Just 11 more victories, and this will be one glorious season for the Chicago Cubs. Time to erase the bitter memories of 2003 and 100 years of futility.
The National League Division Series begins tonight at Wrigley Field against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Closer turned starter Ryan Dempster (left), he of the 17-6 record this year, goes up against Derek Lowe. Expect a low-scoring affair, even if the wind is blowing out.
The Cubs were 5-2 against the Dodgers this year, sweeping at home and splitting at Dodger Stadium. But that was before the Dodgers traded for Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake. That offense got a huge upgrade, with Manny putting up MVP-type numbers since he got there.
But the Cubs had the highest-scoring offense in the NL this year, and their pitching more than matches up with the Dodgers. If we get a good Carlos Zambrano, followed by Rich Harden and Ted Lilly if we need him, I see no reason why the Cubs won't be playing in the National League Championship Series late next week.
Against who you ask? Either the Philadelphia Phillies or the Milwaukee Brewers (thanks Mets, for choking so bad that even the Brewers, king of the chokers, were able to get in). It should be a good series, but I think the Phillies pitching is better than Milwaukee's, which is CC Sabathia and who?
Could you imagine, however, if the Brewers made it? That 90-mile stretch from Chicago to Milwaukee would be one crazy scene for a possible seven games.
But I just don't see that happening. My predictions:
Cubs over Dodgers in four.
Phillies over Brewers in four.
Tampa Bay Rays over White Sux in five (and thanks to the Minnesota Twins, too. See Mets above).
Los Angeles Angels over Boston Red Sox in five.
In the NLCS I like the Cubs over the Phillies in six and the Angels over the Red Sox in seven.
World Series: Cubs over Angels in seven.
Jayson Stark of ESPN has a great analysis of the playoffs and picks the Cubs to win the World Series over the Red Sox.
One caveat: Heaven help me if it's the Cubs and White Sox in the World Series. Possibly losing the ultimate grudge match would be too much to bear. It wouldn't be pretty. And it'd be almost as bad if the Brewers were to make the Series instead of the Cubs.
You know Fox is hoping for either a Cubs-Red Sox or Cubs-Angels World Series. Fox would probably throw up if it was something like Rays-Brewers or White Sox-Brewers. How boring.
Stay tuned ladies and gentleman. The wild ride is about to begin.
Top photo courtesy AP