MLB Championships: National League

    The National League represents everything that is good and pure about the game of baseball, by virtue of two simple qualities: All of our pitchers hit, and nobody plays in Yankee pinstrips.

    Rule changes and money-grubbing dynasties not enough to convince you? The NL also holds the all-time hits, home runs (both tainted and clean) and single-season batting-average records. Suck on that, American League offenses.

    So now that we’ve established the NL as the best representative of our national pastime — and America itself by default — let’s take a look at this year’s National League Championship Series, and at the two teams who will battle it out for the NL Pennant.

    This year’s NLCS pits reigning world champions the Philadelphia Phillies against the (dreaded) Los Angeles Dodgers. Both of these teams dominated their respective divisions throughout the season, and won their division series with relative ease.

    Granted, a Matt Holliday dropped fly ball and a Huston Street implosion had just as much to do with their victories, but both teams are primed for an epic showdown. The winner of the showdown, of course, gets the privilege of taking down whichever overpaid AL team survives the ego-feeding photo shoot they call a championship series.

    This marks the fifth time in history that the Phillies and Dodgers have faced off in the NLCS. Not to mention, it’s an exact rematch of last year’s championship series, —guaranteeing a string of drama and history-making moments.

    The Dodgers’ chance of winning rests largely on which Manny shows up: the fertility-fueled hitting machine or the over-the-hill juicer going through withdrawal. With the rise of Andre Eithier and Matt Kemp as the go-to hitters for the LA offense, the Dodgers have relied on Manny less and less this season. Convenient, considering Manny the Tranny never fully returned after his 50-game suspension.

    Equally as important to LA’s chances of victory is whether its starting rotation can overcome its inherent mediocraty to keep the team close enough for Eithier to deliver some late-game magic.

    Considering that the 2009 Dodgers have developed a knack for come-from-behind wins, it’s a shame that LA fans at Chavez Ravine haven’t seen any of them. It’s kind of hard to see a walk-off win in the ninth inning when you leave before the seventh-inning stretch — a move for which LA fans are quite famous.

    And how pumped can a team get when its players are cheered by a half-empty stadium in pre-game introductions because its fans can’t even show up until the third inning? A championship-worthy team is composed of many pieces, and a faithful (read: punctual) fan base is crucial.

    For the Phillies to repeat as champions — which would be only the fourth time in history that a NL team has done so — their offense will have to maintain its beast mode, scoring at least enough runs to make sure that closer Brad Lidge isn’t allowed anywhere near a save situation.

    The Phil’s lineup is flat-out scary, and more than enough to send Dodgers skipper Joe Torre running for a new pair of Depends. With Cliff Lee anchoring a pitching staff that includes two Cy Young winners and last year’s World Series MVP, the City of Brotherly Love seems primed for a second-straight parade through the streets of South Philly.

    While I have no real affinity for either of these teams — and actual hatred for one of them — I am proud to have either one as the National League’s representative in the World Series. Both teams play a hustle style of baseball and are anchored by a core of young players brought up through their respective farm systems. Any team would kill to have Chase Utley or James Looney in a clutch situation. Young lefties Clayton Kershaw and Cole Hamels have already won on the big stage, and are a GM’s ultimate wet dream. These two teams are what NL baseball is all about.

    Will the Dodgers be able to extract revenge on the Phillies after getting handed their own asses in five games last season? Or will Cole Hamels return to his 2008 form to complement Lee for the league’s best one-two punch? Which of these two National League teams will prevail?

    Considering I own a T-shirt that reads, “Duck the Fodgers,” it gives me great pleasure to say:

    Blanc goes with: Phillies in 7 games.

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