The first Subway Series since the 1950s, which the Yankees won in five close games. Jeter, its MVP, was otherworldly (.409/.480/.864). This was the last championship the Yankees would win for a while, but they stayed strong. The Mets, on the other hand, took a quick ride to the cellar and have hardly been heard from since.
The Diamondbacks beat the Yankees 4-3, but it took seven games only because Byung-Hyun Kim blew two 9th-inning saves (he gave up 3 home runs in 3.1 innings). In game 7, Rivera uncharacteristically returned the favor, leading to the D’backs winning a championship in only the fourth year of their existence. (The Red Sox still have the record, winning the very first Series in their third year, 1903).
The Giants won the NL wildcard and marched through the playoffs, prompting a Bonds-hating sportswriter to conclude that there is no God. But they blew a 5-0 lead in game 6 when their bullpen could not stop the bleeding, and still looked dazed and confused in game 7, to give the Angels their first and so far only championship. Bonds was even more otherworldly than 2000-Jeter .at 471/.700/1.294 .
The Cubs took a 3-1 lead in the NLCS, and then they remembered they were the Cubs (which their fans unfairly blamed on Steve Bartman.) The Red Sox couldn’t handle the Yankees in the ALCS. So instead of the Series we would all have loved to see, we got a pretty dreary Marline victory over the Yankees, 4-2.
The Red Sox, again facing the Yankees in the ALCS, were about to be swept, down 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, when they managed to tie it, win it in the 12th, win the next one in 14, win the next two in regulation, and then sweep the Cardinals. First championship in 86 years, and the curse of the Bambino gone for good.
Not to be outdone, the White Sox swept the Astros to win their first in 88 years. The Sox, who hadn’t been particularly good the previous year, won 99 games and lost only one is the postseason. They were quite fortunate in this, having gone 35-19 in one run games, where the second-place Indians were 22-36; with more normal results, the White Sox might not have made the postseason at all. This was the Astros’ one and so far only appearance in the Series.
St Louis, in what was really a terrible year for them (they dropped from 100 to 83 wins), won a horrible Central division, got hot during the postseason, and beat the Tigers 4-1. This Series was memorable mostly for the Tigers’ pitching staff suffering an epidemic of Steve Sax disease. You know something’s in the air when the Series MVP is David Eckstein.
The Rockies were 4 games above .500 on September 15th. Then they won 13 of their last 14 games to tie the Padres for the wildcard, won a one-game playoff to enter the postseason, and then swept the NLDS and NLCS. That’s 21 victories in 22 games. Meanwhile, the Red Sox took 7 games to beat Cleveland in the ALCS. The result was that the Rockies had an 8-day rest before the Series started, cooled off completely, and got swept by the Sox by a combined score of 29-10.
The Rays (nee Devil Rays), who had never had a .500 season, finally put it all together and won 97 games. They were a team that had been built the right way, through a strong farm system and some shrewd trades, and pretty much all of baseball was rooting for them against the high-payroll behemoths in the AL East. But the Phillies, winning only their second championship ever, beat them in five mostly close games.
The Yankees, who had missed the postseason in 2008 for the first time since the strike, came back strong with a 103-win season fueled by the free-agent signings of Mark Teixeira and C.C. Sabathia. (See “high-payroll behemoths”, above.) The Phillies had made some acquisitions of their own, trading for Cliff Lee and signing Pedro Martinez, but the Yankees prevailed 4-2.
Overall, the Yankees went 2-2, the Red Sox 2-0, and the
Cards Phillies and Cardinals 1-1, with half the berths going to teams that appeared only once.