Apparently, K-Rod wasn’t the only one who had the right to remain silent, so did the Colorado Rockies hitters yesterday at Citi Field. At a time when the New York Mets desperately needed a quiet, low-key victory, the team’s ace delivered just that.

Johan Santana never gave Mets manager, Jerry Manuel, the chance to take the ball from him and give it to the K-Rod-less bullpen Thursday.  Santana threw 9 shutout innings surrendering just 4 hits in the 4-0 Mets win.  The lefty fanned 10 Rockies, including the first three to start the game.

Now prior to the game yesterday, I thought the Mets should have gotten Ted Turner on the line to ask him if the team could star in a new Tyler Perry commercial showing this season’s highlights and having Jose Reyes at the end go, ‘TBS, very funny.’ 

Or maybe Omar Minaya, Mets General Manager, should have called up Vince McMahon at the WWE and asked Vince to trade K-Rod for the Undertaker.  After all, the Undertaker would fit right in with the dead Mets team playing right now.  Plus I have a weird feeling that if K-Rod were still on the team come September, he would not very much appreciate family members being present at the team’s funeral. (Just a hunch…especially his wife’s side, they’re a crazy bunch)

But these calls unfortunately were not made. (possibly because K-Rod smashed his father-in-law’s head into a telephone pole at Citi Field knocking out the Mets direct line)

But instead the Mets and their FREE K-ROD sign holding fans witnessed a gutsy, dominant pitching performance from #57.

Yes, the Mets are a joke right now and are slightly funnier to watch than ABC’s Rookie Blue, but just because the team is young and can’t buy back-to-back wins, that doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate one of the game’s best pitchers. Keep doin your thing Johan, thank you so much for not going to the Yankees.

A-Rod powered the Yankees past Minnesota. Does he have an encore performance for Hollywood?

A-Rod powered the Yankees past Minnesota. Does he have an encore performance for Hollywood?

The American League championship is a battle between East and West as the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim set to do battle starting on Friday night in The Bronx.  Before that, though, let’s take a look at both of these teams head-to-head.

Catcher
The Angels seem to have finally found their long-term solution behind the plate in Mike Napoli, who has really begun to play well on a consistent basis.  He also has a great relationship with an Angels’ pitching staff that might have the most depth of all the remaining teams in the playoffs.  The Yankees, on the other hand, caused some waves by electing to use backup catcher Jose Molina in Game 2 of the ALDS to catch Jorge Posada.  Although, with his series-clinching home run in Game 3, it’s hardly a debate in New York as to who the true starting catcher is.  In the end, it’s always a comfort to have someone who is young behind the plate and can deal with all the pitchers in his battery.

Advantage: Angels

First Baseman
This is much more clear cut than catcher was.  Mark Teixeira had an unbelievable regular season and stands to possibly win the MVP award this year.  Kendry Morales, while he played very well this year, is not the man he is attempting to replace who is, ironically enough, Mark Teixeira.

Advantage: Yankees

Second Baseman
Again, this position is simply a case of having a consistent and solid player against having a platoon system of two sometimes good players.  Robinson Cano had a bounce back year this season, putting himself back in the upper echelons of second basemen in the American League.  Meanwhile, after holding the second base slot for most of the year, Howie Kendrick lost the spot to Maicer Izturis, neither of whom bring the productivity or the talent to their team that Cano does.

Advantage: Yankees

Third Baseman
This is actually a tougher call than I initially thought it would be.  On the one hand, the Yankees have Alex Rodriguez, who, in spite of missing a month of baseball and being under the steroid cloud, still hit for 30 and 100.  On the other hand, the Angels have Chone Figgins, who is a do-it-all kind of player and is usually the key to their offense’s overall success.  At the outset of the playoffs, I would have definitely taken Figgins based off of A-Rod’s lack of postseason success.  However, it looks like he’s shaking those demons and will be a key factor in the ALCS.

Advantage: Yankees

Shortstop
Erick Aybar has been quite a revelation for the Angels this year, and that continued into the playoffs with his .364 average against the Boston Red Sox, which is unreal production from the #9 spot in any team’s lineup.  The Yankees counter with their captain, Derek Jeter, who has proven time and again that he just knows how to win.  He may not always light up the scoreboard, but Jeter finds ways to have an impact that most players don’t.

