The American League is better than the National League

October 9, 2008 at 6:35 pm | Posted in Baseball | 16 Comments

So the NLCS begins tonight as the Los Angeles Dodgers play the Philadelphia Phillies.  I’m predicting that the Dodgers will win the series, but ultimately it doesn’t really matter.  Whoever wins will be a sacrificial lamb in the World Series for the winner of the ALCS.

The simple truth is that the American League is a much more competitive league, with much better teams than the National League.  That is why the American League wins the World Series almost every year, why the American League dominates inter-league play, and why the American League wins the All Star game every year.

I am not convinced that any National League team would have made the playoffs if they were in the American League this year.  Yes, that includes the Chicago Cubs.  In fact if the Cubs, the team that had the best record in the National League, played in the A.L. East, I don’t think they could have even finished in fourth place.

So why is there such a competitive imbalance between the two major leagues?  I have given this a lot of thought and I’ve concluded that it’s all because of influence of the New York Yankees.  Hear me out…

We all remember the Yankees winning the World Series in 4 out of 5 years between 1996 – 2000.  They developed a few players from their farm system, but more importantly, they were willing and able to pay more money than any other team to sign the best players in baseball.  That’s why they were so good.  The other teams in the American League had to drastically improve their operations in order to compete with the Yankees.

The Boston Red Sox did this in the most visible ways.  They began to spend almost as much on payroll as the Yankees, and they also built one of the strongest farm systems in baseball.  Since 2003, the Yankees and Red Sox have been the strongest teams in the A.L.  The Angels also reacted to the Yankees success by increasing payroll and by forming one of the smartest front offices and coaching staffs in baseball, which has led to their success.  The Oakland A’s reacted by developing a whole new philosophy for a small market team to compete, Moneyball, and they’ve utilized that in making the playoffs several times.  Another small market team, the Twins, used a brilliant player development strategy to build a consistently winning team.  The Indians developed a whole new generation of strong players.  The White Sox and Tigers made many smart free agent signings and trades to win and make the World Series in 2005 and 2006, respectively.  The Blue Jays have developed the best pitching staff in baseball, although they haven’t seen their work result in a playoff appearance yet.  And of course, the Tampa Bay Rays completely revamped their organization at every level and made many smart baseball decisions in order to vault past the Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays this year.

My point is that the success of the Yankees caused every other team in the American League to become smarter about how they built their teams in order to compete.  Teams realized that they could complain all they wanted that the Yankees had more revenue than anyone else, but that wasn’t going to change anything.  The American League teams reacted by hiring the smartest front office executives, scouts, managers, and coaching staffs in baseball, and they signed and developed most of the greatest baseball players.

Now, in 2008, it’s clearer than ever that the American League is the home of the best teams in baseball.  I won’t even get into how ludicrous it is that pitchers bat in the National League.  It’s like if the NFL had a rule that teams had to hand the ball off to their kickers five times per game.  OK, I guess I am getting into how silly it is that pitchers bat in the N.L. but that’s not my main point…

I’ll be watching Game 1 of the NLCS tonight, but the start of the Championship Series for baseball’s real Major League will be starting tomorrow night in Tampa Bay!



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  1. Ummm, Cardinals in 2006? Marlins in 2003? Diamondbacks in 2001? I agree whole-heartedly, even as an NL fan, that the AL has the NL’s number, but NL teams, as they showed in those three recent years, still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

  2. Since 2000, 5 (well…4, Boston twice) American League teams and 3 National League teams have won the World Series. I’m not sure that equates to “almost every year”.

  3. night owl just beat me to it…I echo his sentiments.

  4. I’d argue that the Yankees were a better team than the Diamondbacks in 2001 and the Marlins in 2003, and the Tigers were better than the Cardinals in 2006, and that the World Series wins by the N.L. teams in those years were flukes.

  5. I’m an NL guy but I think Dave is right on the money. NL teams simply don’t have to be as good. If you are hot at the right time, you can steal a series.

  6. So, the spin/buzz of Rays as underdog = wrong? They can’t be the underdog (despite low payroll etc.) if they are in the League of Destiny.

  7. That’s just silly. Baseball is only REAL baseball when pitchers hit. As crazy as you think it is for pitchers to hit, I feel double on how crazy the DH is. Please. That’s not baseball. There is NOTHING like watching managers go at it in an NL game. There’s more strategy, more thought required and, quite honestly, it’s way more enjoyable. On a different note – congrats on the Rays, dude. I think you are their most passionate fan. They are going to be VERY GOOD for a long long time. I hope my Phillies meet you in the Series…and we get to see your pitchers HIT. 🙂

  8. Patricia – according to Bodog’s online sports book, the Rays are underdogs against Boston in the ALCS, although I’m not sure why since they have home field advantage and won the season series against Boston. I’m pretty confident that they’d be favored in the World Series against either N.L. team though.

