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Puffing in the Posteason: 2009

The long 2009 baseball regular season is done. What the heck happened to the Mets? The number of injuries to key personnel made New York's Queens team the biggest disappointment of the year. Still, the Mets provided three of the most memorable moments. The first was arguably the best defensive highlight of the season, made by Daniel Murphy, he of the iron glove, against the Dodgers when he recovered a ground ball that hit the bag at first base and flipped the ball behind his back to the pitcher covering to get the out. The defensive lowlight was Luis Castillo dropping the third out in the bottom of the ninth, a fly ball just into the outfield, that allowed the Yankees to win. The third was related to David Wright, one of the best players in either league, getting beaned and coming back wearing a new, safer, bigger batting helmet that immediately evoked comparisons by Mets' broadcaster Keith Hernandez to The Great Gazoo, of Flintstones fame. Anyway, the food at Citifield is better than it was at Shea.

A highlight of 2009, for me, was the creation of MLB TV. The live look-in feature, whereby the channel drops in live on games around both leagues, is just a brilliant use of technology. Also, I'm happy to see Harold Reynolds back on the tube.

As we move into the postseason, once again I'm proud to speak a bit about the teams in contention, plus highlight cigar-friendly places in each city where baseball is still being played. As for my prediction? I'm picking the Yankees against St. Louis in the World Series. I think the Cards squeak by on the strength of their pitching, but I'm not putting money on it.

The American League

New York Yankees v. Detroit Tigers or Minnesota Twins Los Angeles Angels v. Boston Red Sox

My Pick: Yankees

Maybe the greatest moment of the season came when Chicago White Sox ace Mark Buehrle tossed a perfect game and DeWayne Wise saved it by making a great, home-run robbing, bobbling catch. Perhaps the worst moments came when Alex Rodriguez (and Manny Ramirez) got caught for steroid use. A-Rod came back from a hip problem after missing 28 games to make the Yankees gel and show what a threat Mark Teixeira really can be (39 HR, 122 RBI). Still, for many tangible and intangible reasons, I think Derek Jeter is the Bombers' MVP and maybe that of the league as well. All A-Rod, the player everyone seems to love to hate, did to finish the season was hit a grand slam and three-run homer to knock in seven runs in the 6th inning of the last game. In one inning. Seven RBI. An AL record. Giving A-Rod at least 30 homers and 100 RBI for the 12th consecutive year. Thirteen overall. A record. Yeah. He sucks.

The Yankees moved into a new ballpark that apparently was built by NASA and served as the launching pad for the most home runs ever hit by the Bombers at home. The Yanks led the AL in long balls. Pitching was a challenge all year. A.J. Burnett didn't deliver as expected, and C.C. Sabathia was somewhat schizophrenic from the mound. Still, Murderers' Row is back and that hides a lot of pitching problems. The Yankees go into the playoffs first in hitting, scoring more than 900 runs this year, and with the best big-game closer in baseball, Mariano Rivera, and Joba Chamberlain back in the pen. Formidable. (For the record, I'm a longtime Orioles fan.)

Boston limped in, then out of first place. Much was made of David "Big Papi" Ortiz seeming more like Big Pop-Up early in the year, but Ortiz got it together to hit more homers than he did in 2008. The Red Sox, the AL Wild Card, will be hoping that their pitching is half as good as what they thought they had coming out of spring training. The Crimson Hose confidence should be bolstered by the fact that they play the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (I love the Angels, but I still chuckle whenever I write their official name), a team the Boston has owned in the postseason.

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