In terms of juicy playoff series, Major League Baseball could not ask for more from the 2015 postseason, at least from the National League Division Series. If the Cubs and Cardinals meeting for the first time ever weren’t enough, we got a classic New York-LA showdown between the Mets and Dodgers for the other end of the NLDS. The only way it could get better would be a Dodgers-Cubs NLCS, which would offer fans present, past, and future the best of modern baseball.
From the west, we get a Goliath of a team complete with a $300 million payroll and multiple aces on the pitching staff. Out of Chicago we’d get an upstart team that was picked by precious few to make the postseason. Monster performances by Jake Arrieta and Kris Bryant changed that picture for the North Siders in 2015, despite the fact that have their own pricey free agents on the staff (see: Jon Lester).
This matchup would also feature two teams that are among the hungriest in the 2015 postseason. Most would agree the Dodgers are on a World Series-or-bust tear with the record payroll featuring Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in prime form. It may also be the end of the line for Don Mattingly (fairly or not) with critics likely to force the Dodgers manager out of a job if his team does not go all the way.
On the other hand, the Cubs’s 107-year World Series drought needs little introduction. New manager Joe Maddon has had the club loose and performing at a high level through the stretch run. The Cubs seem to be playing with house’s money in 2015, making it a fascinating contrast. But this NLCS would be exquisite because of the pitching matchups.
Kershaw and Arrieta are so dominant they make pitching — a defensive position — as compelling as any offensive gig in sports. In the NL Wild Card Game between Chicago and Pittsburgh, the Cubs’ bearded ace showed the blueprint for how his team can go deep into the postseason (i.e., with complete-game shutouts).
Kershaw, for his part, is an ace who has not put it together so far in his postseason career. In eight career starts, he is 1-5 with a 5.12 ERA, and he has lost four straight games against St. Louis since the 2013 postseason. Considering the type of run the Dodgers’ No. 1 starter has been on, it seems impossible this streak would continue. (Versus New York in Game One of the NLDS, he pitched well but was outpitched by Jacob deGrom.) Ideally, we would get Kershaw versus Arrieta in Game One and Greinke versus Lester in Game Two.
For a sport that is enjoying record revenues and out to close the (now narrow) gap between MLB and the NFL on the financial side, young heroes like the slugging Bryant and Jorge Soler could bring in more millennial fans for future seasons. Drama of this kind between huge markets would make the accountants happy as well. Finally, it would offer a showdown between two classic baseball towns with the best stadiums in the National League. Settings matter.
We’re not taking anything away from St. Louis, a perennial winner, or the New York Mets, an up-and-down team in recent postseason history. It’s just the Cardinals are always there and the Mets seem like they will be there for many of the coming years. L.A. with its mammoth payroll serves as the greatest villain in the 2015 postseason and this dragon (were it to be slayed) ought to go down in seven games. The reminder that money doesn’t win titles would be part of the bargain, too.
It will take some doing to make it, but there’s nothing that would be better for baseball than the Cubs versus the Dodgers in the 2015 NLCS.