Originally published October 8, 2010
When it comes to covering the MLB playoffs, it’s very difficult to stay away from cliches.
America’s pastime has been written about, picked apart and gambled on for more than 100 years, and over that time, some of the greatest sports cliches ever have emerged.
The job of a cliche is to mask the fact that sports pundits really don’t know what they’re talking about. Instead of staying away from cliches like any good sports writer would, why not embrace them? Why not rank the teams by the strength of their cliche?
So here for your reading pleasure is the 2010 MLB Playoff Cliched Preview.
Cliche No. 1: They’re not just happy to be here.
The Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds both come from divisions with only one other good team (the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals respectively) so their competition throughout the year may not have ideally prepared them for the playoffs.
The Chipper Jones-less Braves do have a surprisingly deep pitching rotation, but the same cannot be said for the Reds. If the carpal tunnel-stricken Bronson Arroyo is your second-best starting pitcher, it’s not going to be pretty, Reds fans.
Cliche No. 2: They backed into the playoffs.
The New York Yankees and Texas Rangers sort of stumbled into their playoff spots mainly due to their scorching hot summers. The Rangers’ addition of Cliff Lee to their pitching staff didn’t go as well as planned when he only won four games in 15 starts.
Josh Hamilton and his miraculously healed ribs will have to power the Rangers through the playoffs with his offensive prowess if they wish to survive.
The Yanks burned the league in the summer but cooled off drastically as the seasons turned. The Yankees finished the last 30 days of play with a 7-17 record, but still had with the third-best record in the league.
Will the age of their core four finally hurt them? Or will the recently clutch A-Rod lead them back to the World Series?
I believe the latter is more likely to happen. Plus, if you play the odds, the Yankees win the World Series 56 percent of the time they make the playoffs.
Cliche No. 3: Pitching wins championships.
The San Francisco Giants are nothing but pitching. Over the last month, their team ERA is 1.98 and their WHIP is a miniscule 0.97.
Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez have anchored the front of the staff, and Brian Wilson leads the MLB in saves and best haircut.
Don’t forget this is Lincecum’s time to shine on the playoff stage for the first time. You never know what you’re going to get from that pitching freak.
Their offense is almost nonexistent, really. The Kung-Fu Panda (Pablo Sandoval) fell back to Earth after his gaudy season last year and the Giants’ bright spot on offense is Buster Posey. That’s not a good sign if your best offensive player is a rookie catcher.
Cliche No. 4: They have to do the things they’ve done all season.
The Tampa Bay Rays and the Minnesota Twins have been the most consistent teams in MLB. Being the youngest team in the playoffs, the plaid-powered Rays have the ability to snap off long winning streaks at any time like they did all season.
They can run, steal bases and manufacture runs like the Ozzie Smith-led Cardinals of the late 1980s. If they can keep manufacturing runs and holding teams to the third-lowest batting average in the league, it won’t matter who they will play, the Rays will force their opponents to adjust to their style of play.
The Twins have only had one month of sub .500 baseball this season, and that was in June. They’ve learned to play without ex-AL MVP Justin Morneau and have flourished into an offense that sports the second best on base percentage in the league.
Cliche No. 5: They’re peaking at the right time.
The only team to deserve this classic cliche is the Phillies.
After winning 21 out of 27 games in the month of September, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels are throwing with as much fire as their offense has hit with.
Just like the Yankees, the Phillies is built around old timers such as Raul Ibanez and Jimmy Rollins, but just consider them more experienced.
According to my cliche calculations, the World Series will be between the Philadelphia Phillies and either the Twins or the Rays. But if the past playoffs have taught us anything, sometimes cliches never can do a team justice.