The American League and National League playoffs are almost here, as the American League and National League will soon send a World Series representative. The American League stands to gain the most attention, since the Yankees and the Red Sox are both in the playoffs again. Another possible Yankees-Red Sox ALCS will dominate most playoff talk – but it might not be the best playoff series this year. In fact, the National League may have much more better match ups, and better teams, than the American League playoff roster this year.
The National League is perceived as being weaker than the American League lately, thanks to the last decade of All-Star games and weak NL divisions. But things have changed in the National League – outside of the All-Star Game. There are no 85 win teams coming out of terrible divisions in the National League – in fact, the only playoff team like that will be from the American League Central. As it turns out, the National League playoff lineup of the Dodgers, Cardinals, Phillies and Rockies may be stronger overall than the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels and Tigers/Twins group.
The American League playoff teams have a bit more questions and doubts around them than in the National League. The Yankees have returned to dominance, but they’ve underachieved in the playoffs the last several years. The Red Sox are not the Sox of old, and have to strike now before their window for more championships closes. The Angels will have to play the Red Sox in the first round, and they have had no luck against them in October for years. And the AL Central winner will be the weakest playoff team by far, and has to face the Yankees.
Everyone expects either the Yankees or Red Sox to take the American League, so that may eliminate some drama right there. However, in the National League, any one of the four teams can run to the World Series, and even win it.
The Dodgers were the best team in baseball for much of the first half, and will be scary if they get back to that early form. The Cardinals not only have the best player in baseball, they may have the best three starting pitchers in the National League playoffs. The Phillies have October experience, and a starting rotation that could be dominant if they don’t slip up. And the Rockies have come out of nowhere to contend, just as they did in 2007.
All of these teams have defied odds in some way. The Dodgers maintained their momentum after getting Manny Ramirez, and then some. The Cardinals are stronger than they’ve been in a long time – even stronger than their 2006 World Series champions – and got support for Albert Pujols at the plate and on the mound. The Phillies are major threats to repeat, despite having poor seasons from Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge. And the Rockies rebounded from firing Clint Hurdle in May and remembered how to get on long winning streaks again.
Any one of these four teams can beat the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels in the World Series – though there may be some questions about the Rockies, after they ran out of gas in the 2007 Series. But on paper, the National League playoff teams have just as much strength as the American League ones, if not more. That hasn’t been said in a while, even in years where National League teams win the World Series.
The Yankees and Red Sox will inevitably take much of the October headlines, especially if they face each other. But the National League may have even more drama, as four evenly matched teams square off for almost three weeks, and the one who survives gets to sneak up on either the Yankees, Red Sox, or Angels – assuming the Tigers or Twins don’t have a miracle run. So in terms of suspense, big time baseball, and trying to determine who will win the World Series in the end, the National League is probably the league to watch this October.
For the first time in some time, the National League has a chance to prove they are not the weak sister of the American League anymore. Maybe when they get done with that in October, they can win an All-Star Game at some point.
Tiger Weekly- “Major League Baseball sleeper teams” tigerweekly.com/article/09-23-2009/12420
Associated Press- “AP-KN Poll: Cards-Yanks in World Series, fans say” www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gAbvX8qh5FYhciYgjRhgQRNWrtYwD9AUJ2504