The General’s Preseason National League Predictions
Spring Training is almost upon us, and I think it’s time to predict who will rise and who will fall in the National League. 2010 promises to be a loaded season with teams reloading, wallowing, and retooling.
Major League Baseball’s season is VERY long and VERY complicated. Plus, it offers us a glimpse into the character of players as they struggle to complete a 162-game schedule.
Who will lose? Who will win? Who will show us their true character? Let’s take a stab at this:
National League East
The Phillies are the obvious favorite in this division with their acquisition of Roy Halladay and Jose Contreras. The signing of Joe Blanton simply kept the “power level” up, and by moving out Cliff Lee to make a way for younger pitching they’ve improved this offseason.
We could talk all day about how their hitting struggled in the World Series, but I don’t buy it. Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Jimmy Rollins, and Chase Utley will ALL produce again in 2010. If Raul Ibanez has half-the-season he had in 2009 then the Phillies will be a “run factory”.
The Marlins and Braves will make attempts to retool, but they won’t work. Florida missed their “6 year World Series cycle” by not winning it all in 2009. The Braves are NOT the Braves of the 90′s, and they won’t be anytime soon.
The Mets are out of control and Omar Minaya has proven that he isn’t really in control. Carlos Beltran waited until right before Spring Training to have surgery, and Minaya couldn’t force him to be ready for the season? The Mets are a mess right now.
Washington had a “blip” a couple years ago, but they will always come “Back to Life, Back to Reality”. This season will be no different.
Winner: Philadelphia Phillies
Dark Horse: Mets/Braves/Marlins–Whoever sucks the least at the end of the season.
MVP: Roy Halladay and the chance to approach 30 wins. Imagine how easy it will be for him without the Blue Jays uniform.
LVP: Carlos Beltran. He’s over the Mets and it shows.
National League Central
For my money this is the toughest division in baseball–not the tightest. This division is tough because it’s a 5-team battle for 2nd behind the Cards.
Last season the Cards won 91 games because no one challenged them until the Cubs…late. This season the Reds are stocking up and making moves.
With the additions of Aroldis Chapman–the Cuban defector–and Orlando Cabrera the Reds might have found spark they needed.
Cabrera won a World Series with Boston in 2004, and Chapman was a “win” for the Reds over evil empires like the Yanks or the Sox.
Houston and Pittsburgh are organizational nightmares. Drayton McLane needs to deal with Ed Wade. When your GM is allegedly having fights with players, you need to move on.
Pittsburgh turned down an offer to buy the team from Mario Lemieux. In essence they told their fans to kiss it. Selling to Super Mario means you make money and the city is happy.
Why would I expect anything but disastrous seasons from these two teams when their front offices are SO inept.
The Cubs are the Cubs. Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, and Alfonso Soriano have all lost many “steps”, and that makes Carlos Zambrano their 4th best hitter.
The Brewers added Jim Edmonds. He MIGHT be able to guide Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun into “winning form”, but I’m not holding my breath. However, if he succeeds then the Brewers could be dangerous.
Winner: St. Louis Cardinals
Dark Horse: Cincinnati. I trust their pick-ups more than that of the Brewers.
MVP: Albert Pujols. This is the part where I say, “DUH”.
LVP: Roy Oswalt. I know this hurts, but when you start 30 games and go 8-6 it just isn’t “your time” anymore.
National League West
This division produced the Wild Card last season, but that was due to a late-Rockies-rally. At some point everybody was in the race, but the Dodgers eventually pulled away.
L.A. doesn’t have anything that looks much better than anybody else, but they do have Manny. Is he worth $24 million? If it wins them a division I guess so.
I could say that the Rockies will return to their late-2009 form, but they only made a push because Jim Tracy was new. The Rockies function like a hockey team–hiring and firing like maniacs–so they’ll never be consistent from year-to-year.
The Giants can hang their hats on Tim Lincecum for 20 wins, but as I look over their roster only three names jump out at me: Juan Uribe, Aaron Rowand, and Mark DeRosa.
Juan Uribe’s getting old. Aaron Rowand is older. I like Mark DeRosa, but he’s even older than the other two.
The Padres will TRY to lean on Jon Garland and it won’t work. I suppose they can pray that Tony Gwynn 2.0 turns out to be a younger version of 1.0. I also suppose they could wait for hell to freeze over.
The D-Backs have a little youth in Justin Upton and Chris Young. They also have Brandon Webb coming back which makes a great “change of pace” from all the re-treads in this division. If they repeat last year’s form then this is your Wild Card team in the NL.
Winner: Manny. I mean, the Dodgers.
Dark Horse: Arizona Diamondbacks
MVP: Brandon Webb–if I’m right about the D-Backs.
LVP: Jon Garland. The Padres will try to ride him to glory and end up falling off the horse.
If you take my word for it then we have the Cards, Phillies, Dodgers and D-Backs in the playoffs. Would you pick against the Phillies in that situation?
I could see how the Cards MIGHT get hot late and give the Phillies a struggle in the NLCS. Let’s say the ball bounces the right way and Albert Pujols hits a few bombs. Perhaps the Cardinals will be in the World Series?
I can see that.
NL MVP: Albert Pujols. Again I say, “DUH”.
NL Cy Young: Tim Lincecum. Again, “DUH”.
Batting Title: I’ll be very interested to see if someone from the Phillies will hit for average. I’ll take Chase Utley.
Let’s face it. All of this can turn on a dime. However, with such a long season ahead we have to assume that favorites will prevail in the end.
Then again, that’s why they play the games.