Siberian Baseball

Monday, March 24, 2008

National League Preview - 2008

After years of sifting though press releases to figure out which were total garbage - and years before that spent transcribing every useless fax to have extra "just in case" copy - I get a cheap thrill by trying to deconstruct news cycles and media blitzes to try and figure out what the angle is.

Case in point is watching commercials for the upcoming season, which are frontloaded with NL talent before getting to the AL East standby reel towards the end. While it's a good idea for the league to hard sell a fighting chance for the kids in the National League, the talent is certainly there.

Where the NL lags is building competitive teams year in and year out. While talent rises to the top, aside from Atlanta's run, no National League team really stands apart as building a team for the long haul. Say what you will about the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels and their spending habits, but their teams are performing most years.

While it's nice that most of the Top 10 Fantasy Players in this year's draft are National League products - I'll refer to the link from the other day - which has its ten best consisting of:

Alex Rodriguez
Hanley Ramírez
David Wright
Miguel Cabrera
José Reyes
Matt Holliday
Chase Utley
Jimmy Rollins
Albert Pujols
Johan Santana

I think it's interesting that the Mets field a trio of Wright, Reyes and Santana and the Phillies have Utley and Rollins (and Ryan Howard) as the National League tries to get a foothold in the dynasty-making business.

While teams like Chicago and New York are proving they're willing to spend for wins and Arizona shocked everyone when their youth movement gained traction last fall, it has to make National League fans feel a little better with multiple paths back to respectability on a national level.

NL East

The Sexy Pick: The Mets have to put things together one of these years and signing Santana to shut down games in the National League can't hurt. While my man crush on Santana is well-documented here (oh, the intangibles this man will bring to Shea!) I truly feel that having that type of impact isn't too much to ask for the premiere pitcher in baseball.

Then again we have the recent history of failure in 2006 and 2007.

The Smart Money Pick: Phillies to repeat, regardless of the Mets and their growing payroll. As someone pointed out on one of my Johan Santana posts, he's just one man on a team and he'll only play every fifth game at best. Brad Lidge is an upgrade on paper, but he's already injured and will miss the season opener.

My Picks:

Philadelphia Phillies (1st 89-73)
New York Mets (2nd 88-74)
Washington Nationals (4th 73-89)
Atlanta Braves (3rd 84-78)
Florida Marlins (5th 71-91)

NL Central

The Sexy Pick: Chicago again this year. Sure, they won the division last year, but were rushed out of the playoffs when the offense fell apart and the Cubs were outclassed from the first pitch.

They've added a Japanese import (Kosuke Fukudome) and have reshuffled the lineup to inject a little youth as they did during last season's push.

The reality is that the bullpen is still a work in progress with Kerry Wood moving in and Ryan Dempster moving out and those questions will need to be answered before the Cubs can be considered a true contender for the Central title, much less as World Series champs.

The Smart Money Pick: Milwaukee nearly took the Central last year and have spent the offseason repositioning their players to put Ryan Braun in left field and Bill Hall at third base. The key pieces from last year return and the bullpen looks good on paper, if not in practice.

There's a serviceable rotation in place that's primed for a mid-season pickup to push them through August and September, but as long as the Brewers' bats don't go into a prolonged slump, the team should have the Central this year with wins to spare.

My Picks:

Milwaukee Brewers (2nd 83-79)
Chicago Cubs (1st 85-77)
Houston Astros (4th 73-89)
Cincinnati Reds (5th 72-90)
St. Louis Cardinals (3rd 78-84)
Pittsburgh Pirates (6th 68-94)

NL West

The Sexy Pick: The Diamondbacks to build on last year's success and repeat as NL West champs with a young, talented team. Add Dan Haren in the offseason to shore up the pitching rotation and Arizona looks loaded for the next few years.

The Smart Money Pick: The Rockies were a bit of a surprise in last year's playoffs, riding a relatively unknown group of players to the World Series. If they can hold off Arizona and to a lesser extent, Los Angeles, there's no good reason that Colorado won't make a return to the playoffs. I'm pretty excited to see what kind of a difference the confidence gained in last year's playoffs makes this year for the Rockies.

For what it's worth, I don't think the Padres are going to be as improved as they're hoping to be in 2008. I guess I have a hard time taking a team seriously when it plans to start Jim Edmonds in center at this point in his career.

My Picks:

Colorado Rockies (2nd 90-72)
Arizona Diamondbacks (1st 90-73)
Los Angeles Dodgers (4th 82-80)
San Diego Padres (3rd 89-74)
San Francisco Giants(5th 71-91)

The Round Up

My best guess for 2008 comes down to the Phillies, Brewers and Rockies with a total shot in the dark for which team will make it in as the Wild Card. I'm going to go with Arizona there, for the simple reason that with the Diamondbacks playing the Dodgers, Padres and Giants all year, they'll be able to fatten up their win totals for October.

(Photo from

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