|SOUL POWER: Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, second from left, and first baseman Ryan Howard, second from right, may have won the last two NL MVP awards, but (from left to right), Matt Kemp, James Loney and Russell Martin were just as vital in getting the Dodgers to the NLCS.|
African American players are key in championship series
Both the Dodgers and Phillies have the emergence of African American players to thank for their most recent success that has propelled them to a head to head confrontation in the National League Championship Series (NLCS).
The nucleus of the Dodgers surprising run in the postseason which began with an improbable upset of the favored Chicago Cubs in the division series is three youngsters named Russell Martin, James Loney and Matt Kemp.
Martin, a two-time all star and gold glove winning catcher in 2007, is a Canadian born Black who has been the backbone of an injury plagued pitching staff and at just 25-years of age among the best at his position.
He had the second best batting average on the team against the Cubs hitting .308 with four hits and five RBI, including a game changing home run.
This after he finished 38th in the National League in batting with a solid .280 average with 69 RBIs.
Loney is just 24-years old, but had secured the Dodgers first base position for years to come. A savvy lefty, he had a break out year at the plate finishing 24th over all in the NL with a .289 average.
But what Dodger fans will remember most about the Houston, Texas native is the performance he enjoyed against the Cubs.
Then there is centerfielder Matt Kemp, a Midwest City, Oklahoma native who has fit L.A. like a glove. Kemp frequently attends Westchester High School basketball games with his good friend Brandon Watson.
However, the Dodgers brass loves the way the 24-year old is developing on the major league level.
Kemp did not have a great series against the Cubs, hitting only .154, but his regular season in which he hit. 290 and had 76 RBI is a firm indication of natural abilities the right-hander possess.
In addition, Kemp is a tremendous defensive player in the mold of another Dodger great centerfielder Willie Davis. Kemp has already enjoyed his share of ESPN highlight plays, but he will be the first to tell you the Dodgers are not finished yet.
The Dodgers won their first playoff series since 1988, when Kemp and Loney were just four years old, respectively. Now, along with Martin, they are the blueprint of how this franchise will move forward.
This is a storied franchise that gave us Jackie Robinson and then has Blacks became the vanishing breed among Black baseball players, the finger planted in the direction of the Dodgers.
There were some concerns when the Dodgers fielded a team last year that only had one Black player.
Executives were quick to point out that baseball had failed and recognized that something had to be done. Others suggested that Blacks would prefer to play basketball and football, but the success of the Blacks wearing Dodgers uniforms should be a most promising sign.
The Dodgers may have finally gotten the message, but the Philadelphia Phillies outfit the last two NL MVP award winners and both of them are Black.
While the Phillies are playing in their first NLCS since 1993 the expectations have been high for the past two years.
The primary reason there is joy in cheese steak country is the stellar play of home run hitting All-Star first baseman Ryan Howard.
Last year Howard became the fastest player in major league history to reach 100 home runs.
The St. Louis, Missouri native didn’t get drafted by the Phillies until the 5th round, but had pay great dividends already.
He was named 2005 Rookie of the Year, earned NL MVP honors in 2006 and this year leads the league with 48 homers and 146 RBI.
At just 28 years old, he has 177 career home runs and over 500 RBI. Moreover, he is a model off the field, serving as a leading spokesman for Subway sandwiches.
Phillies’ shortstop Jimmy “J-Roll” Rollins is a three-time All-Star selection (2001, 2002, 2005) who won a Gold Glove and the NL MVP in 2007.
This year during the regular season, Rollins had 154 hits while hitting .277 and helping the Phillies win the NL East title.
Rollins is a California boy, having been born and raised in Oakland, and will feel right hat home against the Dodgers in the NLCS.
The Dodgers and Phillies split their regular season games at four apiece, but only one of them can advance to the World Series and regardless of which team it is-there will be some color to it.