), and three in a row (1998-2000). And yes, that 1950 title of theirs was courtesy of the Phillies.  So in a nutshell, you can pretty much say that this is a World Series of the "haves" and the "have-nots."  The guy whose dad bought him his Ferrari vs. the guy who worked seven years to get his.

In saying all of this, the Yankees haven't won in almost a decade. This is what happens when you constantly try and load your team with superstars (Gary Sheffield,Jason Giambi, A-Fraud) and you sacrifice individual numbers for team chemistry. Much like this current Phillies team, the Yankees of the late 1990's were built from their farm system (Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera), acquired through trades (Scott Brosius,Tino Martinez,Cecil Fielder), and a few free agent signings (Wade Boggs, Darryl Strawberry). You could respect these teams as well as the classic Yankees squads with Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio, Ford, Berra, Guidry, Munson, and Reggie Jackson (I realize I'm spanning several eras here).

With this trip to the World Series, the Yankees will attempt to end this title "drought." Despite the fact that their opponent is the defending World Champions, they will be overwhelming favorites in this World Series. And let's be fair: when your ownership spends a quarter of a billion dollars on free agent signings in the off-season (C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Mark Teixeira), you SHOULD be the favorite no matter who you play. In today's day and age of tough economic times, that would be quite ironic if the Yankees are the victors.  But then again, Major League Baseball hasn't ever really cared who they alienate as long as they make their money. If you read a recent edition of the Sporting News, the predictions are in already: All five "experts" picked the Yankees to win it all: four picks were against the Phils, one against the Cardinals. Woody Paige of ESPN claimed that the 1951 (?) Whiz Kids were a better team than this '09 squad. Hey Woody, first off, were you coherent enough at that age to have such keen insight into that team? Second off, the Whiz Kids were 1950, not 1951.  Other "experts" on this show claimed the Phillies were going to be underdogs no matter who they played, and that the Yankees lineup was much better than the Phillies lineup.  Reggie Jackson, now an ambassador to the Yankees, favors A-Fraud to Ryan Howard when talking to www.foxsports.com : "You can go around Howard," Jackson says. "You can't go around this guy. He's got too much behind him. There's too much depth in our order."  Evidently, Mr. October never watched a Phillies game this entire season to notice that the guy who hits behind Howard had 30-plus homers and 99 RBI's (Jayson Werth). And when Werth didn't hit behind Howard, there was Raul Ibanez. Come on Reggie!!

Truth be told, there are things at stake here for both teams. For the Phillies, it's a chance at baseball history. A chance to become, the "Big Red Machine" of this era, or just another National League team who couldn't bring home the big one two years running. This is finally a chance at some long-awaited respect from baseball peers that has never been recognized (and until recently, it shouldn't have been). A chance to maybe get a televised night game instead of 2:37 pm in the afternoon. The Phillies aren't entirely without believers. Slowly but surely, baseball insiders such as Jon Heyman from www.si.com have taken notice of the Phillies "never say die" attitude and resilient play. The Phillies got credit for beating the Tampa Bay Rays in last year's fall classic, but not enough credit because they didn't beat the Yankees or Red Sox. Because of what the potential results could mean for the history of this team as well as the future of it, this series may mean more to the Phillies franchise and their fans than any series the team has played in its history.  If the Phils win, they take down "The Evil Empire," and prove once again that you don't need to be "the best team money can buy" to be a champion. In the process they will have righted and validated their entire history.  The morale in this city will drop quicker than a Luis Castillo pop up if they fail to bring it home.  It will remind us of how things used to be in this town. Losers again. Just something else New York took from us that we wanted.

