Essentially, this is David vs. Goliath.
The Lovable Losers take on the Perennial Winners. Good vs. Evil. Fail against Win. Cheesesteaks vs. Cheesecakes.
Phillies vs. Yankees.
Both teams have stayed put in their respective cities and with their respective names for over 100 years. Both teams play in high-class cities with music and culture and food and tradition. Both teams have rabid fans and tiny, homer-friendly ballparks. But the similarities end abruptly there.
The Yanks were 9349-7144 through 2007. 27 World Series Banners hang from their stadium rafters. They always have money – lots of it – so the best free agents always go to New York. The list of Yankees stars reads like a list of who’s -who in baseball history: Babe Ruth, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, etc. The Yankees have always been good at winning, and they show no signs of slowing down.
The Phillies, on the other hand, recently became the first team in Major League history to lose 10,000 games. Their total franchise win-loss percentage is around .450, and though the Phightin’ Phils have been around for over 120 years, they have but 2 World Series championships. The list of Phillies stars reads like a list of baseball players, most of which you’ve never heard of, which is probably because the Phils haven’t had many stars. The Phillies have always been good at losing, but the recent Phillies teams have provided hope for a historically awful franchise.
But this time, David has backup.
Backup, or slingshot upgrades if you prefer, comes in the form of Cliff Lee, J.A. Happ, J-Roll, and plenty of others. When’s the last time the Phillies has a second baseman with a +12.0 UZR and .402 wOBA? How about a first baseman with a 4.9 WAR and 45+ homers annually? Or a 26-year old flamethrower with a 3.79 career tRA, 8.38 career K/9, and still room for improvement? Oh, and an aging Pedro can’t hurt (well, he can, but 7 2-hit innings in the NLCS didn’t hurt his case).
Goliath is still a ferocious opponent. The Yankees will outslug you, outpitch you, and outcash you until you shrivel up and sob for George Steinbrenner to have mercy on your soul. They’ve got A-Rod, Matsui, Jeter, Damon, Swisher, and Teixiera. Those six combined for 169 homers this season. And then Goliath bought some AK’s. As if the Yanks weren’t good enough already, CC Sabathia (3.39 FIP and .233 BAA) and AJ Burnett (8.48 K/9 and .248 BAA), hopped on the I Heart NY bandwagon by signing 7-year 161 million and 5-year 82.5 million contracts respectively after the 2008 season. True, the Yanks don’t have much in the way of defense, but, sadly, it doesn’t even come close to balancing out their lethal lineup and somewhat-lethal pitching staff.
So this version of David and Goliath has a few twists, but it remains, at its core, the winningest team in major league baseball history versus the losingest. The Yanks will presumably send Sabathia, Burnett, and Andy Pettitte up against Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Pedro Martinez.
I don’t know about you, but I’m pulling for David. Even if he does have some firepower.