We're down to the Final Four and the Eastern Divisions have been dealt a shutout, while only if you lean far enough to your left might you be able to convince yourself that Texas is on the West Coast -- but geographic location aside, the Rangers are the only team representing the Western Divisions in the League Championship Series.
The other three teams? Welcome to middle America, where only the lactose-intolerant can't appreciate the state of Wisconsin, proudly represented this year by the Milwaukee Brewers. Meanwhile, Milwaukee's Central Division rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, used a skilled Carpenter to create an all-central NLCS, while the Detroit Tigers taught the Yankees that "Barely knew her!" is still funny longer than a super-Nova.
It may not be a ratings bonanza, but to fans who prefer the Davids to the Goliaths it's kind of neat to see Milwaukee, Detroit, and St. Louis, with their respective and respectable payrolls, and even Texas, which has created a monster the right way -- through the draft, excellent talent recognition, and player development -- playing on to audiences whose couches will include players from the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies: "Powerhouses" that came up woefully short at crunch time.
The Tigers and Rangers square off in Game 1 tonight (5:00pm PDT), with Justin Verlander against CJ Wilson. Verlander and Miguel Cabrera may seem like a two-man wrecking crew, but ultimately the games are played with 25 players a piece, and the Rangers may have the edge in depth. They also have home-field advantage (which helped the Yankees and Phillies oh so much). This is a hard series to predict, though I'm pretty sure the winner will have a manager who is associated with a highly addictive drug.
One final pre-games note...A 7 game series often puts the teams' #3 starters into the spotlight. For these teams, it means possible series-deciding appearances by Max Scherzer, Colby Lewis, Kyle Lohse, and Shaun Marcum. Stay tuned, chat and predict away, and see you at 5:00pm for ... more baseball!!!