Friday, October 21, 2005

World Series Preview

With the World Series commencing tomorrow night, I thought it might be time to revisit my original playoff predictions. I originally tabbed Houston to beat the Yanks in 6, so will I stick with my guns or jump on the Chicago bandwagon? Let's break down the Chicago vs Houston matchup and see who comes out on top:

The Cities
Chicago: A "proud" tradition of sports in Chicago, though they've been through some rough times:

• Their two ballclubs have a combined 185 year drought since their last World Series wins.

• Take away the 1985 Super Bowl Champion team and Da Bears haven't given the Windy City much to cheer about since the days of Papa Bear Halas.

• The Blackhawks team of the early 1990s was one of those classic 'contender who can never quite reach the top' teams. They made it to one Stanley Cup final and were swept by the Penguins; since they traded JR and let Belfour walk the team has become one of the most inept franchises in hockey. They probably deserve their own post at some point. They're also the current standard-bearer for futility in the NHL, carrying a streak of 44 years (and counting) since their last Cup win.

• Take away Michael Jordan and his 6 rings and the Bulls have a completely unremarkable 30-some year history.

Houston: A much shorter history than Chicago, theirs begins with the arrivals of the Astros and Oilers in the early 1960s. Since then:

• The Astros failed to make a World Series until this year, and really only came close two other times (1986 and 2004).

• The Oilers never made a serious run at the Super Bowl, then bolted for Nashville, only to appear in the Super Bowl 4 years later.

• The Rockets won back-to-back NBA Titles in the mid-1990s, thanks in large part to MJ's retirement and Nick Anderson's free-throw shooting ability - or lackthereof. They made 2 finals in the 1980s as well, once behind the sheer force of Moses Malone (before they traded him to the Sixers for nickels on the dollar) and once during the brief heyday of the Twin Towers (before injuries cut Ralph Sampson's career short).

• The WHA Houston Oilers won back-to-back Avco Cups in the mid-'70s, behind the trio of Gordie and his sons Mark and Marty Howe. They later sent the Howe family packing to New England and folded. Houston hasn't even had a whiff of a NHL franchise since.

Chicago appears to have a slight edge, but their longer history of futility drops this into a deadlock. So as a tiebreaker, we go to the colleges:

• The winner of the first-ever Heisman Trophy in 1935 was Jay Berwanger of the University of Chicago

• The great 'Phi Slamma Jamma' basketball club at the University of Houston dropped back to back title games in 1983 and 1984, including one to an overmatched NC State club.

• You could make a case that next to Hakeem, 1989 Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware of the Houston Cougars is the second most accomplished athlete in Houston-area history. That settles that.

Advantage: Chicago

Local Announcers
Chicago: The Sox play-by-play man, Ken "You can put it on the board....YES!" Harrleson is easily the biggest homer I've ever heard call a game.

Houston: Don't know much about their current announcers, but in 1997 they hired color man Larry Dierker as their manager. He led them to a series of NLDS losses against the Braves, but hey, at least they were in the playoffs.

Advantage: Houston

Chicago: The South Siders play in U.S. Cellular Field, a charmless, stoic cookie-cutter park, which amazingly is only 15 years old.

Houston: Minute Maid Park (nee Enron Field) is as gimmicky as they come, and has best been described by others as "akin to a miniature golf course".

Hmm, this one's a tough call, so we go to extra innings:

• U.S. Cellular Field (nee New Comiskey Park) replaced the original Comiskey Park, a great old stadium.

• Minute Maid Park replaced the Astrodome, the original domed stadium (and home of the first Astroturf surface), therefore it was the originator of one of the worst things to happen to professional sports. Thank god it's been replaced.

Advantage: Houston

Bad Karma
• The 1919 Black Sox team

• The Astrodome and artificial turf.

While baseball purists will argue that domed stadiums and turf ruined the game of baseball, the Black Sox scandal damn near ruined the sport of baseball for real. Not even close.

Advantage: Houston

Celebrity Fans
Are there any? I don't know, but frankly I'd rather see none that I would see Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore pretending to like the Red Sox. In any case, we'll go with Page 2 columnist Scoop Jackson over former President of the United States George Bush, since Bush Sr.'s son once traded Sammy Sosa for Harold Baines when he owned the Texas Rangers. You can't fault Scoop for the Southsiders giving up Sammy for George Bell.

Advantage: Chicago

Now, on to the actual teams...

Former Yankee Pitchers
• Despite being the oldest (or at least oldest looking) pitchers in the bigs since Satchel Paige, Jose Contreras and Orlando Hernandez have delivered for the Sox.

• Andy Pettitte is always money, but Roger Clemens is hit and miss in big games.

Advantage: Chicago

Face of the Franchise now performing in a limited or non-existant capacity
• Frank Thomas is on the DL, while Jeff Bagwell may DH or pinch-hit

Advantage: Houston

Crazy guy with the last name Everett
• Adam Everett may be the nicest man alive, or he may be batshit insane. I don't know anything about him, but I do know that he's not as crazy as Carl Everett. It's just not possible.

Advantage: Houston

Closer with a Mental Stumbling Block
• Roy Oswalt bailed Brad Lidge out from joining the ranks of Donnie Moore and Mitch Williams in infamy - for now. He'll have his chances in the Series to make up for that. If he blows a save early in the series, the death threats and angry phone calls to radio shows will come out in a hurry.

• Bobby Jenks hasn't pitched in over two weeks. Still, he's not carrying any psychological burdens like Lidge could be.

Advantage: Chicago

"Mr. October"
• Joe Crede and Paul Konerko have been money.

• Take away Chris Burke's homer in the 18th, and Houston has been devoid of dramatic hits. I think the other Killer B's (Biggio and Berkman) are due, so we'll see.

Advantage: Chicago, for now.

So through 10 categories we're tied 5-5. Both teams seem to be have that "team of destiny" look in one way or another, but I'm going to stick with the Astros in 6, leaving fans of the two Chicago clubs to commisserate together for at least one more year.


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