- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 9, 2009

POINT/COUNTERPOINT

Each week, Nationals beat writers Mark Zuckerman and Ben Goessling debate an issue in major league baseball. This week’s question: Are the Dodgers the favorites to win the World Series?

MARK ZUCKERMAN: I thought so even before the season began, and I certainly think so now. It’s not that the Dodgers have baseball’s best record. It’s that they have baseball’s best record despite having played the past month without Manny Ramirez. So much for the theory that this was an average team without Manny. The Dodgers are already running away with the NL West. When Manny returns next month, watch out.

BEN GOESSLING: I had them winning the NL, and I still would say they’re the favorite to do that. But it’s a little early for me to anoint them World Series favorites. It’s nothing against them - they don’t have many holes, anywhere - but I still think the Red Sox (or maybe the Yankees) are just as equipped to win it all. Boston’s pitching staff is going to get better, and they could wind up acquiring another bat to make up for the decline of David Ortiz. Even without him, they’re still complete enough to handle the Dodgers.

MZ: Either of those teams, along with probably the Phillies and maybe the Tigers, certainly could wind up winning it all. I would say, though, that the Dodgers seem to have the fewest question marks. They lead the NL in runs, batting average and on-base percentage. They have a deep rotation anchored by young ace Chad Billingsley, a dominant bullpen led by closer Jonathan Broxton and solid defense around the field. On top of it all, they have a manager (Joe Torre) who has been through it all and provided a calming influence even as the Manny circus threatened to destroy the team. Put that all together, and they’re my clear-cut favorites right now.

BG: There certainly aren’t many holes there, at least right now. But this time of the year can be a little deceiving, and I worry especially about whether the Dodgers can score enough to win it all. I like their young players, but there’s not another big-time run producer in the lineup other than Manny Ramirez. If they have to play four games in Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium, that seems like a bit of a red flag to me. Pitching wins in October (or November, I guess, this year), but those AL lineups can grate on a staff pretty quick.

AWARD TRACKER

Looking at the front-runners for baseball’s season awards. This week: NL MVP

Raul Ibanez, Phillies

Plenty of Phillies fans were aghast when the defending champs let Pat Burrell walk and replaced him in left field with Ibanez. How thankful are they for that move now? The veteran outfielder has been a godsend from Seattle; he entered the week with a .329 average, 19 homers, 54 RBI and a growing list of clutch hits that have put Philadelphia back on top in the NL East.

Others to watch: Albert Pujols, Cardinals; Adrian Gonzalez, Padres; Prince Fielder, Brewers

MLB POWER POLL

Rank, team Record Comment

1. DODGERS 39-20 Andre Ethier is turning into their new walk-off hero.

2. PHILLIES 33-22 Are Brad Lidge’s blown saves a legit concern or a fluke?

3. RED SOX 33-24 They host the Yankees in this week’s “Series of the Century.”

4. YANKEES 33-23 Looking good but they still need to get over the Red Sox hump.

5. RANGERS 33-23 They held their own on 3-3 trip to New York and Boston.

6. BREWERS 33-24 Prince Fielder owns huge 1.314 OPS in his past 15 games.

7. BLUE JAYS 32-37 Roy Halladay has 10 of rotation’s 24 wins.

8. TIGERS 30-25 Edwin Jackson was a brilliant pickup from Tampa Bay.

9. METS 30-25 They’re 23-23 against everyone not from the District.

10. GIANTS 29-26 Can’t catch the Dodgers, but they can be a wild-card factor.

Records and stats through Sunday

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