The National League presents the Colorado Rockies, born from expansion 15 seasons ago, an afterthought for their first 14 years and 24 weeks, and now, an out-of-nowhere buzz saw that has rattled off 21 wins in 22 games. The Rockies have been built almost entirely from within (five of their eight everyday players, their rotation ace and closer all were either drafted or signed as undrafted free agents), spent money conservatively (their $54.4 million payroll was 25th among 30 teams) and pride themselves on catching the ball (their .989 fielding percentage was baseball's best ever).
Ahhh! A team that glows like a new-fallen snow that promises to dust this World Series.
The American League presents the Boston Red Sox, the Old Towne Team (Cy Young was a member of the 1901 originals) with a new age history. The Bostonians 86-year quest to win a title was rather compelling, but now, three years later, capturing another one would serve only as a buzz-kill. The Red Sox have been built mostly through money (closer Jonathan Papelbon, infielders Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury are the only Boston regulars to have been drafted and developed), and their financial empire -- Boston's payroll was $143 million -- makes them a clone of the New York Yankees.
Ewww! A team as unappealing as mud-stained slush.
So it is, then, that it's easy to identify the people's choice in this best-of-seven showdown. The Rockies are youth and verve mixed with a dash of innocence, and getting behind them is a bit like pulling for America. The Red Sox are corporate and powerful, not to mention overexposed, and pulling for them is like rooting for George W. Bush.
Thing is, the president prevailed twice in a four-year span, and it's hard to envision the Red Sox not doing him one year better.
The two men at the top of Boston's rotation -- Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling -- alone seem far more imposing than Colorado's winning combination of Jeff Francis and the Who's He?'s. Beckett and Schilling are a combined 4-2 with a 1.83 ERA and two MVP awards in the World Series, and both will get the ball twice.
The four men who comprise the thunder in the Red Sox lineup -- Youkilis, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell -- have lived up to their billing, hitting a combined .387 with 12 home runs, 40 RBI and 35 walks in the 2007 playoffs. The five who make the Rockies go -- Matt Holliday, Todd Helton, Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe and Troy Tulowitzki -- are a combined .220 with five homers, 26 RBI and 12 walks.
And the man who drops the hammer in the ninth for Boston -- Papelbon -- does so with an explosive repertoire, while Colorado's keeper of the ninth -- Manny Corpas -- does it with an assortment of pitches that equate more to a slow burn.
So you see, there's every reason to suspect that a Boston Glee Party is just around the bend. Until, that is, you suspend logic and inhale all the Rockies have to offer.
Start with the three-game series they played at Fenway Park in June. Colorado won twice and outscored the Red Sox 20-5. Francis, Josh Fogg and Aaron Cook, all of whom are scheduled to make at least one start, combined to allow four runs in 17-1/3 innings that weekend.
Move to the bullpen, where the Colorado collection of lefty Brian Fuentes and Jeremy Affeldt and righties Ryan Speier and Matt Herges inspires more confidence than any combination that includes Boston's Eric Gagne.
Finally, there's the streak. Colorado has lost one time -- one time!! -- over the past 39 days, and after stringing together a 21-1 run, producing a 4-3 week must seem as stressful as smelling a rose.
For the Rockies' sake, here's hoping it is.
Contact Rick Hurd at email@example.com.