And the World Series winner is…Not so fast!

Buster PoseyThe long-awaited World Series is upon us, the time a baseball fan dreams about. It is a magical time of year for most even if your team (yeah, you, Cincinnati Reds fan!) is not one of the final two standing. It is about history and soon more history will be made.

There was a time when yours truly thought if you didn’t watch the World Series it was a true sign you were a Communist. But the Red Scare is behind us with the break up of the Soviet Union and the games are no longer played in the afternoon (sort of pity actually) or on black and white screens.

I do however think if you do not watch it, although it is not entirely your duty as an American, you should still in fact consider applying for citizenship elsewhere, other than the USA.

When fans watch playoff game after playoff game, the station or stations that have earned the rights to air the games have provided us with image after image, moving and stills, slow motion and real-time and they are often times both moving and poignant.

Many a Cincinnati Reds fan has his own images of this season, both good and ones too of a sad ending. It depends on your moods or how full your glass is while watching others frolic before your eyes on baseball diamonds in other cities. Or maybe what is in the glass actually, I like Kentucky Bourbon Ale and baseball … better not go on.

For me, there is one image that I cannot seem to get out of my head and it actually was an image imprinted there in my melon before it was, well, an actual image for us all.

Being an editor as well as a writer, a duty I never wanted and one I always considered at times paying of dues in order to cover beats and other times simply a punishment, you often times think a little ahead.

When I was watching (in disbelief) Game 5 of the NLDS I recall the thought I immediately had when I saw Brandon Phillips strike out to begin the faithful bottom of the ninth, that pose on one knee leaning on his bat with head bowed. As a former editor, it was so very easy to guess that would be one of the zillion shots taken by the photographers in the GABP pit that would be provided for newspapers across the land the next day. It is just something you learn and after many years, your accuracy in such cases is somewhat uncanny.

Keen sense aside, or just being old and around the newspaper world for decades, I was correct and it too was an image that whoever laid out the sports page of the local metro in the Queen City was “the one” as well, on the cover of the sports section following the season’s abrupt ending and the next days sad aftermath.

Even if it wasn’t used and it didn’t actually appear in living color to make it even more difficult to shake, it is in fact THE image above the rest now I cannot get out of my head, long since after putting that edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer in the recycle bin.

And with it, as I am sure for many of those who love the Reds, it comes with one basic thought. Well many actually but one so predominant. You sill think of what could have been I am fairly certain each and every time you watch the Giants now in the postseason.

You think about the very real possibility that slipped through fingers here and have thoughts of how you could be enjoying this magical time of year even more … and I mean so much more, if in fact the Reds had taken care of business at home. No need to dwell, but your thoughts throughout the playoffs watching others differ little from the legions of Reds loyalists who have shared the same, I assure you.

You are left to imagine rather than embrace the beautiful images shown to you by the high-tech cameras of this day and age because they are of others, not your team.

For me, each time I see shots of the Golden Gate Bridge, I just cringe, thinking how close we came to constant shots of those same views of the beautiful Roebling Bridge. Every time there is a mention of some San Francisco treat, well, I feel they should be showing footage of people making five-ways! You get the picture, but sadly, we will not get those very pictures on the new and improved digital screens we so long for.

But the fact remains two gritty NL teams fought to where they stood in the end and anti-climactic Game 7 of the NLCS aside, does it come as a surprise to anyone who follows the game that the last two clawed and scratched their way, each refusing to give in, to a Game 7?

To many Detroit was a long shot, but if you are a regular reader (and I truly thank you), not here as I bought into the boys from Motown from the start of the season, not the playoffs, although I had some anxious moments along the way and nearly season-long ribbing from my brethren, which now has provided me with the last laugh and certainly the last word. .

But my focus is on the NL right now as we approach the sacred ground of baseball holy land in San Francisco and Detroit. I find it simply beyond comprehension the gritty Giants, as punchless, at least statistically as they seem, staved off elimination six times in the playoffs. Six!

Sometimes it seems things tend to work out for the best for teams along the way. Who would have thought the Giants would be where they are now the day Melky Cabrera violated MLB drug policy .. .he was second in batting in the NL at the time … and would actually prosper with  replacement Angel Pagan? Funny how things work out.

As for the Cardinals, how many would have thought at the outset of the season, no Albert Pujols, no Tony LaRussa, no problem? In the all things relative department, this team was one game from defending its World Series crown without them, not to mention no Lance Berkman for much of the season and no Chris Carpenter until the final week of the regular season and a tip of the cap to them as well.

Now you will have all kinds of World Series analysis. Which teams plays better on Tuesdays with a left-handed first basemen. Which is better with the wind blowing left to right. Which team is better on Thursdays with no rain after the third inning. It is endless and in many instances, somewhat overdone. Somewhat? Some of the things brought up are just mindless, er’ mind-boggling.

You will not get such in-depth analysis here. I stick to the rather simple approach and study things on the surface at this point. And when I did such homework, I was a bit surprised at some of the findings.

On the surface it would seem you have a typical fence-busting AL team against a speedy, pitching-rich NL entry in a classic confrontation of styles. Not so fast.

In the Tigers, who clearly have more power than the Giants, findings prove they were a lofty third in hitting in the AL at .268. The Giants were third in hitting in the NL clocking in at .269.

The Tigers hit 163 home runs, a somewhat modest number by comparison as they ranked  10th of the 14 teams in the league. The Giants are the poster child of those who claim pitching is the name of the game, having hit just 103 homers, less than ANY team in the majors! They do have a considerable edge in speed on Detroit with 118 steals to 59, but the Giants hardly tore up the base paths in the playoffs.

The pitching is at least to me, surprisingly even upon further review. The Tigers ranked third in the AL with a 3.75 average, facing nine hitters each outing in a league with the DH. The Giants, known for pitching and despite a two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum simply awful this year, ranked fifth with a 3.68 ERA.

One can go on and on with comparisons but the fundamental question many are asking now is somewhat relative, I guess. Is is better to be well-rested like the Tigers, or battle tested like the Giants? We shall soon see.

I have been receiving many emails from compatriots after having picked the Tigers and the Giants to go to the World Series and it is sort of fun to see an image of them in my head, writing those crow pie munching emails with head bowed after all the crap I took over those picks.

I am neither gloating nor am I looking for a trophy. Ok, well I will take the hardware. Actually the only thing I would really like right now, other than another great series like the many we watched already in the postseason is for that damn image of Phillips on one knee to just fade, just go away.

Each baseball fan has an opinion and I guess I  had better make a pick like everyone else. See, that damn editor in me. I can hear my former superiors now, sending my column back saying “make a damn pick”

Just as Reds fans faced a dilemma in the NLCS, root for the Giants who took out your team or the hated Cardinals, I too face one, although I knew I would be rooting for whomever carried the banner of the NL into battle in the World Series, even if it had to be St. Louis.

As a writer, I am very inclined to say the Tigers will be World Champions when the dust clears. As a dyed-in-the-wool NL guy, I remain loyal to the league I love. So …

Ok, hedging. Against my better judgment, I am going on record picking the Giants. But I would happiest if that damn Phillips image would just go away!