Either way, the winner of the National League Championship Series will be on the verge of making history. The Dodgers, the longtime historic franchise, one of the most iconic in the history of the sport, have not hoisted a title since 1988 under the guiding hand of Kirk Gibson, despite winning now six straight division titles. The Brewers, on the other hand, have not won a single title since their creation in 1970, and they have not won a pennant since they were an American League team in 1982.
Let’s discuss the Dodgers first. It’s no understatement that the pressure is on them as this is not only a long consecutive postseason streak but their third NLCS in a row, where just one ended in victory. They’ve set themselves up in the best way possible by winning Game Four against Atlanta, which likely queues up Clayton Kershaw for Game One.
Their offense has been generally clicking, scoring five runs per game since the tiebreaker game against Colorado. Justin Turner has a .929 OPS in the postseason, continuing his torrent as one of the best hitters in the second half. Max Muncy continues to be Maximum Muncy with a couple of homers, and Manny Machado, while not otherworldly, had a crucial three-run home run to help the Dodgers clinch on Monday.
The real story, then, might be Milwaukee. Expectations are everything, and I don’t think even their fans expected for the Brewers to bump Chicago off the divisional title via tiebreaker, and then stare down the barrel of the pennant against LA. They went from an 86-win, middling, do-we-or-don’t-we-contend team, to acquiring Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, and Jhoulys Chacin (one of the best valued free agents), and then put their foot on the gas at the deadline by acquiring Mike Moustakas and Jonathan Schoop (even if that one didn’t turn out so well).
What was done with that franchise is a testament to the way things—dare I say it—should be done with a franchise. Mark Attanasio is not nearly the richest owner, and he is not in the biggest market, but he is of the mind that when the team is on the bubble, it is his responsibility to put the chips forward to get the job done. He did when they traded for CC Sabathia, or Zack Greinke, and they’re doing it now.
In the age of tank or bust, the Brewers find a way to stay competitive relative to their market in a way that makes sense for them and is certainly more beneficial for their fans. They may not have the consistent success of the juggernauts, but when they’re there, they make the most of it. You could argue, sure, they had a slightly easier path by beating the light-hitting Rockies, but you can’t deny the difficult feat of toppling the Cubs as division champs after trailing in playoff odds the entire season.
Which is why I’m going to hedge and say that while the Dodgers are a favorite, I wouldn’t count out the Fightin’ Yeliches. I would say the pitching is slightly weak, but they have the heart and the core pieces to get the job done... that is, unless an AL team breaks their heart.