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Article:So Who Will The Rays Have To Beat In The World Series This Year? (A Manny Stiles NL Pennant Race Analysis)

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Despite my acquired Stockholm syndrome (long story) and insufferably delirious fandom to the team, there's no doubt the Tampa Bay Rays are cakewalking the American League playoffs this fall and hosting the first two games of the World Series - thanks in part to Evan Longoria, Dioner Navarro and Scott Kazmir's All-Star heroics. So there's not much point in dwelling about "ifs", "maybes" or any other variety of "possibilities". It's the Rays' year, so it's a given. Furthermore I'm a Dad and "I said so". So there.

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Come on! WHO really thinks the Rays can be touched? (photo by Manny Stiles)

The real mystery of mysteries lies in the blatantly inferior yet seniorly Circuit and which of its teams will eke its way into Forgotten-ness lore. After all, the losers of World Series' are history's little bastardized and abandoned offspring. This is why you never hear a Yankees fan chant "THIRTY-NINE" clap-clap-clap,clap,clap. Losing a World Series is worse than not getting to a World Series! Ask a Cubs fan why 1908 matters more than 1910, 1918, 1929, 1935, 1938 and 1945. Come on! Who really thinks they can touch the Rays? (photo by Manny Stiles for FanIQ)

We're a little more than a month away from having our favorite shows on FOX usurped from Prime Time. Let's take a look at how long we might suffer. Note - Sorry, if you're reading this from a where FOX isn't your network airing the World Series, deal with my non-accented arrogance. We "Americans" are an ignorant bunch who knows for certain that this planet called Earth rotates around "Us". So while our "Liberty" allows us to choose between Tweedle DeeBag and Tweedle DumbBag - politicians who promise change although they are currently responsible for the state of non-change - to lead us into an "enlightened" future, YOU will have the real Freedom - the Freedom of not having your IQ diminished by the so-not-FOX-y anti-whims of Tim McCarver and the vocal befuddlings of Jack Buck's nepotismically blessed son.

Anyway... let's take a slanted, distorted, Dr. Commento-ish look into which teams should start scheduling tee times, which teams can wish upon a star, which teams stand a chance of getting swept by the Rays in the Fall Classic and which teams might have the goods to fight their way to possibly making it a five game series. FOX's Fall Schedule depends on this foresight.

The candidates! (drumroll please)

The "Hell Isn't Freezing Anytime Soons" and the "Brain Surgeon Called Your Lobotomy Too Successfuls":

Washington - The Nats are everything that's wrong with baseball today. They need to be sent back to Montreal so people will at least have a bitchy reason to remember all the reasons to forget about them. A new stadium did what now? I like Jim Bowden's methods, however he is still Jim Bowden and I can't help but envision him trying to sweet-nothing Barry Larkin out of retirement so he could trade him.

Chances - What's zero percent of zero? Whatever the answer, it's still a percent.

San Diego - Tony Gwynn ain't walking through that door. I want to like this franchise but they seem hell-bent on designing really disgusting uniforms year after year. I'm still waiting for them to go all out and have black unis with a white collar. Until then, I'll admire the camos for the implied meaning yet look away in embarrassment for them.

Chances - About the same as Petco getting demolished by an avalanche next month.

The "Only If There's A Rash Of Plane And Bus Crashes" and "You'se On Cracks":

Cincinnati - At least they're not the Bengals.

Chances - About the same as Pete Rose getting into the Hall of Fame before Christmas.

Pittsburgh - Tomorrow is always a day away. (My Mom always told me "if you don't have something nice to say, be sarcastic")

Chances - If Roberto Clemente comes back to life, then we'll talk.

The "Pigs Are Cleared For Take Off's" and "Let Me Tell You About The Amazonian Glacier Advances":

Atlanta - The baseball gods didn't appreciate the Braves home crowds not selling out during the tail end of their ridiculously long playoff run. The baseball gods have LONG memories...

Chances - About the same odds... no, LESS than the odds the Falcons have of winning the NFC.

