National League East
One would think I’d be over it. I’m not. I told that to the random ticket guy from Shea who called me and it scored me some free tickets, so go me. The NL East is probably the strongest division in the National League (and no, that’s not the same as arguing on the Internet).
Let’s finish the preview up with my boys.
What’s To Like: They have the NL MVP and built themselves into Wildcard contention after shoving off locker-room annoyance Bobby Abreu.
What’s Not To Like: Tom Gordon is a great set-up man but he is not a great closer. He had a great season last year due to a distinct lack of Rivera Saves and a multitude of Hoffman Saves (which, by the by, can we split the save statistics into those two categories? It would rectify the whole “Hoffman’s better than Rivera” nonsense).
The Verdict: The Phillies are going to be incredibly dangerous this season because I have no idea what they’re capable of. Dropping Abreu made the team distinctly better and they have an average to good rotation. If you told me they were going to win seventy, I’d buy it. If you told me they were going to win 90, I’d buy that, too.
What’s To Like: It only took 50 blown saves last season for someone to decide to get an actual closer for the Braves. Bob Wickman isn’t an elite closer, but he’ll get the job done. Jeff Francoeur probably learned how to take a pitch by now. Andruw Jones is playing for one of the multitude of center field jobs that are going to be available next year. Tim Hudson can’t possibly be as bad as he was last season and Kyle Davies is back for another round. If the fragile Braves rotation (Davies, Hampton, Hudson, Redman, Smoltz) can stay healthy, it’s one of the best, if not the best, rotation in the East.
What’s Not To Like: Everyone’s fragile. The Braves got destroyed by injuries last season and there’s no reason to think they won’t have the same troubles. They also still don’t really have anyone to get the ball from their starter to Wickman, which is a huge problem.
The Verdict: They are going to fight the Mets all season for the division, probably winning the Wildcard. Their bullpen will probably blow too many games for them to win the division.
What’s To Like: Young talent, and lots of it.
What’s Not To Like: Young talent, and lots of it. Oh, and the message that if you do well, you might still get fired. Way to motivate your boys, Jeff.
The Verdict: So what happens when an entire roster suffers a sophomore hangover? Well, tune in and find out. If I were the type to gamble, I’d say the Marlins’ under would be the safest bet on the board. I’d also say Willis is gone by August since the Marlins will be out of wildcard contention.
What’s To Like: What happens when one of the league’s elite closers is on a team when he gets no save opportunities? We’ll find out this year.
The Verdict: There’s just a whole lot not to like on this team and I’ll just say they’re the worst team in the East and will probably fight the Reds for the worst team in the League. At least if they were still in Montreal, I could make a weekend out of going to games. $20 on the third base line was nothing to sneeze at.
New York Mets
What’s To Like: They have a deep line-up that should be good enough to get them to October. On paper, they’re still the best team in the division. They had a deal done last season to bring Roy Oswalt to town until Baltimore backed out of a three-way deal. If they could jettison Shawn Green, they’d be really good.
What’s Not To Like: The Mets love themselves guys over 40. They replaced fragile Cliff Floyd with fragile hand-pissin Moises Alou. They re-signed 90-year old El Duque. They have another year to deal with worthless Shawn Green while keeping Lastings Milledge in AAA (who, honestly, is just there to hit .400 and re-escalate his trade value). There’s no possible way Jose Valentin and Paul Lo Duca have the same huge year they did last season and their bull-pen doesn’t have nearly the fear factor it did last season.
The Verdict: I will be shocked if the Mets win 97 games again this season, but I don’t think the Braves or the Phillies have improved enough to unseat them. Mets take their second division with about 92 wins.