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(transferred; posted Oct. 7)

Some will say the Twins, having avoided contraction, are the AL "team of destiny," but I don't think they're good enough to stop Mike Scioscia's bunch.

In the NL, it's impossible to root against St. Louis on their "win it for D.K." mission.

You know the powers that be are disappointed; without the Yankees, ratings will be down, and interest will be perceived as regional. And the defending champs, though irresponsible with their budget, at least had star pitchers everyone knows.

So who wins? Baseball. The game, not the industry. David Eckstein, all by himself, will create new fans. The selfless Angels, who are talented, add up to more than the sum of their parts. This is heresy among the "statheads" who believe that everything can, and should be, quantified.

Jarrod Washburn seems like a good guy, and he's a determined pitcher with decent stuff. He'll beat Minnesota twice; the Twins' Jacque Jones, Corey Koskie, Doug Mientkiewicz, Luis Rivas and David Ortiz don't hit lefties very well, and Denny Hocking, who does, is hurt. The Anaheim revelation for me was Kevin Appier, the epitome of that rare breed, a crafty righty. With nothing resembling the fastball of his pre-surgery youth, in a pressure-packed Game Two at Yankee Stadium, he used creative pitch selection, with no discernable patterns, and kept almost everything in a safe location. He lasted five innings, leaving with a well-deserved 4-3 lead over Andy Pettitte, and could have continued. That phenom Frankie Rodriguez blew the save and vultured the W is irrelevant; "Ape" is in fine form. I would use him in Games One and Five, try Ramon Ortiz on the road in Game Two, since he stunk at home, and give big John Lackey the ball in Game Four. My theory is Washburn can pitch Game Three on normal rest, then return for Game Seven fully rested. Why burn him out? Those might be the two most important games. Ortiz could start again if you've won three games, but if you're down 3-2, and Washburn's needed in Game Six a day early, adrenalin should be in plentiful supply.

For the Twins, there are pitching questions. Radke was brilliant in Oakland, but the patient Angel batters are more likely to hit his soft stuff, and he won't be available until the third or fourth game. Milton is also talented, but inconsistent. He'll have to make two quality starts for his team to advance. But the lefties he faces, Erstad and Anderson, are great hitters, not easy outs, and the whole lineup can catch up with his fastball. Reed might surprise, and Mays can't be any worse, but between them, they might have to start three games, including the opener. Lefty Johan Santana might be a better choice, but he'll be used in long relief of Reed and/or Mays.

Both teams play wonderful defence. Yes, in Canada it's played with a 'C' -- in Minnesota, Hunter and Mientkiewicz are astonishing, and everyone else is pretty good, almost all the time. The underrated (if you watch him play) and overrated (in the eyes of staheads) Garret Anderson is one of the few left fielders better than the Twins' Jacque Jones, Erstad's a highlight film, Spezio is terrific, and nobody makes mistakes for the Angels, unless it's Bengi Gil starting in Adam Kennedy's place, which he (and Wooten for Fullmer) will do against Milton.

The difference is experience and consistency, which in baseball are almost synonymous. Not playoff experience, as both "Cinderella" teams are new to this level, but games played and situations faced. At bat, in the field, on the bases, expect the Angels to be an efficient machine, while the Twins occasionally sputter.

I won't dwell on the NLCS; the Cards' next victim isn't even determined yet. I'd prefer the Giants to put an end to that annoying Atlanta chant tonight, but would also enjoy watching Tony's boys extend the Braves' misery for a week.

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