The top of the NL East standings in 2008 ended up a lot like the top of the NL East standings in 2007. The Phils won. The Mets did that thing they do where they look like they're gonna make the playoffs, then don't. The Nationals lost over 100 games, a feat that hadn't been accomplished in the division since the 1998 Marlins. The Braves continued their slide further away from their decade of dominance.
The Philadelphia/New York rivalry has become one of the most heated in baseball, and vaulted over Chicago/St. Louis in terms of coverage. So what does 2009 hold for this motley crew of Easterners? Dig it.
5. Washington Nationals
- Adam Dunn makes the heart of the lineup respectable. A Zimmerman/Dunn/Willingham troika should net you about 80 HRs if everyone stays healthy.
- New closer Joel Hanrahan has some stuff. In fact he made the US WBC team! After like 5 guys got hurt. And he walks too many guys. But still he should be able to handle closing games for this team. It's not like he's gonna be overworked.
- John Lannan isn't a bad pitcher, but I also wouldn't call him an ace. Unfortunately for the Nats that's what he has to be. #2 starter Scott Olsen has seen his K totals drop every year since an impressive rookie campaign, and the pitching starved Orioles just straight up gave up on Daniel Cabrera. In any case, expect this motley crew to stay fluid.
- The Josh Willingham pickup was not nearly dramatic enough to pull last year's historically shite OF up to par. That is, unless you believe this is the year that Lastings Milledge breaks out. I definitely do not believe that. And as if the comedic value of Milledge/Pena/and Dukes wasn't enough.... they added Corey!
Recently Rob and I were talking about the offseason moves that Washington made, and there were a bunch, and he said they were "constructing a team the way that a 12 year old constructs her Myspace." I'm not quite sure what that means, but it made me laugh. It was a turbulent winter for this team, but hey, I don't think they'll lose 100 games again.
Prediction: 66-96 record; Wily Mo Pena makes a BLT with Beggin Strips and enjoys it; Manny Acta realizes no one can blame him for losing with this team again so he starts skipping games to go to the beach.
4. Atlanta Braves
- Brian McCann is the best hitting catcher in baseball and is only 24.He says that he can eat 3 funnel cakes in one sitting. That's consistency and wow potential.
- Yunel Escobar is getting better and better defensively at short and knows how to get on base.
- CHIPPER JONES CAN STILL HIT AND IF THAT AINT THE TRUTH THEN I'M NOT WEARING A CATSHIRT. Did I do that right?
- Javy Vasquez, Jair Jurrjens and Kenshin Kawakami have that famous upside in the rotation. Especially the 23 year old Jurrjens. If they capitalize on all of it, this 4th place prediction will be one spot too low.
- The lineup is mostly devoid of power other than Jones and McCann and the mild muscles of 2B Kelly Johnson. Casey Kotchman's 93 OPS+ isn't going to make anyone forget Mark Texeira and the addition of consummate pro Garrett Anderson is great for the clubhouse but won't put many balls in the seats.
- Tom Glavine is penciled in for the rotation's fifth spot, but this could come with a silver lining. If he doesn't do well, it could be an opportunity for fan favorite phenom Tommy Hanson.
Atlanta's big offseason move was signing Derek Lowe. I find him a totally underhwhelming #1 starter. He's also a dick. This is Bobby Cox's last year right? Who knows. Even as I type this I feel like I'm probably expecting less of the Braves than they'll actually produce but, the offense isn't any different from last year, and they just don't excite me. So be it.
Prediction:76-86 record; When it is revealed Peter Moylan fathered those octuplets he responds "shit happens"; Tim Hudson suffers setback in his return to the mound after falling in a manhole. He doesn't get hurt, he just refuses to come back up.
3. Florida Marlins
- The Fish may not have won this division in a long time but they're once again the "Exciting Young Team To Watch" for like the 34th straight season. OF Cameron Maybin, 1B Gaby Sanchez, SP Ricky Nolasco, SP Andrew Miller and RP Matt Lindstrom are the youngest excitinginest ones.
- Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla are very good at hitting the baseball. Sassy Senior Jorge Cantu also returns from the record home run hitting infield from last year. Only Mike Jacobs went bye bye. He got traded the Royals for Leo Nunez meaning the Marlins didn't wanna pay him or thought last year was an abberation. I mean, Leo Nunez.
- Anibal Sanchez is looking to pitch a full season for the first time in his career. If his arm stays attached to his body to accomplish that, he could put up some great numbers.
They have Arepas at the stadium.
- If, if, if, if. Young, young, young, young.
The Marlins are still cycling in Muppet Babies for every semi successful player that turns 27. But they're talented Muppet Babies. There just isn't enough continuity or sure things to pick them to finish with the stacked Mets and Phils.
Prediction: 79-83 record; Fredi Gonzalez fired midseason, replaced by Dan Reeves; Jeffrey Loria gets the State Of Florida to bulldoze a homeless shelter and build him a squash court; Two words: mango delay.
2. New York Mets
- The first half of the order is as good as any in baseball, including the crosstown Yanks. Jose Reyes is my favorite SS in baseball and his OBP has gone up every year since he's been a regular. Wright, Beltran and the Delgado from last year's second half will put up a ton of runs behind him.
- That Johan Santana kid could be good.
- Omar Minaya addressed the most glaring problem, the bullpen, with two high profile additions in K-Rod and JJ Putz. In fact, almost the entire bullpen crew is different. Whether or not they're the right guys and whether or not they overpaid are real issues, but this goes under the good column because 1. They get credit for working on their biggest flaw and B. They can't be much worse than last year.
- Tranny manager, Jerry Manuel gets a full season to manage. It's not that he's that great (even though he "draws leadership inspiration from the writings of Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Leo Tolstoy") but shaking off the managerial drama of the past couple years can't hurt.
- The team is high on 22 y/o LF, Daniel Murphy, even though he recently said that the Mets clubhouse smells like winning. I've been in there. Winning must smell like taint and grilled chicken.
- John Maine is freakin' out man. He's getting frustrated at his inability to return to his old form, which is bad news because he's old form was just okay. Add in the rollercoaster pitching of Oliver Perez and a fifth spot that's going to be filled by either Freddy Garcia or Livan Hernandez and you have what is decidedly shaky post-ace rotation.
This Mets team is good, and I think they'll grab the Wild Card this year. However the expensive putty job on the bullpen isn't enough to make me pick them over the WF Champs. I'll let them prove me wrong. Also, I'm not gonna make fun of Mets fans anymore. This year I'm after Cardinals fans. Self-important Snuggie wearers.
Prediction: 90-72 record; Ryan Church gets another concussion trying to figure out how the Nintendo light gun knows where you're pointing; After a two year legal battle Mike Pelfrey's cousin Dale is allowed to defecate on Mike's lawn without repercussion.
1. Philadelphia Phillies
- World Champs bring back almost entire lineup, with the exception of Pat Burrell. Burrell was replaced by Raul Ibanez, who's OPS was just a shade lower than Burrell's last year.
- Closer Brad Lidge was perfect last year, becoming MLB's Lazarus Of The Year. Only downside here is he can't really get better than he was.
- Charlie Manuel went from one step from the breadline to one of baseball's most liked managers. Folksiness, a pot belly and a WS ring will do this for you. Also, managers don't really matter all that much.
- The biggest weak spot in the lineup is backstop. Chris Coste and Carlos Ruiz aren't going to get IBB'd a whole lot.
- Team will have a close eye on Cole Hamels' arm and Chase Utley's hip all season.
Prediction: 92-70 record; Jayson Werth gets a pony, Brett Myers punches it in the face; Jayson Werth releases his own line of salad dressings called "Jayson's Garden Fresh Dressing It's Not Just For Ballplayers It's For Anyone That Likes A Delicious Salad, Even You" and label printing costs sink the endeavor immediately.