The ALCS, I suppose, could be considered the Miracle vs. The Monster, both literally and figuratively. On one side, the Boston Red Sox, who are just about on the cusp of becoming their own dynasty. Since they won the World Series in 2004, this whole Red Sox Nation thing has sort of blown up and turned into a giant hype machine that seems to regenerate every time the Red Sox play a big game.
Thing is, it's starting to seem like every game the Red Sox play is a big game.
I noticed it last year, during the ALCS, but it seems like the hard line Red Sox fans (the crazy guys like Bill Simmons and everyone who posts on the Sons of Sam Horn) seem to be fading into the background, while every drunken Jonathan Papelbon wanna-be is front and center. These are people that couldn't be found for the better part of 86 years, and as soon as the Sox won in 2004, they exploded. It's made the Red Sox the kind of team they were trying to avoid becoming: The Yankees. It's really easy to want to root against the Red Sox, and I actually kind of like the Red Sox. But I wonder how much of it is that I actually like the Red Sox, and not simply that I hate the Yankees, and I will forever have a soft spot in my heart for the Sox for the way they kicked the Yankees in the nuts in 2004.
Then, we have the Rays, who aren't supposed to even be here, right? They're too young, too inexperienced, too inept...nobody even knows who half these guys are.
I know who they are.
They're a team that was built through year after year of strong drafts that finally came to fruition combined with shrewd trades that brought in the missing pieces. They're a team that boasts four, yes, four top-flight young starting pitchers, who work deep into games and do the job they're supposed to do. The hitters charge along undaunted and relatively unaware that there's some sort of pressure to these games. Case in point: Evan Longoria, who didn't even make the team out of Spring Training this season, comes charging out and hits 2 HRs in his first 2 ABs against the White Sox.
These two teams don't like each other, and you could easily see how there's a little bit of a bully mentality behind the Red Sox, and the little guy fighting back in the Rays. You think about the AL East, it's the Red Sox and the Yankees. The Yankees aren't here, and it's basically because of the Rays coming out of nowhere to get to this point. It's prime time for an organization that couldn't get out of their own way for 10 seasons. Now, they're 4 games from the Woooooooooooooooooooooooorld Serieeeeeeeees, and you'd be hard-pressed to find someone outside of Red Sox nation who's rooting against them.
Yeah, we come back to Red Sox Nation. One of the problems is that it's so widespread that it's hard to find too many people who are rooting for the Rays outright. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that there's going to be more than just a smattering of Red Sox fans in Tampa. If you're a Mets fan, it's win-win to a point. You have to consider that, on one side, the Rays are a great story, in the vein of the '69 Mets. But, every time Scott Kazmir takes the mound, it just turns that knife a little bit more, doesn't it. I know it's been 4 years and we should have gotten over it, but we can't and we won't. Misery loves Company (Press slogan for the 2009 Mets?). If the Sox win, it pisses off the Yankee fans, and of course there's nothing wrong with that. So I'll go into this ALCS with the same feelings I had for last year's ALCS. No real vested rooting interest, and if either team wins, I'll be fine with it. Chances are, the winner of this Series will go on to win the Woooooooooooooooooooooooorld Serieeeeeeeees anyway.
But if I must make a pick, and I believe I must, I'll say Red Sox in 6. Split 2 in Tampa, Win 2 of 3 in Fenway, come back in Game 6 and close it out behind Beckett back in Tampa.