Round two…

The Houston Astros pulled it off tonight. They didn’t just beat the Braves, they body-slammed them. Too bad they’re going to rush headlong into crimson-colored screaming evil death.

So, here’s the dance card for the NL Championship Series:

Houston Astros vs. St. Louis Cardinals

Yup. Crimson-colored screaming evil death with a side order of Albert Pujols. The Cards have walloped everyone this season. They were so good, 1 through 9, that they got to coast through the last two weeks of the regular season. And fond as I am of the Dodgers, I knew the boys in blue didn’t have a prayer. Neither do the Astros, whose bullpen is overworked and under-talented. The Cardinals are going to beat on the Astros like a trash can lid at a Neubaten concert.

I call this one for the Cardinals. I’ll give the Astros the benefit of the doubt for hanging tough and have some damn good hitters and a couple of great starters and say this the Cards will win the NL Championship Series in 5.

The TV Guide listing for the AL Championship Series looks like a rerun of last year:

Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees

*sigh* Once again I’m forced to root for the Yankees. I hate the Yankees. I’m sick of watching them in the post season. Ordinarily I’d be ready to pull for just about anyone to knock the Yanks on their overpriced butts and give Steinbrenner an ulcer to nurse until Spring Training, but I loathe the Red Sox. The Yankees are only evil because we’re bored with them winning and gobbling up a roster that looks like 8 of the starting 9 on the AL All-Star Team. But it’s not that hard to conjure up the memory of the Yankees of the late 80’s through early 90’s who flat out reeked. You can watch and say “this too shall pass” or “Steinbrenner has to die some day” depending on how vile your mood is. But the Red Sox are not just contemporaneously vile. They’re institutionally vile.

The Boston Red Sox were the last Major League team to integrate. And they weren’t just slow to adopt the ways of their foes, the team was deliberately sluggish, hoping that integration was a trend that would run its course or outright fall on its face. It was 1959, twelve years after the Brooklyn Dodgers had broken Major League Baseball’s color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson, when the Red Sox fielded their first black player, Pumpsie Green. To get some idea of how entrenched racism was in the Red Sox organization, the Sox passed on a chance to sign Willie Mays and have him play in their outfield alongside Ted Williams.

The current Red Sox team is owned by substantially more open-minded folks who’ve openly acknowledged their team’s less than stellar record of self-defeating institutionalized racism. Today’s Red Sox are vile on a more superficial level – their hair crimes are spectacular. Last season’s absurd “Cowboy Up” sloganeering and mass head-shaving still make me groan. I despise them even more for making me jump off the sofa cheering like an idiot when Aaron Boone conked their World Series aspirations on the head with one swing of the bat. Damn you Red Sox. You made me cheer for the Yankees.

And here I go again. I’m dusting off my Yankees cap – the one that normally resides under a pile of cast-off flannel shirts – and getting set to wear it while watching tomorrow night’s AL Championship Series opener.

Unfortunately things don’t look good for New York. The Red Sox have the advantage at the plate, in the field and on the mound. So I’m painfully calling this one for the Red Sox in 6 games. One can only hope that Derek Jeter will, once again, play as only he does in the postseason and make life truly miserable for the Red Sox Nation.

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