Now that the Dodgers have been completely eliminated (I held out hope until the very end,) its time to talk about this year's playoffs. If Gary Sheffield had played a bit better down the stretch and if Jeff Shaw actually closed out some games, I could be talking about the Dodgers right now. But I digress.
Many consider this year's regular season to be among the greatest ever. The playoffs can be just as exciting.
In the American League, clearly only the best teams made it. The Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners were tops during the season, and are probably the best two teams heading into the playoffs. Mariners have no superstars outside of Ichiro, just a lot of really good players. That could hurt in a short playoff series. With the trio of starters Hudson, Zito and Mulder, the A's are the most feared team in the league right now. The Yankees are finally getting healthy, and hopefully they'll have Jeter, El Duque, Posada and O'Neill back at full strength when the games start. That way they won't have any excuses when the A's/Mariners knock them out.
The National League isn't looking as clear at the moment. The Giants have an outside shot at making the playoffs, and the Braves and Phillies are neck and neck. After Atlanta's lackluster year, I hope Philly finally knocks them out of the playoffs. They don't deserve it this year, plus they've won enough already this decade.
The top two teams are the Diamonbacks and Astros. Diamondbacks only because they have the most dominant one-two punch in Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling I've ever seen. Astros are a bit more balanced, with great young talent all around. Still, their biggest hitter, Jeff Bagwell is notorious for choking in the month of October. The surprise team of the year, however, could be the surging St. Louis Cardinals. Even though McGwire hasn't done much this year except maintain his .180 average and grumble to himself about Bonds stealing his thunder, the rest of the team has done remarkably well. Look for them to do some damage.
But what I'm really looking forward to, even more than the playoffs, is this summer when the Dodgers can finally get rid of Sheffield.