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The ALCS is for heroes, the NLCS is for villains

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If you like underdogs, there's exactly one League Championship Series that might interest you.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation 2014 MLB Bracket

Point: This ALCS is everything right about baseball

It doesn't take long to get used to unexpectedly good teams. One day, you might type the words "Astros vs. Cubs in the World Series" without a hint of irony. A few prospects there, some random minor-league-free-agents-turned-regulars there, some big-market spending, add 700 to 1,000 days, shake, serve with a sprig of mint, and suddenly you're used to it.

Let's try it out: Royals vs. Orioles in the American League Championship Series. Royals vs. Orioles in the ALCS. The Kansas City Royals will play the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS, and the winner will go to the World Series. Does that read right to you? Are you used to it yet? The thought-provoking website Clickhole wrote something on this phenomenon:

Read The Word ‘Glen’ 200 Times In A Row And You’ll Slowly Begin Realizing That It’s A Really Weird Name

1. Glen
2. Glen
3. Glen
4. Glen
5. Glen
6. Glen
7. Glen
8. Glen
9. Glen
10. Glen
...

Royals vs. Orioles in the ALCS
Royals vs. Orioles in the ALCS
Royals vs. Orioles in the ALCS
Royals vs. Orioles in the ALCS

Same thing. After a while, the words lose all meaning and you might get used to them. Don't get used to them. Look at the lineups from any Royals-Orioles game three, four, five years ago. Is that Mark Teahen hitting cleanup? Why would you put Felix Pie at the top of the order? Willie Bloomquist in right field doesn't seem like a good way to allocate resources. What's a Jason Berken? These teams were reliably terrible and incompetent in ways that were hard to describe, that are still hard to describe.

Before making the playoffs in 2012, the Orioles had lost 90 games or more for nine out of their last 11 seasons. Their high-water mark between 1997 and 2012 was 2004, when they went 78-84 and finished 23 games out. The Royals lost 100 games four out of five seasons recently, which were more 100-loss seasons than the Cubs have had in their history.

The Royals play a fun brand of baseball. It might not be the most sabermetrically-orthodox brand, but when you've got a bunch of Herb Washingtons out there, scampering around and driving the other team nuts, it's fun to watch. No one disputes that. They have superlative defenders and about 30 guys in the bullpen who can throw a fastball through an Oldsmobile.

The Orioles are more focused on the dinger arts, which is fine by us. Dingers are good. And they're here without three of their very best players, which will never not be amazing. That guy who hit 50 home runs for them last year? Gone. The All-Star catcher who was always supposed to lead the team out of the fire pits and make them relevant again? Gone. The preternaturally talented third baseman who was compared to Brooks Robinson and nobody complained about it? Gone.

Now they're both good. More than that, they're fresh and exciting. One of them will win the pennant. We're already used to that idea, but not fully. When either team makes it into the World Series, they will become America's Team, the real one, the team that embodies the Horatio Alger rags-to-riches stories that we're still told for some reason, the team that represents equity, patience and some delirious form of baseball karma. Everyone will root for them.

This ALCS is going to be amazing.

Counterpoint: Oh, go screw yourself, NLCS

Disclosure: I'm a Giants fan, of course, so this counterpoint takes a slight shift in perspective for me. But it's not hard to do. When the Giants weren't winning, I stared at envy at the Braves, Cardinals and Marlins. I watched the Yankees ruin the Rangers' season twice, then move on to ruining the A's season twice, then move on to ruining the Twins' season every year. I know what it's like to ask loudly, "Don't you have enough?"

That's what this LCS is about. Greed. The ALCS up there is about renewal and optimism. It's distilled spring fantasies in an unlikely best-of-seven series. The NLCS is the darker side of the Horatio Alger story, nothing but unfettered consumption and hurtful avarice. Four out of the last nine World Series have ended with a Giants or Cardinals victory. This will be the fifth straight season with either the Giants or Cardinals in the World Series. Don't they have enough?

No, no they don't. They will never have enough. Their dads left when they were 5, or something, and they've had this ... this ... hole that they can't seem to fill. They'll hurt people to fill that hole. They'll break hearts, and when it's all done, the hole will still be there.

The Cardinals are the person who takes the parking spot you've been waiting for, clicker on, for three minutes. They'll step out, shirtless and tan, sunglasses hanging off the backs of their ears, and wave off your complaints. In their mind, they'll think they addressed your complaints politely. In reality, they yelled something like, "U jelly?" or "U mad bro?" and walked away holding the hand of someone insanely hot.

The Giants are more insecure, and it manifests itself in a mad desire to prove something over and over and over again that can't really be proven:

Giants fan: Why did you write that the Giants aren't the best team in baseball?

Pundit: Because they aren't.

Giants fan: /recites stories of recent success

Pundit: I think they have a lot of talent, but they also have ...

Giants fan: /complains

Pundit: You literally won a game last night with a bases loaded walk, a pitcher error, and a wild pitch.

Giants fan: /talks about knowing how to win

Giants fan: /mentions 'even year'

Giants fan: /clicks on 30 articles about the Giants

Giants fan: /complains about lack of Giants coverage

Giants fan: /screenshots postseason predictions and MS Paints "lolololol" over all of them

Pundit: I cover soccer as of five seconds ago. Please stop talking to me.

One of these two teams will be in the World Series. Which one do you want? The one that was there last year? Or the one that you've seen win it all two out of the last four seasons? Tick tock, tick tock. The answer is that you're probably rooting for the locusts, but you will not get the locusts. One of these two teams will be in the World Series.

They'll play the happy-time fun team, the one with the bleak history of pain and recent history of new-found success. They'll play the team that symbolizes renewal and hope. If baseball has a heart, if there's anything right and fair about it, the greedy team will fall to this new blood.

Now ask yourself if baseball has a heart.

We're probably a couple years away from a Pirates-Cubs NLCS matched up against a Yankees-Red Sox ALCS, so until then, this is as lopsided as an LCS pairing can be. The winner of the ALCS will become baseball's darling. The winner of the NLCS will have a handlebar mustache. It's hard to invent pairings that would make you, and the rest of baseball, feel so different.