Miami Marlins shortstop Jose Reyes gives a thumbs up as...

Miami Marlins shortstop Jose Reyes gives a thumbs up as he warms up before a spring training game against the Washington Nationals in Jupiter, Fla. (March 27, 2012) Credit: AP

In the perennial "which league is better?" debate, the National League has some small-sample-sized bragging rights.

For the first time in 30 years, since the Cardinals won the 1982 World Series to join the 1979 Pirates, 1980 Phillies and 1981 Dodgers as world champions, the NL will be vying for a Fall Classic three-peat this season -- thanks to the 2011 Cardinals and 2010 Giants, both of whom upended the Rangers. In fact, that was the first time the National League won two straight championships since 1982.

Who is most likely to represent the Senior Circuit is an open issue, one that should fuel the intrigue to this campaign.

By muscle memory, you're inclined to anoint the Phillies as the favorites, thanks to their star-filled starting rotation. Have you seen their lineup, though? Ryan Howard and Chase Utley both begin the season on the disabled list, and Placido Polanco is banged up, too. Yeesh!

The defending champion Cardinals? They should be very good, with Adam Wainwright back and his famous strikeout victim, Carlos Beltran, around. But their all-time first baseman Albert Pujols left for the Angels, and their all-time manager Tony La Russa retired and is now eyeing a front-office opportunity.

The Giants, to make it two out of three? They look like the Phillies -- excellent pitching, shaky offense. Maybe the familiar duo of Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera can spark the top of the lineup.

Up are the Marlins, with Jose Reyes and other big names aboard, and the Nationals, whose starting rotation could be excellent.

Down but not out are the Brewers, who bid farewell to Prince Fielder, and the Braves, who have a 2011 collapse to overcome. And don't forget about the Diamondbacks, who won't surprise anyone again this year.

No matter how this season ends, the NL probably isn't the better league. You could argue, though, that it's the more fun league because of the possibilities.

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