San Francisco - They don't miss giving Barry Bonds another opportunity to fail in the post-season at all! they really spent that extra dough well, too... eh? I have a feeling this franchise will be gutted twice in the next 6 years.

Chances - It's not "impossible" to earn their way to a sweep by the Rays; but as Jesus once proved, neither is raising the dead to have them feed 5,000 people walking on wine.

The "You Can Keep Praying But The Answer Is Still No's" and the "Lightning CAN Strike Twice, But It Won'ts":

Houston - Another fine example of why you DON'T want to lose a World Series. The Astros should have kept the Colt.45s name instead of naming themselves after George Jetson's dog... never a good idea to name your team after a dog, fictional or otherwise. (I'm looking at YOU, Phoenix Coyotes)

Chances - About the same as Tiger Woods winning a Bass Fishing Tournament the same week Tie Domi joins the Ice Capades. (Look! Two Hockey references justlikethat!)

Colorado - Another 20 of 21 win streak would be necessary for the Rockies to return to the World Series in order to be back-to-back Forgottens. It's mathematically conceivable. So is winning the Powerball in consecutive drawings. The End.

Chances - About the same as gasoline being $1.20 a gallon when you wake up tomorrow. I said GALLON, not liter.

The "Would Make a Nice Story But So Did Rudys":

Florida - Fish Fight, Fish Fight!!! The Tampa-St. Pete -Etc. Metro Area and the Miami-Hialeah-Etc. Metro Areas clearly have a distinct rivalry. Both teams are named after sea creatures. The two teams are the two lowest payrolls in baseball which combined are slightly more than the Minnesota Twins' payroll. It would make weather forecasters nationwide have something to sound intelligent about but like Rudy, it's got the same chance of happening as a meaningless sack in the waning moments of a 21-point lead with 28 seconds left has of changing the gravitational pull of the moon.

Chances - About the same as catching a manta ray using a marlin as bait in Lake Okeechobee.

The "Too Little" and the "Too Lates":

Los Angeles - Joe Torre either did a good job and will get ripped or he did a poor job and will get too much credit. Either way this franchise has been a mess for so damned long especially considering how much respect they still get for the things they did in Brooklyn. It's like everyone forgot this franchise was formerly known as the Bridegrooms and (Oh, so fierce) Robins!

Chances - Slightly better than none multiplied by 99%.

St. Louis - OK, I'll say it. I anti-love Tony LaRussa. He gets too much credit. He is very over-rated and will one day be the least worthy member of the Hall of Fame. He's blown World Series with dominant teams and backed into a Series by stepping in one of his dog's landmines. I never loved the Cardinals, but with LaRussa there, I root heavily against them. This year however, I haven't had to root, they've made it easy. Too many teams in their way and not enough time to make a difference. Yet somehow, people will say LaRussa did a good job under the circumstances.

Chances - About the same Ron Paul becoming the next President of the United States.

The "Hey! You're The Cubs'":

Chicago - Hey! Reminder, you're the Cubs.

While a Lou Piniella - Tampa Bay reunion would make for slight fodder and feigned interest, they're the Cubs. Not only will they find every possible way to lose, the city of Chicago will then be dignified in having something to bitch about now that Cubs #1 fan Jay Mariotti has been relegated to "internet creature" status.

Chances - About the same as playing Russian Roulette with a broken, empty water pistol that has a broken trigger.

The "There's Not Enough Beer In Milwaukee To Drink It Into Beings":

Milwaukee - I like the angle, the story, the drama. But history tells us that it isn't going to end up a happy tale. C.C. is '84 Rick Sutcliffe, Part II. Ok. Now remind me how that one went... I wanna believe. I want the fair people of Wisconsin to have a reason to live through another winter, but I'm not a victim of a turnip truck mishap. The Brewers don't have "it" and they aren't going to find "it". And it's going to end badly - Sheets walks, C.C. walks and Prince irritates and spoiled brats his way out of town.

