For years now, possibly even generations, the National League West has been the understated and forgotten division in professional baseball. With many outstanding teams and players competing for this pennant, the NL West is often under the radar in terms of national attention.
There were jokes around the league that when a player passed his prime, he went to the NL West.
Where did the love go? Did we ever have any? What will it take to get some recognition for the fine level of baseball being played here in the West?
About four years ago, I saw glimpses, little hints about where this division was heading. The team in San Francisco started to rebuild as perennial players faded from play. The Dodgers increased their spending and were introducing quality prospects.
The D-Backs still had a venomous bite, while the Padres always seemed to be a wild card at season start. In Colorado, the Rockies were quickly becoming a formidable team capable of putting together hot streaks on command.
That is when I noticed the landscape of the National League was changing. Or should have changed.
I realize that in recent years the big ticket draws, the spotlight teams, have been La Russa's Cardinals, those crazy Phillies, and the inconsistent Mets. But I think somewhere in there, the West has been overlooked.
The Dodgers in the past two years have had teams that were more than capable of going all the way. The Rockies brought in Jim Tracy in midseason and then went white hot.
Last season, there was a legitimate pennant race in the National League, and it was happening out West. The Rockies, Dodgers, and Giants were fighting tooth and nail until season's end for the division title. Los Angeles took the division, and Colorado snagged the Wild Card.
Even with all this happening, if you lived east of Denver you almost didn't know it was happening. No hype, no hoopla, just more on what Derek Jeter had for dinner and whether or not A-Rod ordered the same thing.
The 2010 season is no different. The NL West has an even tighter race brewing to a head with every game played. It has four teams over .500, a higher average winning percentage than any other division, and through yesterday an eight-game difference between fourth place and first.
But log on to just about any major network, news agency, mlb.com, Yahoo!, or even MSN, and you can read all about anything that is happening outside of the NL West. The East Coast bias of ESPN has already been voiced and realized (again only if you are on this coast) so I'll even toss that out as a conceded point.
You will get plenty of information about Stephen Strasburg's daily life and Joe Mauer NOT hitting up a storm. You will almost always see some regurgitation involving the Yanks or BoSox. A fly could squash itself on Lou Piniella's windshield and you would hear more about that than the frenzy that is the NL West.
Oh and hey, Jon Miller, probably the best broadcaster in the business, gets no love nationally. The man was just inducted into the Hall of Fame and earned the Ford C. Frick Award, and his story was all but buried.
Shut the season down now, and what do you have? Two NL West teams in the playoffs. The Padres, which success just will not taint this season, are a very well-rounded team.
Then there are our Giants...playing damn good baseball and gaining on the Padres. Either of these two teams have the potential to go all the way in the playoffs.
And for two years running, the most exciting second half of baseball is going on right here in the West almost unnoticed. What is it going to take?
At this point, I doubt that even a World Series Championship in the NL West would bring the attention and respect which is richly deserved.
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