Era of hope >
Position-by-position analysis >
What's clear heading into Wednesday's Game 1 is that both the Phillies and Rays have a fine chance to win. For the Phillies to do so, they'll need to lean on their late-inning bullpen combination of Lidge and Ryan Madson. And for the Rays to do so, they'll need to lean on their deep starting pitching. Late-game matchups and "secret" weapons could dictate this series.
Series breakdown >
Meet your starting pitchers: Cole Hamels for the Phillies, and Scott Kazmir for the Rays. Each has been one of the more significant reasons why his team is still alive, and each has shined this season at the age of 24. For two of the top young lefties in the game, this World Series should help thrust them upon a well-deserved national stage.
Scott Kazmir >
Cole Hamels >
Pitchers aside, this World Series will be dominated by one thing: youth. The Phillies and Rays boast more than their share of players under 30, including a Rays rotation that will be the youngest in the World Series since the 1969 Mets. Nearly all the brightest stars in this Series are in the primes of their careers -- or not quite there yet -- meaning that the World Series should be full of fresh faces and frenetic play.
u30ws (Under 30 World Series) >
A survey of a variety of people in baseball, from current general managers, managers and players to former players and broadcasters, showed just how many opinions people hold about this World Series, and how divided they are about who will win it.
World Series predictions >
There's more to Rays manager Joe Maddon than a pair of thick-framed black glasses. Much more. And it's fair to say that Maddon is one of the more significant reasons why the Rays jumped from last place a year ago to the American League pennant this season. But there's more to Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, too, than anyone might suspect from his easygoing demeanor and his West Virginia drawl. Beneath the surfaces of both Maddon and Manuel lie two sharp baseball minds.
Charlie Manuel >
Joe Maddon >
Before this thing heads up to Philadelphia for Saturday's Game 3, the Rays will have the luxury of hosting the first World Series game at Tropicana Field on Wednesday. Florida's own group of celebrities will be out in force, as will a rowdy group of fans wearing blue and clanging cowbells. Say what you will about Rays fans during their run of 10 straight losing seasons -- they've made a difference in this postseason, and should only be stronger heading into the World Series.
Big-name fans >
Tropicana Field could be more than just a fun place to play a World Series. Six teams that play in domes have made it to the Series, and five of them have won. Equally extraordinary has been the extent to which the dome teams have exploited their home-field advantage. Entering Game 1, dome teams have a record of 16-4 in home World Series games. But they are 4-12 on the road. And, of the five domed World Series teams that went on to capture the title, three did so with extremes: The 2001 D-backs and the Twins in both 1987 and 1991 won each of their home games, while losing all the road games.
Dome, sweet dome >
Phillies closer Brad Lidge has been perfect this postseason -- and this regular season, and part of last season, too. That's all added up to 49 consecutive saves for Lidge, whose closer counterpart in the World Series, Dan Wheeler, was his old setup man in Houston. Don't be fooled by Lidge's perfection, however. He was the losing pitcher in this summer's All-Star Game, which wound up costing the Phillies home-field advantage in the Series.
Lidge, Wheeler reunite >
Lidge's All-Star Game loss gives Rays home-field edge >
Perhaps this isn't the matchup everyone expected, or even one that many throughout the country had hoped for, considering the big-market appeal of the Yankees, Mets, Cubs, Dodgers and Red Sox. But Phillies-Rays holds its own sort of appeal, predicated on speed, power and fundamentally sound baseball. And certainly, that's something worth watching.
Must-see baseball >
Stars like Wade Boggs and Fred McGriff and others such as Tom Foley and Jim Morris played for the Rays during their losing seasons, which is all they had until this year. While they say they're not surprised by the Rays' success, McGriff did admit he didn't expect it. "You didn't see it coming because of the way they played last year. You figure they might get 86 wins this year, or whatever, and take it from there the year after that. Even when they played well during Spring Training, it was like, 'It's just Spring Training, nobody's playing their regular players.' You have to wait and see what happens in the regular season. Once the regular season began, they just continued to win."
Former Rays react >
Both presidential candidates have reached across the stadium aisle to offer bipartisan support for the Grand Old Game's premier event, the Fall Classic. John McCain and Barack Obama each recorded inspirational quotes from American icons, including Martin Luther King Jr. and former presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, about the game of baseball as a beacon of hope through some of America's most difficult times. They were to be shown before tonight's 8 p.m. ET broadcast of Game 1 on FOX.
Presidential hopefuls embrace Series >
One of them burst onto the scene as a rookie this April, and hasn't looked back since. The other took his lumps in the Majors before breaking out in a big way last year -- and an even bigger way this postseason. Together, Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton have formed a powerful core for the Rays, and are on the verge of breaking the postseason home run record for teammates. Upton, for his part, is one home run shy of breaking the individual postseason record of eight homers, achieved by both Barry Bonds and Carlos Beltran.
Rays' dynamic duo >
When the Phillies clinched the National League pennant last Wednesday, there was a sentiment that having so much extra rest might not be ideal -- it seemed to cost the 2007 Rockies and the 2006 Tigers. But the Phillies shunned that notion, and now there's talk that perhaps too little rest might hurt the Rays. Yet they have momentum, and they have their rotation set up as they wanted. What more could they ask?
No rest? No problem >
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less