Consider, on this opening day of the National League playoffs, the unique plight of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Manager Tommy Lasorda sends his men in blue against the Philadephia Phillies tonight (8:15 p.m. WRC-TV-4) with the first lineup in major league history to contain four sluggers with 30 or more home runs.
The proud Angelenos, who already deposed the champion Cincinnati Reds in their own division, also are baseball's first team to boast five 200-inning pitchers, all of whom have winning percentages over .615.
Add to this Dodgers blend of power (919 homers, exactly 100 more than last season), pitching (best ERA in baseball), a sound defense, a savvy manager and fine speed.
Rurely these Dodgers, who stand on a par for power with the Old Brooklyn dynasties and are as deep on the mound as the L.A. champions of the '60s, should be favored as they host the first two games of this playoff.
But it isn't so. In fact, Los Angeles may find itself overmatched in nearly every phase of playoff baseball by the Phillies, a team that seems created for success over a short series.
After all, 100 years of bad luck ought to be enough for any team, even the long-suffering Phils. In the 1876-to-1976 Philadephia's NL entries never won a world title. Last year's three-game playoff blitz bzy the Reds was a typical end to Philadephia dreaming.
But this year, as that Second Century begins, the Phils' luck seems to have turned.
Primary case in point: the question of fourth and fifth starting pitchers. Such creatures are vital over a 162-game season. The Dodgers have two of the best in baseball - Doug Rau (14-8) and Rick Rhoden (16-10), while the Phils have two of the most abysmal, Randy Lerch (5.02 ERA) and Jim Kaat (6-11, 5.39).
The Phils have wished all season that Lerch and Kaat would disappear. Now they have.
Only three starters are necessary for this playoff, thanks to a dayoff for travel. Suddenly L.A.'s greatest strength, its starting pitching depth, evaporates, while Philadelphia's central weakness is cured.
The Phils ace, Steve Carlton 23-10, 2.64), who is far more overpowering than L.A.'s best. Tommy John (20-7), now becomes doubly important since they might face each other in the first and fourth games.
As the Oakland A's proved from 1972 to 1974, to relief pitching often dominates in the playoffs. The phils have the deepest and best bullpen in the majors with Gene Garber, Tug McGraw, Warren Brustar and Ron Reed.
The primary reason for the Doger's gradual cooling off as the season wore on, was the deterioration of tiring bullpen knuckle-baller Charlie Hough (6-12). Undistinguished Mike Garman has been decent, and Rau and Rhoden will now be available, too. But the Dodgers' pen is still a big blue question mark, while the Phils' is a bellwether with its 43 saves and 250 season ERA.
Unfortunately for L.A., pitching is only one suit in which the deck seems stacked against the Dodgers.
History indicates that the team that finishes a playoff with its last three games on the road, faces a great disadvantage. It's tough to close out an excellent team in front of 50,000 of its own fans.
Other smaller edges also seem to fall on the Phils' side. Three Dodgers hitters - Ron Cey (.241), Rick Monday (.229) and Steve Yeager (.256) - have been in slumps since May. In fact, tefty Monday will not start, rookie Glenn Burke getting the Lasorda nod against southpaw Carlton.
The Phils power (186 homers) matches the Dodgers and Grey (Bull) Luzinski (39 homers, 130 RBI) and Mike Schmidt (38, 101) rates an edge over Cey (30, 110) and Steve Garvey (33, 115).
From top to bottom, including the bench, the Phils are clearly superior offensively. An amazing 11 Philadephia batters oare over .280 with only Schmidt (.274) holding them back.
If the American League did not have the designated hitter to boost its run totals, the Phils would be 75 runs scored ahead of any team in baseball except the still muscular Reds who trail them 847 to 802.
While Philadelphia has a preposterously deep bench with a double-headers' worth of top pinch-hitters, the Dodgers remain basically an eightman team. While the Dodgers order loses Monday (back spasms), the Phils will start Dave Johnson (.321) at first base tonight in place of Richie Hebner against the lefthanded john.
As if these telling indications were not enough, the Phils also have a secret weapon - Bake McBride. The swift rightfielder has hit .346 with 15 homers and 61 RBI in 84 games since re arrived via trade from St. Louis.
L.A. longs for another healthy bat for its outfied, while the Phils have more sticks than they can use.
For the season the two teams have split their dozen games with Carlton and John dividing two decisions against each other.
Against this backdrop, many will find it hard to understand how odds-makers have installed the Dodgers as clear 3-2 favorites.
"I can't say we'll take three in a row," said Phils' manager Danny Ozark, making his own book, "but I feel confident Our Team is on the brink."
By contrast, Lasorda, whose team has been tepid for months, seems to be cushioning a fall: "I'll be proud of this club no matter what happens."
A team's seasoning-long expectations often seem to color its postseason accomplishments. The Dodger aim was to knock off the Reds. That mountain has been climbed. The Phils, by contrast, wanted to reach the World Series, having though of the regular season as a mere stepping stone. The Phil's more ambitious self-appraisal may help them.
Nevertheless, the spenario for s Dodger victory is extremely simple. A game I victory over Carlton would be an enormous step. The Phils figure that today's twilight starting time (5:15 p.m. in L.A.) with its lows, will make their man's fast balls and off-the-table curves appear unhittable, while John's more modest corner-nibbling stuff will not look much different. For rather slim consolation, the Dodgers have a report that Carton's biorhythms are in a "triple low."
The Dodgers already have a clear Game 2 edge with Don Sutton (14-8) scheduled against shaky Jim Longborg (4.11 ERA). The third game confrontation between the Phils' Larry Christenson (19-6) and Burt Hootten (12-7) appears to be a standoff because Christension has unaccustomed trouble beating the Dodgers.
If ever the first game of a playoff should give a clear picture of developments to come, this should be the one. If the Dodgers, and their nine righthanded hitters, cannot solve Carlton in the twilight, the Dodger season may dwindle down to darkness very quickly.