A word or two --- or, I guess, about 1,000 -- about predictions. Some fans with way too much time on their hands who insist on littering my inbox with snarky to downright obnoxious hate mail seem to believe that by simple virtue of making a prediction on a game or series,
a) you take the whole exercise seriously
b) you are "not giving the other team proper respect," or
c) you're saying the other team "has no chance"
Now, I typically cut more slack to lobotomy survivors, but yeesh ... I'm simply aghast at the number of yahoos who heard our "Baseball Today" crew choose the Padres, pick the Yankees, and equate that with our claiming that the Cardinals and Tigers were a bunch of sick nuns. (Uh-oh, do sick nuns have iPods, too?) Yes, 16 of 17 ESPN analysts, including me, picked San Diego, and 17 of 17 took the Yankees. But this did not mean that we collectively thought the Cardinals had a 1 in 17 shot, and the Tigers none at all. We did, to varying degrees, discuss how the Cardinals and Tigers could win, even if the scales appeared to tilt against them.
(It goes like this -- if I tell you a coin appears to come up heads 60 percent of the time, would you pick tails just for variety's sake or to appease the Tail Lobby? Seems pretty silly. You go with what you think is more likely, no matter how slight you might consider the advantage. This is how Las Vegas pays for all the flashing lights.)
Like the Division Series themselves, our shows saw some errors, some solid at-bats, and overall, some (at least we thought) harmless fun. Below is the week that was, the rights and wrongs, the best and worst. Seriously, send us your predictions on any game or series, complete with analysis, and we'll get the best comments on the air. Just don't forget to include your e-mail address, huh?
Quotes Of The Week
Cardinals dispatch Padres
Right: "The construction of [the Padres'] roster, which now basically includes no usable bench, is a huge negative. Bases loaded, and basically no pinch hitter. Bruce Bochy has gone with veterans across the board instead of using the guys who played in Portland this season -- the problem is, the guys in Portland are better hitters than the guys he has on his roster. That's exactly the kind of bench that Tony La Russa must be salivating over." (Rob Neyer, before Game 2)
Wrong: "I think La Russa is very, very good at getting his teams into the postseason. I also think that sometimes in the postseason he's been outmanaged, and other times, the fact that his teams aren't really that strong, like the Cardinals in 2004, comes to the fore when he faces a really good team. This year, of course, he's got the weakest team he's ever brought to the postseason. ... If they advance past the Padres, it'll be pretty shocking." (Gary Gillette)
Tigers stun Yankees
Right: "I'm taking Justin Verlander. I think he's gonna throw five or six pretty good innings, come out with it 3-2 or something, and Joel Zumaya's gonna be able to come in for two innings, because he is rested. I think Joel Zumaya's gonna be a real force today. I think he might end up being the story." (Alan Schwarz, before Game 2)
Wrong: "[Verlander] has 14 innings since Sept. 7, right? It's funny, people have talked about how tired he is. It might be more the fact that he hasn't had enough work. ... I really don't particularly like his odds against that Yankee lineup. The Yankees faced him earlier this season and basically clocked him, and that was around the time when he was pitching great. (Jerry Crasnick, before Game 2)
Mets sweep Dodgers
Right: "I'd start John Maine. John Maine's ERA in 15 starts this season is actually better than Derek Lowe's, who's gonna start for the Dodgers. Is he as good a pitcher as Derek Lowe? No, he's not. But you have to roll the dice a little bit." (Rob Neyer, before Game 1)
Wrong: "I think the Dodgers are gonna give the Mets a heck of a run. ... This is before the Orlando Hernandez injury. I think the Mets are ripe for a fall, and I think the Dodgers are considerably more dangerous than people are giving them credit for." (Alan Schwarz)
A's rock Twins
Right: "Dan Haren can run that fastball up there very, very well. I'm going Oakland to finish this series off in a sweep today. I think going back home, power arm on the mound, Brad Radke's a great story ... but he has the type of stuff that gets knocked around in the postseason." (Steve Phillips, before Game 3)
Wrong: "The Twins -- they can win without Santana. If they couldn't, they wouldn't have done as well as they did in the second half. ... I'll take the Twins [today] with Joe Mauer having a big day." (Rob Neyer, before Game 2)
"I applaud the Dodgers for their aggressive play. Everyone is coming down on them for the two outs at home, and saying that losing that game by one run may cost them this series, but I think that kind of play is what will win them this series."
--Alan (Long Beach, Calif.)
"I actually like the Cardinals in a short series, especially against the Padres. The first round is the singular round Tony La Russa's clubs are proficient at winning. They can do the short ones."
--Gavin Morgan (Portland, Ore.)
"I've heard a lot about how it's better to have hard throwers in the postseason than finesse pitchers. ... Personally, I'd love to have an experienced Greg Maddux over a young flamethrower any day."
--Steve (Oklahoma City, Okla.)
Crystal Ball Standings
As if trading Jason Isringhausen for Billy Taylor weren't enough, this could have been the week when immortality found Steve Phillips. Our favorite GM-turned-analyst picked all three of his games correctly on Friday to pull ahead in the Crystal Ball standings, with former leader Rob Neyer taking his second straight 0-for-3. Will Steve meet the same fate as Rob over the last three weeks? Will Jerry Crasnick continue his stealthy pursuit of the top? Stay tuned ...
Alan Schwarz is the host of ESPN.com's Baseball Today and the senior writer of Baseball America. His book, "The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination With Statistics," can be ordered on Alan's Web site.