Yesterday it was the American League. Today, let's check out the Senior Circuit. I'll have my predictions for the baseball postseason next week.
1) Atlanta Braves – The conventional wisdom was that the Mets would overtake the Braves last year, but the Atlanta rookies proved to be pretty much all studs. Even though they've only won one World Series during this unprecedented 16-year division winning streak the Braves organization and, in particular, manager Bobby Cox have proven that this is the premier franchise in baseball. Pretty much every key player is back, so I see no reason why they won't win the East again.
2) New York Mets – The Mets excel at making splashy signings to grab some New York tabloid headlines from the Yankees every winter (this season, enter in Billy Wagner), but they seem to be baseball's version of the Washington Redskins: they've got stars all around, yet the lack of chemistry and continuity from season-to-season means they spend the first couple of months of the year underachieving. By the time they turn it around, it's usually too late. Expect some lackluster results from the Mets again.
3) Washington Nationals – This is what happens when a team is actually run by Major League Baseball A.K.A. Bud Selig: they trade for by far and away the best offensive second baseman in baseball, yet decide to stick him in left field, where power hitters are a dime a dozen. Alfonso Soriano might have acquiesed to the switch for now, but how happy would you be if your new employer essentially slashed your salary potential by 20% by moving you to a different position? This isn't a good situation. Still, there's enough talent here for the Nats to make a decent showing. I wouldn't be surprised if this team ends up finishing ahead of the Mets.
4) Philadelphia Phillies – The over/under on the number of games before Philly fans start throwing batteries on the field is 3. They had their window of opportunity the last few years and they blew it. It's going to almost as ugly as…
5) Florida Marlins – … the Marlins' cicada-like cycle of destroying their team within 2 years of winning the World Series. Can you believe that only the Yankees have been more successful in the postseason over the past decade than this sorry-ass excuse for a franchise? The Yankees' spending doesn't make me sick, but the crap that the Marlins have pulled twice does.
1) Chicago Cubs – No, this is not a typo by your favorite White Sox fan. The biggest thing here is that I love Juan Pierre. This guy is going to change the face of this offense for the better. Imagine what Derrick Lee's numbers are going to look like when he doesn't come up to the plate with the bases empty due to Corey Patterson's lack of anything. The Cubs would have done themselves a whole lot of good by signing Kevin Millwood or someone else comparable instead of continuing to chase the Healthy Wood and Prior Urban Legend, but the bullpen is vastly improved. Plus, this division won't be as strong this year.
2) Milwaukee Brewers – Not only do I believe that the Brew Crew is going to finish second in the division, but they're going to take the Wild Card as well (partly because the NL compared to the AL looks like the NFC compared to the AFC in the NFL right now). The Brewers have the most pitching depth in the division and premier power hitters in Carlos “El Caballo” Lee and Richie Sexson (UPDATE: I'm a dumb-ass; Sexson is with the Mariners now; substitute Geoff Jenkins' name here). This will be the team that makes the leap in baseball this season.
3) St. Louis Cardinals – The Cards had the best team in baseball on paper the last two seasons but weren't able to come up with a World Series win. I foresee a significant reduction in victories this season for an aging team, even if they do carry the best individual hitter in the NL in Albert Pujols and the best individual pitcher in the NL in Cris Carpenter.
4) Houston Astros – If Roger Clemens comes back, the Astros will grab the Wild Card. His presence gives them the premier starting rotation in the league. The offense is brutal, though, so if he doesn't come back to Houston, which is what I'm betting on, the Astros won't have enough strength to overcome their traditionally slow starts to the season.
5) Cincinnati Reds – Will Grant Hill, er, Ken Griffey Jr. be healthy all season? It won't matter, because this team really sucks.
6) Pittsburgh Pirates – Arrrrrrgh, me booty's the booty of the NL Central! Arrrrrrrrrrgh!!!
1) The Real World: San Francisco Giants – Coming up this season on the Barry Bonds reality show: With a halfway healthy Barry and Jason Schmidt, the Giants take this pathetic division with 82 wins. However, Barry has a steroid-induced fit with his 2005 replacement Pedro (Feliz) before the All Star break. In response, the members of the team vote to let Barry stay on the team but decide to take away his keys to the clubhouse.
2) The Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles – I picked the rest of these teams…
3) Colorado Rockies – … based on…
4) San Diego Padres – … how much…
5) Arizona Diamondbacks – … I like their uniforms.
Notwithstanding the NL West, I'm so ready for baseball!