Advantage: Yankees

Outfield
The Angels have an outfield that is very experienced and very dangerous.  They have Torii Hunter, who is playing hungrier for winning than any other player in the postseason right now, Bobby Abreu, who would love nothing more than to beat his former team and get to the World Series they promised him, and Juan Rivera, who since leaving New York for Los Angeles, has been a thorn in the side of Yankee pitching.  The Yankees have an outfield of Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera, and Nick Swisher, the three of which combined for 4 hits in the ALDS and will face even better pitching and will probably be challenged defensively much more in this series.

Advantage: Angels at all 3 positions.

Starting Pitching
This is where the series will be won and lost.  There is no denying the strength of the front of the Yankee rotation with Sabathia and Burnett.  There is also no denying that the Angels are very deep with Lackey, Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, and Scott Kazmir.  It’s almost impossible to determine which is going to win out. Either way, expect some pitching duels in the series.

Advantage: Push

Bullpen
The Yankees have continuously touted the new-found strength of their middle relief this season, but it was less than convincing against the Minnesota Twins.  The Angels’ bullpen isn’t heard from all that much, and that’s because their fairly mediocre.  The tipping point is that the Yankees have the greatest closer in postseason history backing their bullpen, while the Angels have Brian Fuentes, who is basically untested in the playoffs in his career.

Advantage: Yankees, just slightly

Prediction: The positional breakdown is fairly even between these two teams as far as I am concerned, and it’s hard to determine because the teams play much different styles of baseball. That’s why it’s going to be those so-called “intangibles” that will win this series. Can the Yankees overcome their lack of postseason success against Los Angeles, or will the Angels work their way past them yet again?  As far as I’m concerned, the Angels and Yankees are the same teams that they were the last time they faced, another time the Yankees were favored against them.  Los Angeles might even be better than they were in 2002 when they won it all, and that’s why I’m taking the Angels in Six.

If Albert Pujols were to retire today hed be considered for the HOF. Were lucky to get to see him for a few more years.

If Albert Pujols were to retire today he'd be considered for the HOF. We're lucky to get to see him for a few more years.

Amid the hype and hoopla of NFL Kickoff this weekend, the MLB playoff races continue, albeit that most of the races are over at this point.  If you get the chance to at some point this weekend, though, do yourself a favor and take a really good long look at what Albert Pujols is doing for the St. Louis Cardinals right now.  Even though it’s looking less and less likely that he’ll win the Triple Crown this year, he is still having another one of the great individual seasons in this decade (this is taking out any and all possible and definite steroid-enhanced seasons).  Pujols will without a doubt be named NL MVP at the end of the season and it will once again bring up the question of how good he could be at the end of his career.

Many of the baseball experts have been very vocal about how good he actually is.  ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian has said more than once that Pujols could go down as “one of the top 5 hitters of all-time.”  Whoa.  It’s rare when someone is called a Hall of Fame-caliber player, but one of the best ever?  That is some truly amazing praise for a guy who in his career is hitting .334 and is quickly closing in on 400 career home runs, with a lot of years left in his career.

Of course, in this era in baseball, it goes without saying that all of this greatness is contingent upon whether or not Albert Pujols is clean.  I truly believe he is, and I think that just about every baseball fan hopes he is.  If Pujols were to be found out as a cheater, it would be an absolutely devastating blow to baseball fans, players, and the business of baseball, in general.

Cards Fans have has a lot to cheer about in the 2000s, including their World Series in 06

Cards Fans have has a lot to cheer about in the 2000s, including their World Series in '06

I look back to this summer when it was announced that both David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez were on “The List.”  That evening I called a friend and a big Red Sox fan and she literally cried on the phone when I brought it up.  Imagine the reaction in the fairly new Busch Stadium if it came out that Pujols was no better.  All of a sudden, the Cardinals faithful would be eerily quiet, and some of them might be turned away from the game forever.  I only say that because that would be my reaction if I were to find out that the face of my franchise, Derek Jeter, were to be caught.  It’s something that you have to think about.

That aside, I was asked who baseball’s next hero was going to be a few months back and I immediately responded with “Go watch Albert Pujols.”  He is the rare kind of player that, at the end of his career, all fans will look at and say “That guy was great, one of the best.”  Much like Cal Ripken Jr. and the Great (Tainted) Home Run Chase saved baseball after the 1994 strike, as Pujols approaches those records once thought to be impossible to surpass, he has the ability to lift the MLB out of the shadows of the Steroid Era.  There is no other player out there right now who is capable of such a feat.  So, if you can get yourself away from College Football Saturday and NFL Sunday, just take a peek at one of the great athletes of our generation, I’m sure he won’t disappoint.