I see this division as up for grabs. The perennial winner, Atlanta, might have enough in the Jones boys, Hudson, and little Marcus Giles, but Francouer isn’t going to be that good again, Mazzone’s Menagerie of Miracles has pulled up stakes and gone to Baltimore, Renteria’s an overpriced turd (yes, I would rather have Cedeno), and Smoltz is an injury risk. So Philly has a chance with Brett Myers, Slobby Bobby and Pat the Bat, and Ryan Howard. Somebody from the Wolf/Lieber/Lidle camp has a good season and Jimmy Rollins gets on base, and they win the division. The Mets are relying on the balsa arm of Pedro, a surgeon’s dream in Floyd, a declining Glavine, signed Julio Franco, and still have OBP holes at SS and 2B, and CF if they play Chavez a lot. On the other hand, they also added Delgado, Wright is a year older, Beltran will have a better year, and I like Nady, too, so they could take it. Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera, suddenly the experienced old hands on a very young team, will keep the Marlins from losing 100 games, but not much more than that. As for Washington…here’s what I like: Livan, Schneider, and Marlon Byrd’s return to form. The rest of the roster looks a lot like a fantasy team that some guy created but hasn’t checked back on since the automated draft.
Pressure is on New York. Sizable investment in balanced attack means they are built to win NOW! Pedro’s Shea ERA – 2.29. As for Philadelphia, getting close but will fail to catch the Mets. Great at home, just so-so on the road. No blue chippers on the mound, either. Soriano’s public discontentment will affect his offense and cost the team needed wins. The Atlanta magic turns black this season. Leo Mazzone’s departure will have debilitating effects throughout the organization. Watch Smoltz begin his Greg Maddux slide to mediocrity. Down in Florida, rookie manager Joe Girardi deserves better than a squad that resembles a half way decent AAA club but that’s about it.
Okay here we go. Admittedly for the first time in three years I’m actually gonna predict Atlanta as the division winner. And it’s not a question of hindsight being 20/20 – rather, it’s the fact that Atlanta has successfully rebuilt itself without losing a step. You’ve gotta respect John Schuerholtz – he makes Jim Hendry look like chump change. The Atlanta new talent attack will be led by Francoeur and McCann and they’ve got plenty of returning talent as well. The Bravos will run away with this division.
I had originally thought that the Mets would mount a significant attack in the NL East but they should realistically orient toward the wildcard. Beltran is going to start earning his salary and I love Wright and Reyes on the left side. The Phils’ offense rocks and I even took Utley again for my fantasy team with an early pick. But their starting pitching just ain’t gonna cut it – after Leiber they’re in serious trouble. Hope their bullpen can hold up because they’re going to get plenty of work.
I’m going to pick the Marlins ahead of Washington because they’ve got some serious talent that’s going to bloom as they gain experience. Hermida is a potential Rookie of the Year and Vargas is a real sleeper if he’s available in your fantasy league. Everybody knows about Mike Jacobs, and Willingham and Hanley Ramirez are darkhorse RoY candidates. It’s a real shame this team plays in Miami.
Not to denigrate the Nats but they’re not going to cut it this year because of all the distractions (stadium and some dufus named Alfonso.) Perhaps there’s light at the end of the tunnel – Dusty might end up in the nation’s capital in 2007 and Robbie might finish his career in the Friendly Confines. One can only hope…
Omar Minaya must have lived his life’s dream this offseason. He finally got a chance to take advantage of another team’s fire sale, and the Mets came away with a good haul in Carlos Delgado and Paul Lo Duca. They’ll also have an excellent outfield, if Carlos Beltran can rebound from last year, and a good bench with Julio Franco and Xavier Nady. So this will be the year that the Braves are finally knocked off the top of the division, but not out of the playoffs. Kelly Johnson, Ryan Langerhans and Jeff Francoeur will take a step back this season, but I think they’ll have the Braves back on top in a few years. I like the Phillies pickup of Aaron Rowand, but they didn’t address their starting pitching in the offseason, which will be a problem, as there isn’t much there beyond Jon Lieber and Randy Wolf (and they’re not great). Washington didn’t make enough improvements to better their .500 record from last year, and I don’t like the Soriano trade, as Alfonso hit badly away from cozy Ameriquest Field and Washington’s park is much bigger. The real excitement in DC will be watching to see when Frank Robinson finally gets fed up with Soriano (I’m taking Memorial Day). There isn’t much I can say about the Marlins, as most of their players have no big league experience, but they’ll probably win the World Series in 2012 as the Las Vegas Bandits.
When will people learn not to pick against the Braves. When you’ve won 4632 division titles in a row you think that would be enough. I’m going to pick them because i’m tired of looking like a fool each year. As far as the rest of the pack, I think Philly is just a hair better than the Mets and because the Mets never seem to buy guys that gel as a team, I think they come in a close third. As for the bottom, Joe Girardi is going to do a lot with the kids, but they won’t have enough experience to squeak into 4th.
Friday – NL Central
Saturday – NL West
Sunday – Awards and Playoffs
Monday – Book Review “The Last Nine Innings” & Guest Stats Column