Not so long ago, in this very space, I predicted a Dodgers-Red Sox final. Didn't happen. But seriously...props to anyone who predicted that either of these teams would be in the World Series at any time during the season.
So who should win this World Series?
Pitching should favor the Rays. They have 3 Starting pitchers who did really well in the regular season (Shields, Kazmir and Garza), plus a bullpen that has overachieved. David Price is the X-Factor here, as he could solidify his hombre status after his performance in Game 7 with some clutch performances in the World Series.
The Phillies have 45-year old Jamie Moyer and 24-year old NLCS MVP Cole Hamels...but not much else. The bullpen has just been outstanding, especially Brad Lidge, and has not allowed a team to come back from 7 down in the last 3 innings to win a game this post-season.
Offensively, the teams were fairly even through the regular season. Both have their high-points (Utley-Howard-Burrell for the Phils and Pena-Longoria for the Rays), and no real sinkhole (besides the pitchers' spot for the Phils). Matt Stairs should DH a bit for the Phils when they go into Tampa. The real breakpoint has been the post-season, where Bossman Junior (but actually) Upton has turned it on and has hit an absurd 7 HRs in 11 games, just 1 short of the record for a single post-season, held in part by Barry Bonds. I'd have to give the advantage to the hot team, the Rays.
Experience-wise, these teams are even in that neither have much. Although it would be funny to see Albert Pujols throwing out the first pitch in T-Bay and then pointing menacingly out to Brad Lidge, to remind him of the '05 NLCS home run that has still not come down.
The Phils should have a bit of a homefield advantage, in that their fans have been on the wagon for more than 6 weeks. Plus, as my house-mate pointed out, Tropicana Field may be the ugliest stadium to ever host a WS game.
And the most important of all deciding factors: number of Ex-Jays! The Rays boast Gabe Gross, Eric "the Dude" Hinske and Trever Miller. The Phils have Jayson Werth, Matt Stairs and Scott Eyre. So they both have a fringe-starting RF, a platoon pinch hitter and an extra bullpen arm. Have to give the advantage to the Phils for the presence of good Canadian "kid" Matt Stairs.
Besides, Philly fans really need this. They are one of the most depressed sports fan bases out there. The last pitch the Phils threw in the World Series was knocked for 3-run HR by Joe Carter back in '93. The Eagles got to the Super Bowl only to see Donovan McNabb hyperventilate on the final drive. The Flyers were crushed by the Red Wings back in '97 and had to go through that awkward, painful Lindros-Clarke divorce. The 76ers got the distinct pleasure of wasting some of the prime of one of our generations premiere competitors, Allen Iverson.
Then again, I'm looking at a crappy Leafs team, a worse Argos team, a Jays team that has just been passed and lapped by the Rays and a Raptors team that is looking up at the Celtics...I need a drink. At least I got the Bills and the Golden Gaels to hang my hat on.
As much as I hate to say it, Rays in 6 (not at all trying to reverse curse them...).