- The Washington Times - Monday, August 25, 2008

POINT-COUNTERPOINT

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

MARK ZUCKERMAN: In my mind, it’s wide open, which is not necessarily a good thing. There’s just no team in the NL that is solid all the way around. But if I had to pick one to emerge as the likely World Series entree, I’d have to say the Diamondbacks. Yes, they were my pick way back in March, and I know they have had plenty of issues. But they also still have the best 1-2 pitching punch in the majors in Brandon Webb and Dan Haren. Seven years ago, we saw how far two brilliant pitchers can take a team when Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling gave Arizona a title. These guys could do it again.

BEN GOESSLING: I would have to take the Cubs at this point, though we all know there’s plenty that could happen with them. I like the pitching — Rich Harden has stepped in nicely alongside Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster — and the lineup is as good as any of the NL’s contenders. If the bullpen holds up, I think Chicago could do it. There’s going to be an enormous amount of pressure on them as the team with the NL’s best record right now, but this is why they brought in Lou Piniella. It’s time to deliver.

MZ: I agree that the Cubs, on paper, are the best all-around team in the NL. But that whole “Pressure to Win on the 100th Anniversary of the Cubs’ Last World Series Title” concept shouldn’t be taken lightly. I was in Chicago over the weekend — these people are both ecstatic and terrified at the possibility of ending the curse. The Diamondbacks have none of that pressure on them, not to mention the pitching, which is why I still like them.



BG: Yeah, that’s a lot of pressure to play with. But let’s not forget, this is a team that has been playing with those expectations most of the season. It’s obviously different in October (and that’s as close as I’ll get to channeling those stupid Dane Cook commercials), but I think Chicago has the right mix of players to do it. Assuming the wild card comes out of the NL Central, though, it probably will be the Cubs and the Diamondbacks in the first round. A couple great pitching performances from either team could steal the series.

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