MLB championship series heads out west

Scrappy underdogs may finally get their day

If at the beginning of the Major League Baseball season you predicted the Arizona Diamondbacks taking on the Colorado Rockies in the National League Championship series, you would have met much opposition.

But the completely unlikely and unexpected series begins today, Oct. 11, and it should be a wonderful match-up on many levels. But perhaps the greatest thing about the series is the predicament it puts sports media in.

The Rockies and Diamondbacks are both young, exciting homegrown-talent ball clubs that have been unfazed by the pressures of October baseball. The series will showcase two teams that lack superstars and high payroll, but model the beauty of the game-playing fundamental, hustle baseball.

Baseball media has often been accused of favoring East Coast teams like the Yankees and Red Sox. Small market, West Coast teams have never gotten much attention on ESPN’s SportsCenter or many major broadcast stations that continue to cover big-money clubs.

East Coast favoritism is evident even before the series begins. Every game in the NLCS will be broadcasted on TBS, a station in its first year covering the playoffs, while all ALCS games will be televised on playoff sports giant FOX.

The talk that followed the Diamondbacks’ and Rockies’ Division Series victories was not about their exceptional play, but more about how badly the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs blew it. It was more about their loss than the West Coast’s triumphs.

But the media can’t pass up these stories much longer. The Rockies went on a tear to end the season, winning 14 of their last 15 games to sneak into the playoffs. They then dominated the Phillies’ powerful offensive with some exceptional pitching.

The Diamondbacks, with the second worst team batting average in the league, at just .250 (the only player hitting over .300 being pitcher Micah Owings). On top of that, they only had only two players hit more than 20 home runs on the year. These, among other things, and they were still the best team in the National League. These two teams remind us why it is we love baseball — even why we love sports in general.

In a game so tainted by steroid controversy and self-indulgent superstars, it’s beyond refreshing to see scrappy teams like Colorado and Arizona succeed. They model the things we feel about sports that keep us interested — the intangible drive and pursuit of a pure, competitive spirit.

The Diamondbacks will look to their ace and reigning Cy Young champion, Brandon Webb, in game one. Jeff Francis, who recorded 17 regular season wins, will take the mound for the Rockies.

The Rockies won the regular season series, 10-8, taking two of three at home from the D-Backs in the last week. This inevitably thrilling, seven-game series kicks off in the desert for the first two games, then heads to Denver for the next three. It’s the first time since the Wild-Card expansion in 1994 that two National League West teams will face off in the Championship Series. And as much as the media may dislike it, one of them is eventually headed to the World Series.

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