Fans embrace World Series hunt

Many baseball enthusiasts in the Cayman Islands will be taking in the 2013 Major League Baseball playoffs.

The postseason for America’s national pastime officially starts on Tuesday with the Wild-Card match-ups for both the National and American Leagues. A total of 10 teams will be battling for a World Series ring and, with the San Francisco Giants failing to make the playoffs, a new champion is guaranteed to be crowned.

Chris Orlandini is an avid coed softball player in Cayman and states the spotlight will be on a number of clubs and players.

“The Atlanta Braves have the strength to go deep with a good bullpen and rotation in the NL,” Orlandini said. “In the AL, I like the Detroit Tigers. You can’t bet against Miguel Cabrera, he’s a beast.

“Big Papi (David Ortiz) of the Boston Red Sox is clutch, Freddie Freeman for the Braves is having a big year and Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers has been dominating. Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates could be a beast because he’s a big part of the reason Pittsburgh are finally winning for once.”

Aside from the Braves, Dodgers and Pirates, the NL will feature a pair of Central division rivals in Joey Votto and the Cincinnati Reds and Carlos Beltran and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Heading into this week, the Red Sox, Tigers and Yoenis Cespedes and the Oakland Athletics were the only certainties in the AL as Evan Longoria and the Tampa Bay Rays, Nick Swisher and the Cleveland Indians and Yu Darvish and the Texas Rangers were battling for the last two playoff spots.

Rob Harris is the baseball commissioner for the Cayman Islands Little League Association and a lifelong New York Mets fan. He said Pittsburgh should be the sentimental favorites this month.

“I’m rooting for Cleveland and Pittsburgh, I’m happy for them,” Harris said. “The Pirates have a good kid in McCutchen, who could have taken big money to play elsewhere but decided to stay, and it’s good to see them making the playoffs.

“With Pittsburgh, I hated them as a kid when they were in the same division as the Mets and they always made the playoffs and the Mets didn’t as there was no Wild Card around back then. But it’s good that they’re relevant again after some 20 odd years.

“Aside from McCutchen, I’m looking for Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers to either shine or crumble and Jason Giambi of the Indians to hit a pinch-hit home run for old time’s sake.”

One of the biggest names missing from the playoff picture is the New York Yankees. The sport’s most valuable team had the league’s highest payroll and fielded a roster that included names like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia. The Yankees ended up with a winning record but struggled to finish in the top four in a rugged AL East, marking only the second time in the last 19 seasons New York has failed to qualify for the postseason.

Orlandini is a Yankees fan and said it was sad to watch New York fall short.

“This season was rough. George Steinbrenner would not be happy at all with the way the team is going. I’ll be glad to see A-Rod go, I’m sick of his distractions. It’s sad seeing Mariano Rivera retire because, like Jeter, he’s a once-in-a-lifetime player. It’s only a matter of time now before the Yankees are a brand-new franchise.”

The Yankees were not this year’s only disappointment. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim failed to make the postseason, in spite of boasting several big names like Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. The Philadelphia Phillies, with star pitchers Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, were non-factors once again.

Harris said the absence of big names like the Yankees is good for the sport.

“This will be a great playoffs with a chance to see surprises. The Wild-Card games will be great drama. I’m glad there will be no Yankees or Angels playing with their bloated payrolls,” Harris said. “The scrappy teams like Oakland and Pittsburgh, who don’t spend a lot, are in this time. I’m hoping for Cleveland and Pittsburgh in the World Series as a baseball purist.”