  9. Jawdy – almost every fan of an N.L. team likes having the pitchers hit and almost every fan of an A.L. team likes the DH. Whatever you’re used to watching is “real” baseball to you. In the late 90s, after I stopped being a Yankees fan and before I became a Rays fan, I tried to be a Diamondbacks fan, but I just couldn’t do it, and the lack of a DH was a big factor.

    I’m not sure what’s so strategic about the N.L. due to having pitchers hit. In most cases, if it’s late in the game, you pinch hit for the pitcher. That’s not rocket science.

    If you like seeing pitchers hit, how would you feel about hitters pitching? That’s the same type of thing to me…

    Anyway, when the Rays are in the World Series, we will get to see their pitchers hit. And from what I’ve seen in inter-league games, at least two of them – Shields and Sonnanstine, are pretty good hitters. I can’t wait!

  10. Dave, I got your message about the ALCS. You’re on! In the almost impossible event that my Sox loose, I have some good Rays stuff I can send ya.
    Good luck.

  11. This is just laughable. The Rays have a winning season and suddenly they and their fans stake their claim as the best team in a superior league.

    This is like the kid in highschool who finally got a piece suddendly becoming the expert on chicks.

    If the Yanks and Tigers were better than the Marlins, Cards, and Dbacks, then they would have won the WS.

    The Red Sox and Angels do not spend “almost as much” as the Yankees. The Yanks outspent the Red sox by $76MM and outspent the Angels by $90MM. The average player’s salary on the Yanks is $2MM more than the Sox and Angels.

  12. Glad I could give you a laugh, JRJ. But would you seriously argue that the N.L. is even close to the A.L. competitively? The A.L. was 149-103 in inter-league play. I think it’s closer to a fact than a claim that the A.L. is indeed a superior league!

    As for the Rays being the best team – they are in the ALCS aren’t they? And of the two teams in the ALCS, they have the best record…

    The Yankees and Tigers were better than those teams, and that is why they were heavily favored in each of those years. Any team can get hot in a 7-game series. In all seriousness, do you really consider the Cardinals to have been the best team in MLB in 2006?

    Finally, as a fan of a team with a $43 million payroll, there’s not much difference between teams that spend 3 times as much (like the Red Sox and Angels) and 5 times as much (like the Yankees). And Boston’s payroll is down this year. In previous years, it was much closer to the Yankees, which is why I said “They began to spend almost as much on payroll as the Yankees”.

  13. Come on Dave…. you didn’t compare TB’s payroll to the Yanks. You incorrectly said the Angels and Red Sox spent “almost as much” which is obviously incorrect. $90MM away is no where near “almost as much.” If you think that’s close, then I have some stock to sell you in today’s market! 🙂

    So your standard of who the best team is at the end of the season is based on who Vegas things should win the World Series? So despite the Cards, Dbacks, and Marlins winning the World Series; you say they aren’t the best team because Vegas bookies didn’t pick them to win?

    Dave – I agree that the AL as a whole is better than the NL, but I’m waiting to see who the best team is based on their play on the field, not the Caesar’s Palace betting line.

    Great post. Great topic. Thanks for the discussion.

  14. Yes, I compared Tampa Bay’s payroll to the Yankees. The Yankees payroll is 5 times higher. What’s wrong with stating that? The payrolls of the Angels and the Red Sox are both in the top 6 in MLB. They have high payrolls. If you want to keep arguing what “almost” means, then go ahead, but my original point was that the Red Sox “began to spend almost as much on payroll as the Yankees”. I was speaking of the last 5-6 years. And it’s true that prior to the 2008 season, the Red Sox payroll was closer to the Yankees than it is now. I’m not sure why this is a point of contention, since it has nothing to do with my point of the A.L. being superior to the N.L.

    When I say that a team is heavily favored, it doesn’t have anything to do with the betting line. I’m talking about who the majority of fans and experts believe will win.

    Let me remind you that the Cardinals were 83-78 in 2006. That was the 13th best record in MLB. Do you seriously think they were the best team in baseball that year?

    The 2001 Diamondbacks and the 2003 Marlins were at least good teams. I called them a fluke because they were unable to repeat the success that they had in those seasons and became losing teams shortly thereafter.

  15. Can’t say I agree with you here. Designated hitters are for softball, not baseball. If you can’t even play 1B or LF, you shouldn’t be in baseball period. If you can’t handle a bat well enough to bunt (which is what pitchers do for the most part), then you’re not a baseball player.

    The AL has been dead to me ever since they introduced the DH into play!

  16. I agree with you that guys who are full-time DHs are not “complete” baseball players. But there are guys in the N.L. who do nothing but pinch hit. Are they any better?

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