East Coast Bias: MLB 2007 Preview Part 5

NL Central – The pitiful division

Six major league teams and only two of them cleared .500 while getting pounded by the AL Central last year. Of course, the worst division in baseball somehow redeemed itself by winning the World Series.

Got to love baseball.

St Louis Cardinals

What’s To Like: Nothing. I hate them. Yadier Molina should have his girl eyebrows shaved off after being punched in the berries.

What’s Not To Like: Yadier Molina and Albert “I should have been the MVP even though I came from a team who wouldn’t have made the playoffs if I was in any other division” Pujols. I mean, come on, could the guy have been any more of a dick?

The Verdict: Cardinal faithful have been very annoyed in the off-season because their club didn’t get any respect for being the champions. My response to that has been: in your heart of hearts, you didn’t really think they were going to win the NLCS or the World Series either. I’d like to say that the Cards suffer a huge hangover after finally getting their ring, but they’ve been the NL representative to the World Series in two of the last three seasons and their division is so pitiful, there’s no reason they can’t do it again.

Eff the Cardinals.

Houston Astros

What’s To Like: Roy Oswalt and they finally got a big bat stuck in their lineup to maybe knock some runs in so guys pitching to a 1.02 ERA can get a win.

What’s Not To Like: They have one pitcher. One. This includes their bullpen. I’ll now watch them this season and join the ranks of people who hate Peter Angelos.

The Verdict: Really, really rough season for the Astros. They’ll be out of contention by July when Clemens starts sniffing around, leading to his finally rejoining the Yankees for their stretch run.

Cincinnati Reds

What’s To Like: I’m pretty sure the Reds are going to be the worst team in the National League this year, so, other than listing Aaron Harang as a fantastic, under-the-radar fantasy pick-up (6 Complete Games with 2 shut-outs last season), there isn’t a whole lot to look forward to on the Reds.

What’s Not To Like: See above.

The Verdict: Mortal Lock alert! Cincinnati Reds; Under 76.5.

Milwaukee Brewers

What’s To Like: I’ve always dug the Brewers. They play in Miller Park, they’re called the Brewers, they’ve got a right field named after the Sunglasses at Night guy, and they feature a nightly race featuring meat. Seriously, what’s not to like? As for their actual players: their rotation goes from mediocre to pretty good depending on whether Ben Sheets feels like playing.

What’s Not To Like: They don’t score runs, which tends to be a big problem. Had Derrick Turnbow not broken last year, they’d have a pretty decent bullpen. Alas, he joined the Brad Lidge club of one-hit wonders.

The Verdict: If they could fill in their lineup with a couple of really big bats, they could probably take the pitiful Central. Alas, they don’t have the hitting to clear 80 wins.

Pittsburgh Pirates

What’s To Like: For the first time in a while, the Bucs seem to be putting together a working little group of young talent. They have a couple of supposedly-very-good young pitchers and Jason Bay to anchor their line-up. As a bonus, they’re not the worst team in the National League this year.

What’s Not To Like: Even if it’s good young talent, it’s still young talent. I half expected this team to pick up the Marlin’s Manager after he was unceremoniously fired after leading a $15 million payroll into playoff contention through August.

The Verdict: Since Cincy’s going to be the worst team in this division, the Pirates are only going to be second-worst. Baby steps.

Chicago Cubs

What’s To Like: Alfonso Soriano’s contract was a nice pickup for the next four or five years… unfortunately the Cubs went with eight. They have one workhorse pitcher who’s good for a definite win every five days (who they also really seem to want to ship off when his free-agent time rolls around). They have a new manager who should be able to get the team up to snuff…. Next year.

What’s Not To Like: The team can’t hold a lead to save its life. Their pitchers are fragile and will be dealing with yet another manager who has very little regard for protecting them. Now that they spent one off-season building up the line-up, one would hope they’ll spend some money to build up the pitching.

The Verdict: Consider this year one of a rebuilding era for the centennial next season. I don’t buy the Cubs yet. Next year, maybe.