The League Championship Series, baseball's answer to a Kelly Monaco-John O'Hurley dance-off mercifully sans Tom Bergeron, start tonight with the Joe West Angels facing the Chicago White Sox.
The National League which has been idle since Sunday waits until tomorrow night so that the cast of That Seventies Show can luxuriate on a slow boat to St. Lou for their impromptu cameo in the fifth inning. Meanwhile the Angels are hightailing it from Los Angeles of Anaheim to the South Side of Chicago after edging the Yanks, 5-3, last night.
Ace Fox baseball analyst Jeannie Zelasko already clearly delineated what the Angel-White Sox series is all about. After the Yank-Angel finale, the plasticized Zelasko took command of the teleprompter and over an overlay of the Final Four bracketwhere's Kentucky?, the new momshe was pregnant at the All-Star game, right? Or does she reproduce by meiosisdrew a "1917" over the White Sox and a "2002" over the Angels. Clearly, this indicates the collective IQs of the teams involved. Unbeknownst to the shellacked Jeannie, this is also the last time that the respective franchises won the World Series. Kevin Kennedy just exuded smarmy, pockmarkedness.
So there you have it, Fox has four teams that no one knows in the last two rounds, and the quick sell through the animatronic Zelasko will be a repeat of last year's Series, in which, you'll recall from your history books, the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time since Moses parted the Red Sea or at least prior to Babe Ruth taking steroids.
They have Houston without the big drawing (or drawling) card from last year, Carlos Beltran, but with the greatest pitcher of his era, Roger Clemens, at best a player that America loves to hate or at least is "in like" with hating (or shares petting with "I'm indifferent to that guy"). If they advance to the World Series, Bud Selig has already ordered Rocket to bean Mike Piazza to create some interest. Piazza would be signed to a 10-day contract from the CBA to catch for the AL team that would oppose the 'Stros. Also, Phil Garner will be required to remove his starting nine from the field in the eighth as he did in the clincher against the Braves. Rudi Stein, Timmy Lupus, and the Aguilar brothers will replace them, while Garner enjoys a brewski in the dugout, with the new lineup pulling out a dramatic, Wagnerian wictory.
The Cardinals do have the "Best Fans in America" going for themthey are the best fans: just ask the fans, and they will tell you. The Cards also have baseball's version of Phil Jacksonexcept he hasn't won a ring since 1989in manager Tony "Super Genius" LaRussa. And Fox, or more specifically, their announcers, would love the so underrated-they-are-overrated pairing of the pocket-sized David Eckstein and, potentially, Vlad "Best Russian Player in Baseball" Guerrero in the World Series (Dmitri Young comes in second). Unfortunately, the Astros, as the final wild card team, are court-mandated to win it all.
Chicago has the 1917, "See, we're more of an underdog than the Red Sox" thing going for them along with mascot cum manager Ozzie Guillenthink of a Latin version of Gary Coleman in "The Kid From Left Field". But they lack any curse, even the Fregosi Curse. Fox is currently on the fence as to whether they should play up or play down the Black Sox scandal. Test groups are being plumbed. They will require that one White Sock go barefoot for one inning per game, contradiction though that may be, so that they can attract the Shoeless Joe contingent.
Finally, the Anaheim of San Bernardinoes will propose that the Rally Monkey supplant contentious Supreme Court nominee Harriet E. Miers to give new meaning to the term "Monkey Trial". Gene Autry will be sainted and "Happy Trails" will replace Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll, Pt. 2" as the inspirational music of choice throughout the playoffs ("Happy trai-a-ails HEY!"). Oh, and Mike Scioscia will look ticked off and slightly constipated throughout.
One thing is certain in the ALCS, whether it's Tim McCarver or Joe Morgan, we'll be told that the two teams involved "play an NL style of game," and whether overt or not, mentions of small ball will permeate throughout. And Fox will do its best to make America despise the mere mention of the superior "House" due to copious commercial placements as they did a couple of years ago with the short-lived "Skin" ("Her father's the DA!" Or was it his father?).
As for the games themselves, the Angels will be forced into exhuming Donnie Moore or into having Ervin "Shocker" Santana relieve (amid flourishes of "Black Magic Woman" on Fox) the beleaguered staff for middle five innings regularly (or worse yet, they might have to activate Esteben Yan).
I think that the Angels will belie expectation and start strong. I just don't think that they have the healthy starters or enough good hitters, and the wear and tear will become more evident as the series goes on. I'll pick Chicago in six. (I had the Yankees coming out of this bracket before the postseason startedoopha!) The Angels won the season series, 6-4, by the way, if that has any bearing.
Back in the Senior Circuit, everyone is ready to jump on the Astro bandwagon. I just don't buy it. Any team that gives Brad Ausmus that many at-bats is not without its problems. I was picking Bobby Coxgreat manager with incredibly poor in-game decisions in the postseason. Maybe I got the vibe wrong, and I should have gone with LaRussa. The Cardinals killed the Astros in the regular season (11-5) but Houston evolved all season. Still, I'll take the Cards in five.
I just hope that Fox does not play the Wiggles' rendition of "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" again when Vlad Guerrero comes to bat. It makes my heart yearn for the obnoxious Scooter demonstrating different pitches (However, I did enjoy seeing him beaned). Though any break in McCarver's bloviations are welcome.