It’s an easy decision; simple, really.
It’s not like filling out an NCAA tournament bracket, or deciding on your fantasy football lineup, or choosing between steak and lobster.
It might even be easier than choosing between regular and high-definition television.
Logically predicting which two teams will meet in the World Series isn’t difficult. There’s a pool of about five or six teams to choose from. And no, the Seattle Mariners are not in that pool.
Because the baseball season is a long, grueling marathon filled with injuries and incidents, only a handful of teams truly have the talent, depth and resources to have legitimate postseason expectations. Sorry, Pittsburgh Pirates, you have none of those things.
Seemingly every year, people choose the World Series participants from a group consisting of the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals. After all, at least one of those teams has been in the World Series in 10 of the last 13 seasons. Sure, a sleeper sneaks in here and there, but those six have been pretty consistent.
So for this year, it’s obvious the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies should be the picks to reach the World Series.
How could they not?
Look at the Red Sox’s lineup. This offseason they added first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and speedy outfielder Carl Crawford to a batting order that already featured Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz.
Gonzalez became one of the best-hitting first basemen in baseball while playing in pitching-friendly Petco Park in San Diego – he hit for an average of .284 with 34 homers and 105 RBI over the past four seasons. Oh, and he plays Gold Glove defense.
Crawford is one of the most dynamic players in baseball – a combination of speed, power, athleticism and intensity. Last season, he hit .307 with 19 homers and 90 RBI. But he also scored 110 runs, hit 30 doubles, 13 triples and stole 40 bases. And he, too, won a Gold Glove.
It’s not as though the Red Sox had a weak lineup before. If not for injuries to Pedroia and Youkilis in 2010, Boston would have been in the playoff hunt.
The Sox also have the starting pitching with Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey, and a bullpen with Jonathan Papelbon and flame-thrower Daniel Bard.
And the Phillies?
Well, you may have heard they signed this Cliff Lee guy. Suddenly a fantastic starting rotation that featured reigning Cy Young winner Roy Halladay, three-time all-star Roy Oswalt and former World Series MVP Cole Hamels was lifted to an even higher level with the addition of Lee, a former Cy Young award winner and one of the most dominant pitchers of the last three seasons.
It has prompted some preseason debate as to whether it might be one of the greatest starting rotations ever assembled – despite this being their first season together, and No. 5 starter Joe Blanton’s 200 innings of mediocrity.
It didn’t matter that Jayson Werth left in the offseason, signing a ludicrous contract with Washington, or that Chase Utley might start the season on the disabled list. The pitching should overcome all, even Raul Ibañez’s defense.
So it’s simple, right? But what about last season’s participants? The San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers; they weren’t part of the main group.
The Rangers slugged their way into the postseason behind Josh Hamilton, who had resurrected his career in Texas and won the AL MVP. Before they got Lee in a trade from the Mariners, their two best pitchers were a former closer, C.J. Wilson, and Colby Lewis, who pitched in Japan for two seasons. They had no tradition of success. The franchise was being sold. And yet, they beat the Yankees – the consensus pick to win it all.
The Giants were an even less likely participant. They had good pitching, led by Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, but no hitting. Their best hitter from 2009 – Pablo Sandoval – ate himself out of the lineup. Their big free-agent signing was the well-traveled Aubrey Huff. And their postseason lineup featured three players – Pat Burrell, Andres Torres and Cody Ross – who were all released by their previous teams.
But quality starting pitching plus timely hitting and a little resiliency resulted in a World Series title.
So maybe a team like the Colorado Rockies with dual MVP threats Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez and stud pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez should be considered.
Maybe this is the year that the Minnesota Twins can finally beat the Yankees in the playoffs.
The Milwaukee Brewers finally got a couple of legitimate starting pitchers in Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum to go with all that hitting.
The Rangers still return plenty of players from last season and added Adrian Beltre.
The Reds and Rays still have more talent than most.
Maybe this decision isn’t so easy. Maybe its time change the thinking.
Nope, it’s still best to go with the Red Sox and Phillies.