Sorry, it had all the makings - kind of - it would have been a sweet story - maybe. But this is a "came so close that year" story to be told for the next decade. You deserve it Milwaukee, but you're being punished by the baseball gods for things not of your doing. You were better off in the American League because now you're closer than ever to the Cubs.

Chances - Without selling souls, without sacrificing virgins, without assassinating Dud Selig, the password is "Uhn-uh".

The "Please, Please, Please Do It So I Can Pull Every String I Got To Get Myself In The Press Box's":

Arizona - It's personal and nothing more. Being that I currently live in Arizona and have "connections" within the Rays organization, this is the matchup I truly wish and hope for... however, as a being immersed in the understanding of logic, it's going to take more than planets aligning, politicians to stop lying (or stop politicking altogether) and TMZ to entertain me just once with something truly INTERESTING.

When the D-Bags get to the playoffs - which seems pretty likely at this point - despite their abysmal and playoff-demeaning season record they do have three things in their favor to advance - Webb, Haren, RJ. The rest is up to the schizophrenic bats and staying healthy. My kids are Rays fans first but love the "Snakes" (they love any sports team with an animal mascot - even the Dolphins! Hey! My kids love animals.) but they don't seem to have that "magic" that they had last year, so I will quietly cross my fingers while graciously accepting reality.

Chances - I'm going to be cautiously un-jinxified because this is my dream scenario - to pretend to be a journalist at a World Series... 23%, no 17%... no... 2%!!! Yes, 2%. Ok... 1.4%


He can walk to Chase Field, but any other destination will require a giant shoehorn and an airplane seat.

Philadelphia - Ahh... here's my other Lifeline. I'm from the Philly area. If the Rays face the Phillies, I still have some possibilities of squeaking my way into pseudo-journalistic glory! I have places to stay, Yuenglings to drink and Wawas to raid!

Chances - About as good as any team's chances. According to my math and previous statements that's 48.6%!!! I don't think the Phillies have the starters to dominate the playoffs, but in a weird year like this, who cares? Momentum and a bandbox home field can take a team from "not a logical pick" to "yeah, that's how they got here". All they have to do is close the door on the Mets...

The "I've Been Calling This Matchup For Two Years Now Just For One Not-That-Funny-Yet-Still-Hilarious-Reason's" a.k.a. "It Has To Happen This Ways":

New York - Yes, I really did pick the Rays to win the World Series last year... and this year, too. And yes, I really did pick the Mets to represent the NL both times, too. Call me crazy and you'll be more than right.

"Scott Kazmir throws two shutouts in a sweep." Yep, that's all I've wanted since I became a Rays fan - to shove it down the smarmy Mets' fans throats! Not only did the Rays rob you of Kaz for a sack of dogcrap but they also suckered you into giving actual tenderable cash for Brian Stokes. Now it's time for the third leg of the Trifecta.

I want the Mets to un-choke then gag. Is it too much to ask? In a year when the Yankees and Red Sox will suckify their way out of the postseason, I want the big, bad bias-magnet Northeast and it's ESPN-ness to suffer all the way, yet still leave room for Mets fans to rub it in the face of Yankees and Red Sox fans that they were no where to be heard or seen in October.

Chances - Not only is this series going to be a sweep, it'll be downright ugly; which makes it the most beautiful matchup of all! Rays in 4. Kazmir as MVP behind two CG shutouts and even a hit in the clincher in Shea. Maybe, just maybe, Kaz will only go 8 scoreless innings in Game 4 so Dan "Wrecking Ball" Wheeler can close out Shea the "Wright" way...

So there you go...

This is how it has to be people... Accept it now and it won't hurt your unwilling-to-accept-change-brain so much later. I'm biding my time until October 22nd. Not even Tim McCarver will ruin it for me. Not as long as my trusty Mute button is functional...

Coming Soon - Part Two: How the 2009 Defending World Champion Tampa Bay Rays will Defend the Trophy!!!

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