The last five World Series have been classified as predictable, boring ends to the baseball season — three out of the last five have ended in sweeps, the other two in five games.
The 2009 Series promises to be a different story, where the nation — not just two cities — will tune in and enjoy America's great pastime played between arguably the two best teams in baseball.
While the Yankees muscle other teams around and buy the best players available on the market — some of which have used steroids — the Phillies are a bunch of young boy scouts selling lemonade on a summer afternoon in July. The Phillies can be classified — at least in juxtaposition to the Yankees — as "the nation's team" fighting against the corporate, evil empire.
The Phillies come into this postseason with a dominant resume. They have won all five series of the last two postseasons in fewer than six games, winning all the home-openers.
The stars of the Phillies' lineup, Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth, have combined for seven homers, 18 runs and 24 RBIs throughout the ALCS, with Howard notching another RBI last night. Further, the Phillies had the highest successful steal rate in the MLB this season at 81 percent, with 119 bases stolen and only 28 runners caught stealing.
The Yankees have had a memorable season in their new stadium. Witnessing Derek Jeter pass Lou Gehrig with hit No. 2722, Mariano Rivera record his 500th save as well as his 1,000th strikeout, 15 walk-off wins during the regular season and two during the post season, Yankees fans for first time in six years have something to cheer about in late October.
Yet, Yankees fans expect their team to make it to the World Series every season, so in their minds, these records are worth very little if the season ends without a championship ring. Yankee players who have already excelled this postseason — like Alex Rodriguez, who has 5 home runs and 12 RBI, and Rivera, who carries the lowest postseason ERA 0.77 and has given up one run this postseason, need to keep it up for the Yankees if they want to win their 27th World Series championship.
The biggest question marks for both teams lie within their bullpen — more specifically, the ability for each team's late inning pitchers to throw strikes early in the count. For the Phillies, Brad Lidge is going to want to set up his nasty slider for later in the count, but won't be able to do so if his early fastballs are not in the zone. Lidge blew two saves against the Yankees this past May — one of the first weekend series at the new stadium — because he was missing early with his fastball.
As a setup man for the Yankees, Phil Hughes has not been nearly as consistent as he was in the regular season. In the American League Division Series against the Twins, he struggled with control problems, in situations both early and late in the count. In this World Series Hughes and the Yankees need to work on not falling behind batters and not failing to hit the strike zone late in the counts.
The Yankees have appeared in 40 World Series, winning 26 of them, while the Phillies have appeared in six World Series and have won two. The Phillies are going to try to do what the Yankees did in 1999-2000: Repeat a World Series triumph. The Yankees are going to try to win once again in a new stadium — their first Series franchise win occurred in 1923, the first year of their then-newly constructed stadium in the Bronx.