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October, 2008

It has been 27 years between World Championships for the Philadelphia Phillies, and for some reason, everyone is acting like that is an absurdly long time, despite the fact that Philadelphia's previous World Series drought had lasted nearly 100 years.  The ridiculous Curse of William Penn only had the power to last for what was almost the exact odds for a team to win the World Series, since there were 26 teams in the majors between 1981-1992, 28 between 1993-1997, and 30 between 1998-2008. 

Not only was the Philly victory odds-on, but it was predictable as well.  Keith predicted that the Phillies would win in five with the Rays taking Game Two after correctly pegging the Phillies over the Brew Crew in four games in the NLDS.  Keith even had this to say in an email to Asher after Asher had talked up Gabe Gross: "I have been trying to figure out why Eric Hinske hasn't been on the postseason rosters."  Hinske, of course, would be a late addition to the World Series roster, homering in his first at-bat in nearly a month before fanning in the final at bat of the series.

What wasn't necessarily predictable was the postseason ineptitude of Akinori Iwamura following his strong showing in the ALDS.  In fact, Keith writes that it has been an unexpectedly disappointing season for Asian players in general.

One of the first things you learn about when you move to Philadelphia is the Curse of Billy Penn. During Rocky's famous run up the Museum steps, you can see downtown Philadelphia circa 1979 behind him. There are no tall buildings. Apparently there was once a time when a “gentleman’s agreement” guaranteed that no buildings would be built taller than the top of the hat of the statue of William Penn atop City Hall. For decades this agreement was kept, but in the early 1980s, the gentleman’s agreement was breached, and Philadelphia now has several buildings that tower over the statue of the state’s namesake.

And in case you haven’t heard, the city’s major professional sports teams haven’t won a championship since, despite the fact that they have all had their shots. 2008 represents the City of Philadelphia's most recent chance to break the curse. Will it happen?

The Rays know how to celebrate

After bringing up the rear of the AL East division in nine of 10 seasons and never finishing with more than 70 victories in a single season, the Tampa Bay franchise is headed for the World Series. Gregory revels in a remarkable ALCS and looks forward to the World Series in his final Pepper.

ALCS MVP Matt Garza is making Bill Smith rue his first trade as Minnesota Twins general manager, a November, 2007 deal that sent Garza, Jason Bartlett, and Eduardo Morlan to the Rays in exchange for Delmon Young, Brendan Harris, and Jason Pridie.

Cole Hamels won the 2008 NLCS MVP Award

The Philadelphia Phillies are truly a franchise with a troubled history. Their .470 historical winning percentage easily ranks the lowest among non-expansion franchises. Between 1919 and 1945, the team finished either 7th or 8th in an eight-team league 20 times, and between 1918 and 1948, the Phillies only finished better than 6th in their league three times and only better than 5th once (a 4th-place finish in 1932).

Before Wednesday night, the Phillies had only won five pennants in 125 years. They have made it six in their sixth straight season of winning baseball. Congratulations, Philadelphia, on your recent successes!

After two disheartening road losses in Philadelphia, the Los Angeles Dodgers appear to be back in business. They beat the Phillies 7-2 Sunday night, taking care of some psychological business at the same time. At least one player may ride on the coattails of this Dodger success into an unjustifyably lucrative contract this offseason, writes Gregory.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies each went an impressive 17-8 in September and both handled their Division Series opponents without much trouble. In both 1977 and 1978, the Dodgers slipped past the Phillies for the right to lose to the 100-win New York Yankees in the World Series. What is in store for 2008? Tony breaks it down.

Even though Asher undershot the Tampa Bay Rays' 2008 win total by a full 10 games, he came closer to their actual record than most prognosticators did. Meanwhile, he overshot the Red Sox' win total by six games. Many of what has now become the nation's most annoying fan base are undaunted by the fact that the Rays won the AL East this season and predict that the Red Sox will make the World Series for the third time in five years.

What prediction does Asher, who has adopted the Rays as his favorite American League team, now make, knowing that his track record in picking postseason series is lacking? Find out in his ALCS Preview.

The 2008 postseason precipitates Gregory to discuss Javier Vazquez' recent struggles, the Dodgers' superiority over the Cubs, the future of the Brewers' pitching staff, and more. Check out his bonus postseason pepper.

What does Angels-Red Sox make you think of? The two teams that have bludgeoned the Yankees in the playoffs for the better part of this decade? Coast-to-coast rivalry between one of the original American League teams and one of baseball history’s more anonymous expansion teams?

For many, it is the matchup between the two top teams in the playoffs this year. One of them has to go home, and Asher tells you which one he believes it will be.

If you think the Brewers versus the Phillies is a mismatch, get a load of this one. Some people give the White Sox a chance because they have momentum, experience, and a mouthy manager. Keith does not. Not only were the Rays a far superior team in the regular season, but they are rested, will play in front of packed houses, and are better-prepared for a short series.

The Philadelphia Phillies had another hot September to leapfrog the New York Mets and enter the postseason. That did not help them advance in the playoffs last year against a sizzling hot Colorado Rockies squad, but this year they face a Milwaukee Brewers team that faded in September despite the incredible efforts of Workelephant C.C. Sabathia. Keith analyzes the teams and determines who has the edge in this series.

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