The World Series finally begins tonight and for the first time since 2001, you can say the best two teams in baseball are playing each other as the defending champ Philadelphia Phillies get ready for the many time defending payroll champ New York Yankees. Think about it, either there have been World Series that involved a less glamorous team (think '03 Marlins, '06 Cardinals) or the ALCS was the World Series that season ('04, '07). Now that we're all ready, let's breakdown the matchup.
1B: Mark Teixeria vs. Ryan Howard- This is probably the toughest matchup of all players and is seemingly a push because of Howard's power and Tex's defense. However, everyone overlooks that Howard is a better defensive first baseman than you think and I just can't ignore how hot he's been at the plate compared to Tex in these playoffs. Advantage Phillies
2B: Robinson Cano vs. Chase Utley- These two players are among the best second baseman in baseball. Utley hasn't been great in the playoffs, but he's not awful as well. Cano's in the same boat as Utley this postseason. Utley normally wins because he's a better hitter with runners on base, but the rumors of an injury are too great for me to ignore. Even
SS: Derek Jeter vs. Jimmy Rollins- If you look at the numbers, Jeter wins. However, Rollins is a clutch hitter and terrific fielder (probably the best fielding shortstop in baseball). In the big spot, both of these guys exude confidence that they will get the big hit. The one difference is that Jeter is more consistent in all situations and has played better defense this year. Advantage Yankees
3B: Alex Rodriguez vs. Pedro Feliz- The only way Feliz is even with A-Rod is that Feliz has a head, two arms and two legs. Other than that, nothing. Advantage Yankees
LF: Johnny Damon vs. Raul Ibanez- Tough matchup of aging hitters who still have a little left in the tank. Ibanez is the better fielder by default because I could run on Damon's arm. They have had similar postseasons, Damon I'd say is a little better. Ibanez also has rumors of an injury, but he's still dangerous at the plate. Even
CF: Melky Cabrera vs. Shane Victorino- Both players had terrific LCS' and can hit very well. Victorino has a slight fielding advantage and is more of an interesting cog in their offense than Cabrera is. Hey, Cabrera is a good hitter, but Victorino is much more dangerous at the plate and on the bases as well. Advantage Phillies
RF: Nick Swisher vs. Jayson Werth- Swisher has had some hitting troubles this postseason and I don't think Game 6 just magically means his slump is over. As for Werth, he's the reason you can't pitch around Ryan Howard because he's so dangerous at the plate. Add the fact he's the best outfield arm on either team and can steal a base and this is not even close. Advantage Phillies
Catcher: Jorge Posada vs. Carlos Ruiz- Ordinarily, this is an easy victory for Posada, but Chooch is a terrific catcher and a remarkably clutch hitter. I said it in the NLCS preview, but Ruiz is clearly the Pat Borders of the aughts, with his weak regular season, but strong postseason numbers. Let's also remember that Ruiz is a better fielding catcher than Posada and Jose Molina appears to be playing in a couple of games as well. Advantage Phillies
Starting pitching: It really depends on rain and if the Yankees use a three-man rotation. CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee are a complete wash and their starts could go either way. A.J. Burnett will face Pedro Martinez and anything can happen in their starts, except a complete game for Pedro. Andy Pettitte can handle Game 3, but I'm not sure about him in Game 6 on three days rest. Cole Hamels is the Phillies X-factor because if he can pitch like the ace who won all the awards last postseason, the Phillies will win. But I can't count on that. Even
Bullpen: Both bullpens have question marks. Can Ryan Madson be the setup man? Will we see continued struggles from Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes? Is Chan Ho Park the Phillies best reliever? One thing that you can't question is Mariano Rivera, while Brad Lidge is still a huge question mark, despite good play in the NL playoffs. Advantage Yankees
Bench: No DH matchup because the Phillies have none and Hideki Matsui won't play OF. The Yankees bench is better in this series as they have Eric Hinske instead of Freddy Guzman and particularly strong in Philly when Matsui comes off the bench. For the Phils, it's basically Ben Francisco and Matt Stairs as the major reserves, with a little Greg Dobbs to be sprinkled in for sure. Even.
Manager: Joe Girardi vs. Charlie Manuel- Let's just say Yankee fans get scared when Girardi walks out on the field. There is a legitimate possibility that Girardi could lose a game on his own. I have no worries about Manuel, since he knows his ball club and the world championship from last year is always a positive. Advantage Phillies
Intangibles: For the Phillies, it's the championship pedigree, which aside from the Core Four, is an advantage over the Yankees. Home-field is a big deal for the Yankees as they have lost only eight games there since the All-Star break. Even
The Phillies will win if: Lee outduels Sabathia; Hamels pitches well; the bullpen turns into a strength; Philly's offense is better than New York's; Girardi has a bad series; Burnett and/or Pettitte struggle; Howard keeps up his great play.
The Yankees will win if: Sabathia outduels Lee; the Phillies bullpen is as expected, while the Yankees' revert to 2nd half form; Yankees hit better than the Phils; A-Rod continues his hot bat; Burnett is the good Burnett.
Prediction: The Phillies have had the strongest title defense since the '01 Yanks who went to Game 7 in Arizona before the great Mariano Rivera (sorry to sound like Jon Miller here) blew his first postseason save since 1997. Just like those Yankees, I think the Phillies as well. Yankees in 7 MVP: Robinson Cano