Former Bisons Set for MLB Playoffs

Lee, Sabathia, Phillips lead post season clubs

The Rangers will only go as far as the left arm of former Bison Cliff Lee takes them.

By Blake Arlington / Buffalo Bisons | October 6, 2010 9:27 AM ET

Baseball legends are born in October. There can be a new hero on any one pitch. It's why we love the playoffs. It's why we cheer for teams from New York, San Francisco, Texas and Philadelphia.

But if you're looking for a reason to align yourself with one of the eight teams vying for a World Series Championship this year, you need to look no further than your own backyard. Eight former Buffalo Bisons will take part in October's action and many of them are vital pieces to their team's championship hopes.

But which player might help push their big league club to a championship? Their careers in Buffalo may offer a clue to the team that will win it all.

First, we'll throw out San Francisco and Atlanta, neither of which have a Bisons representative. With the Giants and the Braves playing each other, one of the teams will be eliminated in the NL divisional series anyway.

The Twins/Yankees first round match-up features a pair of players who joined the Herd on rehab assignments. Minnesota DH Jim Thome came to Buffalo for a pair of games in 1998 while Bombers' ace C.C. Sabathia pitched one outing during the 2006 campaign. While neither of these brief Buffalo stopovers will lift their teams this year, we'll give the edge to Thome, who hit .250 (2-8, RBI) in two playoff games with Buffalo while Sabathia's start came on a May-afternoon at Coca-Cola Field.

If you looking for wins in the post season, maybe we should focus on wins as a Bison. Rangers' ace Cliff Lee won 10 games over parts of three seasons in Buffalo, 2002-2003; 2007. Overall, Lee was 10-6 with a 3.48ERA in 27 games with the Bisons. He racked up 141 strikeouts in just over 147 innings of work. The southpaw went 6-1 for Marty Brown's Bisons in '03, before making a permanent home in the majors.

Lee's Bisons career looks to give the Rangers the advantage over Tampa Bay, who is backstopped by former Herd catcher, Kelly Shoppach. Shoppach played 21 games with the Bisons in 2006 and hit .282 with four home runs. Although the catcher has a walk-off home run on his Herd resume, we'll go with Lee's Queen City career to push the Rangers to an AL pennant.

Which brings us back to the National League and the most intriguing post-Bisons career matchup. Of the eight former Bisons in the post season, three will don a Philadelphia Phillies uniform. Reliever Chad Durbin won six games in 19 starts with the Herd in parts of 2003 and 2004. Infielder Wilson Valdez hit .298 and made just one error in 36 games with Buffalo in 2009. And of course, outfielder Ben Francisco won an International League batting championship and stole 51 bases in parts of four seasons with the Bisons from 2005-2008.

But champions win championships and there is only one former Bison in the 2010 post season that lifted the Governors' Cup for the fans inside Coca-Cola Field to see. Cincinnati Reds' All-Star Brandon Phillips is our difference maker in this year's playoffs. Phillips ranks in the top 5 in the Bisons modern era in games, hits, doubles and runs scored. He hit .303 during the 2004 campaign and made the amazing defensive play in Game 3 of the IL Semi-Final series against Durham that changed the Herd's post season around.

So, we'll predict now that the championship Bisons career of Phillips gives him...and his Cincinnati Reds teammates...the edge in 2010.

Either way, with so many former Bisons currently in the October mix, these will all be fun games to watch.

-the herd-

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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