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01/26/07 10:00 AM ET

Can the National League turn the tide?

Younger talent signals that NL has the stuff to best AL in '07

Some of the pride that National League teams flaunted three and four decades ago when they were beating up on their American League counterparts, especially in the All-Star Game, returned last October when the NL-champion St. Louis Cardinals defeated the AL-champion Detroit Tigers in a five-game World Series.

After what happened during past seasons, it could have been the NL's first big step back to respectability, if not superiority.

"I have a sense that things are turning around," former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, a career National Leaguer, said. "I've always felt that these streaks run in cycles. [The NL] won 11 [All-Star Games] in a row at one time, and I managed three of 'em.

"We had a good streak going, and now [the AL does]. But I think we have the players to turn it around."

Ah, those bragging rights.

As though it weren't enough that the AL scored two runs in the top of the ninth inning to extend its unbeaten streak to 10 straight Midsummer Classics last July, the second round of Interleague Play delivered a haymaker.

After playing the AL on almost even terms in May, winning 20 of the 42 games, the NL, for the most part, took it on its collective chin during the final 16 days of Interleague Play and ended up on the short end of a 154-98 final score in 2006.

But the first hint that a new day could be dawning for the Senior Circuit occurred at the All-Star Game in Pittsburgh's PNC Park. Four of the nine NL starters were selected to their first or second Midsummer Classic, which was twice as many as the AL. The Junior Circuit had a starting lineup with only one player -- 27-year-old Vernon Wells of the Toronto Blue Jays -- under the age of 30, compared to six for the NL.

Overall, the NL had 21 players on its All-Star roster under 30, five more than the AL.

Indeed, as we head into the 2007 season, there are signs that the tide might be turning for the NL. The picture could become clearer starting on May 18, when Interleague Play begins with 15 three-game series. Featured matchups include Cardinals-Tigers, Mets-Yankees, Cubs-White Sox, Dodgers-Angels and Giants-Athletics.

There's a lot of star power in both leagues, of course, but with the likes of 23-year-olds Miguel Cabrera and Jose Reyes, along with David Wright (24), Albert Pujols (26), Ryan Howard (27), Chase Utley (27) and Jason Bay (27), the future definitely looks bright for a league that has not won an All-Star Game since 1996 and trails the AL, 1,249-1,202, in the 10 seasons of Interleague Play.

Following his monster season, Howard ranks near the top of must-see Major League players.

The Phillies first baseman has emerged as perhaps the best, young power hitter in baseball, leading the big leagues in home runs in '06 with 58 en route to an NL Most Valuable Player Award.

Howard appears to be the latest version of Pujols, a five-year veteran, who already has three or four toes -- if not an entire foot -- through the doors at Cooperstown, N.Y. He has a .332 career batting average and 250 home runs and one MVP Award.

All 35 players on the NL All-Star roster remain in the same league in 2007, while there is one noticeable defection from the AL -- left-handed pitcher Barry Zito, a three-time All-Star who moved across the Bay Bridge from the Oakland Athletics to the San Francisco Giants.

Another left-hander of note, Randy Johnson, who was a five-time All-Star during his six seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks (1999-2004), returns to the desert and the NL after spending the past two seasons with the New York Yankees.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.