Atlanta Braves – The Braves come out on top of the best divisional race in baseball. Freeman, Heyward, Uggla, and McCann is a solid middle of the order, Bourn/Prado are top-notch table-setters, they have the best closer in the game, and a plethora of young arms in the rotation. Plus, they have the feel good Farewell-to-Chipper tour for karma purposes. TOMAHAWK CHOP!
Philadelphia Phillies – What a boring pick this is. I so badly want to put them down as finishing fourth in this division, but I keep staring at that Halladay, Lee, Hamels trio and putting them back in the top two.
Washington Nationals – Can the young guns learn how to win games when it matters most after years and years of losing? Does anyone realize their CF is an Ankiel/Bernadina combo? Will the Desmond/Espinosa combo get on base enough? Questions upon questions with this club. I did read a great article this spring about how Davey Johnson’s teams have always made great strides in his second season, followed shortly thereafter by clashing with this owners and getting run out of town, but still.
Miami Marlins – This team could win the division. They have the talent to go to the World Series. They also have the volatility to land here in fourth place. Reyes is brittle, Hanley is bitter about moving to 3B, Zambrano is insane, and Ozzie Guillen might be insane or might be a genius.
New York Mets – I don’t see them as the worst team in baseball (the Astros, Cubs, and Orioles are offended at the notion), but they have no chance in what is suddenly the second-best division in baseball.
1. St. Louis Cardinals – Subtract Pujols and add Wainwright and what do you get? Another trip to the playoffs, that’s what. Look, I don’t like it much either, but you can never bet against La Russa and Duncan, those guys get it done every year...reading…wait, what? Mike Matheny? Derek Lilliquist? What the hell? Oh well, every team in this crappy division has holes.
2. Cincinnati Reds – Every article I’ve read has them as the division winner by default, and that makes me nervous. I’m not sure that Mat Latos doesn’t spend his offseason smoking doobies and riding surfboards. Votto now has to live up to the 4th largest contract in baseball history. Rolen should join Chipper in a farewell tour. To top it off, with the Madson injury, Dusty Baker has to juggle a closer-by-committee bullpen. No thanks.
3. Milwaukee Brewers – First off, has anyone ever spelled “Milwaukee” correctly on the first try? I went there two summers ago and teach writing for a living, and I still can’t do it. Secondly, I wish I could get behind the Brew again this year just so we can re-run the “Fear the Beer” campaign. Gold. As for the baseball team, the Brewers have two aces in YoGa and Greinke, but their lineup beyond Weeks and Braun is kind of stanky. Zing!
4. Pittsburgh Pirates – The Bucs run back their 2011 season again – in contention in July, flirting with .500, but ultimately finish in fourth place with 70-75 wins to secure a 20th straight losing season. Read that last sentence again and you might start to feel better about being a Red Sox fan with our two-year playoff drought. Plus, there are too many guys named Clint playing key roles here (Barmes, Hurdle, and Oris….okay I made that last one up…get it?)
5. Chicago Cubs – When the first names anyone mentions when talking about your team are the GM, assistant GM, and new manager, well that probably tells you something. As in, there are no players (ok Starlin Castro, I hear you, you’re good. Settle down.) worth talking about here. Bleh.
6. Houston Astros – Who are these f***ing guys? Seriously, they have guys named Altuve, Bogusevic, Parades, and Schafer slated into their starting lineup. Are they trying to get thrown out of the National League?
1. Colorado Rockies – It seems like every year a team finished to pick fourth or fifth in this division sneaks up and wins the sucker. They have a nice mix of young talent (Tulo, CarGo, Fowler, Chacin, Nicasio) and veterans (Helton, Cuddyer, Moyer, Hernandez), they have all-stars, they have young arms-in-waiting, they have high altitude, they have most everything a prognosticator could ask for.
2. San Francisco Giants – I would definitely take their top three pitchers over the Phillies at this point if I was building a team. Bumgarner may be the best of the bunch this year (and Art agrees apparently). But there is entirely too much pressure on Melky, Fat Panda, and Buster Hymen (oops, I meant ankle) to produce runs. Pitching keeps them in it till the end (more on this below).
3. Arizona Diamondbacks – I love Justin Upton. I love their young nucleus of starting pitchers (Hudson, Kennedy, and Bauer). I love Kirk Gibson as a manager. I don’t love the fact that they overachieved last year and the NL West is sneaky-good this year.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers – I flirted with putting them in the playoffs. Seriously. They have the best pitcher and best player in the division, maybe in the entire NL. They have a very good 8/9 inning combo with Kenley Jansen and Javy Guerra. But ultimately they have too many light hitters and free agent imports named Juan.
5. San Diego Padres – I think the Padres could be the best last-place team in the majors…so, they have that going for them.
NL MVP – Troy Tulowitski
NL Cy Young – Yovani Gallardo
NL Rookie of the Year – Devin Mesoraco
NL Manager of the Year – Davey Johnson
The regular season ends with the Giants and Nationals tied for the second wild card, so there is a one game playoff to determine who plays in the wildcard one game playoff (I’m not even sure if this is possible, but whatever)
Giants over Nationals in play-in game
Giants over Phillies in wildcard round
Rockies over Giants in 7
Braves over Cardinals in 6
Braves over Rockies in 6
World SeriesRed Sox over Braves in 6 – Sox finally get to celebrate on their home field and defeat the former Boston franchise in the process. Headline reads: “Sox Stop the Chop”