By Steve Silverman
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I have a confession to make: I have a bias that I have carried with me since my earliest days as a baseball fan, and it has ruled me ever since.
That bias will have nothing to do with the facts that will be stated in this piece, as I am about to make the case for the American League’s superiority over the National League as the postseason gets underway.
The American League won the interleague competition in 2017, and this marks the 14th consecutive year that it has earned that advantage over the Senior Circuit.
This year’s edge was 160-140, and that’s fairly close compared to other seasons. The AL had a monstrous 154-98 advantage in 2006, a 142-110 edge in 2012 and a 167-133 record in 2015.
The American League has also had its way in the All-Star Game, and its current five-game winning streak has allowed it to pull even in that series. That record is 43-43-2, for those scoring at home.
The Chicago Cubs won the World Series last year in the most dramatic fashion, pulling out the franchise’s first title in 108 years by getting the edge on the Cleveland Indians in the 10th inning of the seventh game and holding on by an eyelash.
The National League has held its own for the last 20 years in the World Series, going 10-10 against the American League. However, AL teams have a 64-48 advantage overall in the Fall Classic.
My bias has to do with growing up as a fan of the Yankees in their lean years, as my baseball memory starts with Mickey Mantle hitting a home run off St. Louis Cardinals reliever Barney Schultz to win Game 3 of the 1964 World Series.
That would be it for the Yankees, who began a long downturn in 1965 that would not turn around until a pennant in 1976.
But throughout that time, I saw the American League downgraded, as it could not compare with the NL in the 1960s, ’70s or early ’80s.
Much of that was due to the National League having brilliant position players such as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Willie McCovey, Johnny Bench and Orlando Cepeda, and superior pitchers that included Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal, Tom Seaver, Ferguson Jenkins, Steve Carlton and Don Drysdale.
The NL had many other stars and a driving force in Pete Rose, who made it his business to lead the NL to victory in All-Star Game after All-Star Game and bully the American League. There was no interleague regular-season play until 1997, but if there had been, the NL almost certainly would have come out on top.
All those beatings and the sneering of Rose, Joe Morgan, Gary Carter and Steve Garvey got to a young fan’s psyche. Even though I am now a “veteran” baseball fan who should be past these things, I still take joy from the AL turnaround.
Now, to this year’s postseason: The American League should enjoy a big advantage in the World Series.
The AL is better from top to bottom, and if any team besides the Minnesota Twins survives the AL playoffs, that team should have an excellent chance to beat its National League opponent.
The Indians are a red-hot juggernaut, the Astros have a team full of sluggers, the Red Sox have pitching, some clutch hitting and great outfield defense, while the Yankees have the pitching depth and monumental slugging to knock off any team.
The Cubs have been hot lately, but they don’t appear to be the team of destiny that they were a year ago. The Dodgers have cooled off dramatically after they were on a record pace for three-quarters of the season. The Nationals have never won a postseason series. The Diamondbacks may turn out to be the best of the NL teams, while the Rockies barely survived to hold on to the second wild-card spot.
Look for the Yankees and the Diamondbacks to survive their wild-card games. The winner of the Yankees-Indians series should beat the Red Sox or Astros for the American League pennant. Look for Cleveland to outlast the Yankees and then get the best of Boston.
Arizona will beat the disappointing Dodgers, and the Nationals will find a way to beat the Cubs in five games. The Diamondbacks will have too much power with Paul Goldschmidt and J.D. Martinez for the Nats.
The Indians are desperate for a World Series win, as they have been without one since 1948. They suffered heartbreaking defeats to the Marlins in 1997 and the Cubs last year, and they also lost the 1995 World Series to the Atlanta Braves.
They also lost in 1954 after going 111-43 during the 154-game regular season. The New York Giants, led by the great Mays and his famous circus catch, beat the Indians in four straight.
The history books tell us it was a shocking outcome 63 years ago, and shocking outcomes have occurred with regularity in the World Series.
But not this year. Cleveland will find a way against the Diamondbacks.
Chalk up one more for the American League.
Follow Steve on Twitter at @Profootballboy