If the Yankees win, to them it's simply a matter of bragging rights. New York will have trumped Philly again, and rah-rah- another title. To them, it's just like doing their laundry and nothing more. Running around bragging that you've won the World Series for the 27th time is kind of lame if you ask me. I've had my share of Yankees fans email me and accuse us Phillies fans of being "too proud" just because we won ONE title last year. This remark is so absurd that it doesn't deserve a response. What exactly did you expect a championship STARVED city to do after breaking a 25-year jinx?  We don't have seven teams, only four, making our chances slimmer off the bat.  Here is an example of what I get:

"Do be jealous that this year the World Series Title will be going to The NY Yankees. Phillies you had your 15 minutes of fame. It's all over now."

Derek JeterMoving right along: As far as the Yankees go, the two biggest questions marks going into the postseason for them were Sabathia and A-Fraud. So far, both have come up big against the Twins and Angels. But are the Yankees that good? Or are those two teams folding to the competition? It will take the biggest stage of them all to know for sure. As far as A-Fraud goes, don't get too worried. Remember B.J. Upton and the six home runs he hit in in last year's AL Playoffs?..........................

 

PREDICTIONS:

Truth be told, the Phillies don't fear anybody. Much like the 1974 Stanley Cup, the Flyers didn't give a crap about Phil Esposito, Bobby Orr, or their championship banners hanging in the Boston Garden rafters. They wanna play the Yankees so bad they can taste it. They gear up for challenges like this. They would have swept them on Memorial Day Weekend if Brad Lidge didn't blow a save. The Phillies handled A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte reasonably well that series, but the playoffs are a whole other animal. I would take the Phillies lineup over the Yankees' lineup. Especially the way EVERYONE is contributing right now. On paper however, the Yankees starters have more of a chance of shutting down the Phillies bats than vice versa. The problem for the Phils in this series is that Cliff Lee has been their only consistent pitcher throughout the playoffs. A showdown with Sabathia in Game 1 could bring big problems for the Phillies if they come out on the short end. There might not be another starter who can neutralize the Yankees' bats after Lee. Moreover, thanks to the hapless Angels, the Phils get to face Sabathia possibly three times this series. This could give the Yankees the confidence they need to win this.  If you're Charlie Manuel, how do you shape your rotation? With his discouraging performance in Game 5 of the NLCS, Cole Hamels has redefined the term "unreliable." Pedro Martinez threw great against the Dodgers, but in much warmer conditions. Joe Blanton is a laborer, and the Dodgers had a field day getting him rattled.  J.A. Happ hasn't seemed to find the plate over the last month. And much like Sabathia, A-Fraud, and Teixiera, Happ is an unproven World Series commodity.  Keep in mind that the Yankees hit lefties better than righties. This could likely keep the window open for for Blanton and Martinez to start over Happ.  As inconsistent as Hamels has been, it would be hard to imagine Manuel moving him to the pen with Happ taking his place. 

WILL the Phillies bull pen continue to be solid? Brad Lidge seems to have found his groove for the moment, but any bull pen with Mariano Rivera gives the edge to the Yankees. And as much as Phillies fans love Lidge, are you 100% comfortable with him on the mound in the ninth with a one-run lead?.................

As far as the mental edge goes, the Phillies have it over the Yankees 100%. The Yankees have many come from behind wins this season, but it's not about that. The Phils play better when people give them no chance (you need to look no further than Game 4 of the NLCS). On paper, the Yankees are expected to win. This could honestly go either way- 50/50, and it will be interesting to see what players will rise to the challenge, and which ones don't. To be the best, you've got to beat the best. And although the Phillies should be considered the best after 2008, the Yankees will always be considered the best until someone shows them how it's done again. Either way, we're going to be seeing plenty of Kate Hudson and Rudy Giuliani. That alone is worth beating the Yankees.  If you think the Philly fans gave Evan (EVA!) Longoria a hard time last year, what do you think they will do to A-Fraud?................

IF THE:

Yankees shut the Phillies down: Yankees in six

If the Phils can neutralize the Yankees bats and play their brand of baseball: Phillies in seven

 

Ryan Howard photo: Joe Vallee Sr.

Derek Jeter photo: www.vivalavidro.files.wordpress.com