Thursday, July 2, 2009

The National League West, A Victim of American League, East Coast Bias

With a history of passionate and crazy fight s like this between the Dodgers and Giants, how can you not like National League West?

The sentiment is so widespread that it almost makes you sick to be a baseball fan on the West Coast.

"The NL West is the worst division in baseball."

That statement was echoed a couple of days ago on Adam the Bull and Kimberly Jones' radio show on WFAN in New York as they argued who the best pitcher was in baseball.

Jones said Roy Halladay of the Blue Jays; Adam argued for Dan Haren of the Diamondbacks. Jones immediately dismissed his arguments, because the NL West is "terrible."

This afternoon on the BS Report podcast, Bill Simmons and his guest, Keith Law, didn't shy away from that idea either.

The pair ripped apart the National League West, not to mention the National League. Law, a baseball writer for ESPN and former front officer guy for the Toronto Blue Jays, said the only reason the Dodgers looked so good was because the NL West was so weak.

It's not like I am surprised with this. For the past decade, it's all we've heard from baseball writers, radio hosts and personalities all over the nation.

"The NL West sucks."

"No team in the West is any decent."

"The American League is far superior than the National League."

It's frustrating to hear these things from a West Coast baseball fan's perspective mainly because the arguments against the NL West are so incredibly ignorant and arrogant.

Is the American League better than the National League?

Yeah, but it's not as dramatic an edge as you might think.

You have to factor in two things:

1.) The American League has the designated hitter.

2.) The American League has the two richest clubs in baseball.

The designated hitter is an incredible advantage for a team. With the pitcher not batting, teams don't have to make pitchers take batting practice in addition to taking bullpen during practices.

I guarantee you Halladay wouldn't be looking as good if he had to tire himself with that kind of double duty during practices.

Additionally, with the DH, managers don't have to make big decisions concerning pitchers at the plate. They don't have to waste outs on their pitchers with sacrifice bunts with runners on.

In the National League, when pitchers come up to bat, it's almost a given they're an automatic out. Anything else is a luxury.

And if that isn't advantage enough for the West, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees exist in the American League. Those are the two richest teams in baseball with the biggest fan bases.

The Red Sox and Yankees can outspend any other team in baseball considering the league's current status without a salary cap in place.

There's not a team in the National League that can touch the Yankees and Red Sox financially. The New York Mets come the closest, but even then, when push comes to shove, if they're after a player, the Yankees or Red Sox are probably coming out with them.

How can the National League compete when every player chases the dollar and the two teams with the most to offer financially are in the American League?

You can't. It's just not possible.

It's like going to a club and asking a guy to settle to hook up with Rose McGowan when Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Alba are available right across the room.

Players are always going to go after those more attractive offers, and in this case, the Yankees and Red Sox are the Johansson and Alba of baseball.

So the American League has an unfair advantages over the National League. What does this have to do with the National League West?

Well, the NL West suffers from the double whammy: the injustices that the AL has over the NL, and the East Coast bias.

Four or five years ago I might have agreed that the NL West was an inferior league. I just can't do that now. The best team in baseball is in the NL West (Dodgers). The NL Wild Card leader is currently in the NL West (Giants), and the second-place team in the Wild Card is also in the NL West (Rockies).

How can a division that has three teams jockeying for playoff position be considered the worst division in baseball?

How is the AL Central better than the NL West when the division leader is 12 points below the third place team in the West in run differential?

And look at the vastly overrated AL West. Why are they such a better division than their NL counterpart? The Oakland A's, a team eleven games under .500, is only nine-and-a-half games behind the first place Angels.

The Rockies are eight-and-a-half games behind the first place Dodgers.

Seems a bit unfair, doesn't it?

The NL West is the classic example of the East Coast bias. While experts and members of the media are fawning of the Red Sox and Yankees and their every movement, they ignore the great baseball that is being played on the other coast.

Instead of staying up and watching the games, people are holding onto biases that were dated three or four years ago.

And it's sad and unfair. NL West fans give the AL East and their teams the respect it deserves (except the Orioles of course, who are just sorry). Why can't the AL East show some courtesy, and do the same?

Because it isn't easy.

Fans of East Coast teams don't want to go the extra mile to really understand how competitive this NL West division team is. They say, "Oh yeah, that's the team Manny plays for," but they don't know a single other player on the Dodgers other than Manny.

They harp about how Josh Beckett is one of the top pitchers in the game and give the cold shoulder to pitchers like Chad Billingsley and Tim Lincecum, two pitchers who could wipe the floor with any team in the ballyhooed American League.

And that includes the Yankees and Red Sox as well.

The NL West is not an inferior division any more. As a matter of fact, you can make the argument it is the best in the National League.

The East is the Phillies and the "DL-infested" Mets. I don't bother to include the Marlins, who even at 41-39, will surely show their true colors soon as their minus-22 run differential exhibits.

The Brewers and Albert Pujols (sorry...I mean, the Cardinals) are the only two decent teams in the Central. However, it's a good bet that only one of those teams will be making the playoffs.

The West, on the other hand, has three teams that are in the front-running for two playoff sports. Furthermore, they would have had a fourth had the Peavy didn't get decimated by injuries.

The only poor team in the league in the West is the Diamondbacks, but they suffer more from awful management rather than talent.

They're basically the same team they were two years ago when they made the playoffs, but a manager-replacement controversy has put a damper on this team which has the potential to be great.

It is a different case from the last-place Indians in the AL Central, who are just bad all-around except for Grady Sizemore.

To be honest, I don't doubt that the American League is slightly better than National League. I have no argument with that point. The National League Central and East are far weaker than in years past.

Yet the NL West is a different story and deserves more respect. It's no longer the most inferior division in baseball. Teams in the West can hold their own, even with the more lauded AL teams who seem to get all the praises.

And baseball experts and East Coast-biased fans should start recognizing this, and start dropping these ideas about the NL West that are three to four years out of date.

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