THREE REASONS why the Tampa Bay Rays failed to win the World Series: a team batting average of .212, Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge.
I don’t know whether it was stage fright or the cold weather, but those same Rays who overcame the Boston Red Sox – and in particular, Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria – failed to show up in Philadelphia.
Pitching usually prevails in the World Series. The lower temperatures of late fall give the hurlers an undoubted advantage.
Hamels set the tone by taking home-field advantage away from the Rays in Game One. He didn’t actually win Game Five, but in five post-season starts, the World Series MVP went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA.
Lidge’s stats are even more impressive. He converted 41 out of 41 save opportunities during the regular season with 92 strikeouts in 62 games for an ERA of 1.95.
The 31-year-old from Sacramento carried that form into the post season, saving seven out of seven to complete the perfect season at 48-0.
It was hard to believe this was the same guy who had blown eight saves in 29 chances for the Houston Astros in 2007.
Phillies closer finishes the year 48-0
Lidge also had to erase the memory of a traumatic experience on his only previous appearance in the World Series – in 2005.
He gave up a walk-off home run to Scott Podsednik – only Podsednik’s second homer of the year – in Game Two and the Astros were swept 4-0 by the Chicago White Sox.
Lidge, a deeply religious man, was not interested in reflection. “I don’t care about that other crap,” he told a reporter who had the temerity to bring up the past. And why should he? He has a World Series ring now.
That the Phillies deserved to win there is no doubt. They’re a good team, if some way short of being a great team.
The Rays, meanwhile, have the potential to become a great team. They already have outstanding young pitching and the addition of 23-year-old David Price to the rotation next season will make them even stronger.
The only stumbling block is that they play in the same division as the Red Sox and the New York Yankees.
Having missed out on the playoffs completely this season, you can be sure the Yanks won’t want to play second fiddle to the Rays and Sox again next year. It should be an interesting winter.