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Billy Vargus explains why the Phillies will beat the Orioles in the 2011 World Series

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V FOR VICTORY WITH BILLY VARGUSBill Vargus

Growing up in Boston, the Red Sox were, naturally, my favorite team.  Then I moved to Philly and the Phillies became my team.  I came here during the late 70’s, at a time when the Phillies were regulars in the postseason, and enjoyed watching them win it all in 1980,  and play in the series again in 1983.

I guess the Phils spoiled me, but then came the lean years when I experienced what so many Philadelphians had for so many years.  They did break through with the trip to the 1993 World Series,  but that was followed by seven straight losing seasons.

During 2003, 2004 and 2005, I rooted all season for the Phils, watched them go home when the regular season ended, and then took the fallback position, rooting for the Red Sox in the playoffs, and celebrating when they won the World Series in 2004. But in 2007, the Phillies finally broke through with a trip to the playoffs, and in 2008 a World Series championship.

This year, the vast majority of baseball experts are predicting those two teams will face each other in the World Series. Problem is, things are never that cut and dried.  The only certainty is if everyone is saying something will happen, it's the one thing that won't happen.  Every year, it seems a team comes out of nowhere. Who thought the Giants would win the World Series last year?  And that they'd do it by beating Texas? Actually, I did pick Texas as my World Series winner, at the start of last season. And I did so largely because, once again, I didn't want to follow the crowd, was looking for a surprise team, and saw that the Rangers had a potent offense.  

And this year, the surprise "sleeper" team I'm picking is the Baltimore Orioles.  Not to win it all, but to make the playoffs. I’ll even go as far as to predict they make the World Series. And considering that the Orioles haven't even had a winning season since 1997, and only one other team in baseball has had a worse record since then, it's a long limb on which to go out.  

But I still like the Phillies to win it all.  Obviously, I’ve got lots of concerns about a lineup that has two guys who don’t always show plate patience, Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins, in the first and third spots, where traditionally you’d like to have hitters with high on-base percentages.  It is true that Rollins walked in 10% of his at-bats last year, the highest ratio of his career. But because of injuries, it didn’t really produce results.  He needs to start this year off with at least the same amount of plate patience. If he does, pitchers will throw him more strikes, more hittable pitches.   

At any rate, if they have Chase Utley back at some point this season, and Brad Lidge—and let’s not completely forget about Domonic Brown as well—they’ll be fine.  After all, I subscribe to the old adage that pitching is 80% of baseball, and it’s obvious that Phils GM Ruben Amaro does, too.

I’ve debated this with another sports commentator who pointed out that the Phillies' lack of hitting in the NLCS against San Francisco is what cost them another trip to the World Series. I counter by saying that it was the Giants' outstanding pitchers-Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez and Bumgarner—that kept the Phillies hitters in check, the way great pitchers usually do in the postseason.  And the Phils rotation of Halladay, Lee, Oswalt and Hamels is even better than the Giants foursome, or anyone else’s.

As for my sleeper pick, it’s also based largely on pitching. The Orioles staff is young and unproven, but they have a bunch of young starters with talent who have struggled early in their careers, as so many pitchers do, and may be ready for breakout years.  They also added some potentially potent hitters in the offseason, such as Vlad Guerrero and Mark Reynolds.  Perhaps most importantly, they have one of the top managers in baseball, Buck Showalter.  Showalter has already shown Baltimoreans what a difference a great manager can make. He took over an Orioles team that was winning just over 30% of its games, and led them to a win percentage of just under 60% in his 57 games as the manager. The Orioles were 34-23 under Showalter.

But I don’t see them beating the Phils.  I’ve got the Phils edging out Florida in the East and in the NLCS, (the Marlins have a potentially dominant young outfield), then beating the O’s in the Series.  

Billy Vargus is an Emmy Award Winner for Best Sports Anchor for 2008 and 2009. (Mid-Atlantic region, covering all of Pennsylvania, South Jersey and Delaware.) Bill has been a TV sports anchor in the Philadelphia area for 18 years with the last 12 coming at Fox 29. He’s also had stops at Channel 10, Channel 12, plus at other television markets around the country.He has also served as the pre-game host for all Seventy-Sixers games in the past and also has acted in films, TV shows and commercials.

Billy V can be contacted at billv@philly2philly.com

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