New York or Boston?
The Yankees or Red Sox?
Which team would you rather see the Phillies play in the 2011 World Series?
Sure, we're getting ahead of ourselves. The Phillies are still more than a week away from reaching the halfway point of their season and a lot can happen between now and October. But the team hit the road on a white-hot streak, so what better time for a championship dream?
While sitting in Yankee Stadium last week and watching baseball's most decorated franchise play a mid-June game, it dawned on me that two seasons after beating the Phillies in the World Series, the Yankees are not on par with the team that calls Citizens Bank Park home.
Pitching is obviously the biggest difference, a matter not lost on Yankees general manager Brian Cashman a couple of hours before his team sent out Brian Gordon to face the Texas Rangers on Thursday afternoon in the Bronx. That's the same Brian Gordon who a week ago Saturday pitched his final game for the Phillies' triple-A Lehigh Valley franchise.
"They got Cliff Lee, I got Brian Gordon," Cashman said. "I don't think they have anything to worry about."
Lee, of course, declined more money from the Yankees and a chance to stay with Texas because he thought he had a better chance to win the World Series in Philadelphia.
Gordon is the type of guy the Phillies used to sign in the middle of a season when Terry Francona was manager and Ed Wade was general manager. Both men knew the elite pitchers available at the trade deadline would not be coming to Philadelphia, so they settled for guys like Paul Byrd.
Rest assured, the Yankees will try to add an ace-type to their rotation at the deadline. But it's unlikely they'll get someone as good as Lee, Roy Halladay, and Cole Hamels.
Even if they do, the Yankees' problems go deeper than the rotation. Derek Jeter is on the disabled list with a Grade 1 strained calf, his pursuit of 3,000 career hits temporarily stalled at 2,994. It's the same injury that destroyed Jimmy Rollins' 2010 season with the Phillies.
Jeter, 37, is in the first year of a three-year, $51 million deal. As much as Phillies fans worry about Rollins, a potential free agent after this season, he is a superior player to Jeter at this point in their careers.
Alex Rodriguez will turn 36 next month and is showing signs of age, too. A lot of people think the Phillies overpaid Ryan Howard with the five-year, $125 million that kicks in next season, but at 31 he should remain an elite run producer for another four seasons beyond this one.
Counting the remainder of this season, the Yankees owe Rodriguez $158.5 million through 2017. That's a much worse contract.
Jorge Posada is 39 and he makes Raul Ibanez look 29.
With Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, and Robinson Cano, the Yankees still have a formidable lineup, but you get the impression they'd be no match for the Phillies rotation in a seven-game series. And other than CC Sabathia, there is no reason to fear the Yankees rotation.
Boston, after a miserable start, has emerged as the best team in the American League. Carl Crawford has not lived up to free-agent expectations, but Adrian Gonzalez has. As advertised, the Red Sox have the most feared lineup in baseball.
They also have three starting pitchers - Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz - who could give the Phillies fits in a seven-game series. Like the Yankees, they'll probably be looking to add a fourth at the trade deadline, or they could try to strengthen a rather pedestrian bullpen, an area that is a strength for the Yankees and Phillies.
Depending on how they handle two off days, Boston will likely pitch Buchholz and Lester when they face the Phillies in nine days at Citizens Bank Park.
So back to the question: New York or Boston? The Yankees or Red Sox?
The Yankees, of course, beat the Phillies in the World Series two seasons ago and in 1950. Boston, on the other hand, is home to all those recent championship teams, a source of jealousy and bitterness for all cities with at least four major professional teams.
Truth is, it would be equally satisfying for area fans if the Phillies beat either the Yankees or the Red Sox in the 2011 World Series. The other truth is that the Phillies would have a better chance against the Yankees.