- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 9, 2008

POINT-COUNTERPOINT

Each week Nationals beat writers Mark Zuckerman and Ben Goessling debate a baseball issue. This week’s debate: Who’s going to win the American League pennant?

MARK ZUCKERMAN: I’ve believed the Angels are the best team in the majors for a while now, and I still believe it. Nobody is better at the fundamentals. Nobody else has five 10-game winners in the rotation. Nobody has a closer like Francisco Rodriguez. And nobody - aside, I suppose, from the Brewers in the NL - made as big an acquisition this summer as Los Angeles did in getting Mark Teixeira. I’ll stick with the Angels to go all the way.

BEN GOESSLING: It’s a little cliche to trot out the line of thinking that the champs are still the champs until somebody beats them, but I’m sticking with the Red Sox. Yes, they will be a different team in October without Manny Ramirez. But they’re still stocked with proven playoff performers and a lineup that’s as good as any in baseball when it comes to wearing pitchers down. Assuming Josh Beckett holds up, they’re my pick.

MZ: My problem with the Red Sox is that they’re going to have a much tougher path to the World Series this time than they did last year. Unless they go on a real run here at the end - or the Rays collapse - they’re going to end up as the AL wild card. Which means they’re going to play their first-round series against the Angels, with the Angels having home-field advantage. That’s a tough challenge for the defending champs.

BG: That’s true. But this isn’t exactly a team that runs from difficult paths to the World Series. A short series actually might benefit the Red Sox - steal a game from the Angels on the road, and they are back at Fenway with a chance to win the series. But without a doubt, that would be a heck of a first-round matchup to watch.

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