Here’s the deal: When I typed up the Buffalo Wins A.L. preview earlier this week, I employed the same set of study skills that helped me wade through Buffalo State College 15 years ago. That is to say, I did no research at all and just pulled stuff out of my backside. In between that and writing this, the much-anticipated (?) N.L. preview, you know what I did? I decided to do some legwork because like you, I had a burning need to know who the 7th guy out of the bullpen will be for the Padres. Two conclusions after skimming through the “experts” magazines –
1) If these guys want me to drop $8 (!) on one of these, could they at least use the current logos for each team??
2) Their predictions for the American League standings…ALMOST IDENTICAL TO THE NONSENSE I WROTE. And it all it costs you for this is some memory…..and self-respect? Anyway, TO THE PREVIEW!
(I had a 3.14 GPA, BTW)
THE NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
1) Washington Nationals – A dream season coming to a sudden, heartbreaking end? Second-guessing and Monday morning quarterbacking about decisions made by management? Nice try, Nats, but if you guys really want to out-Buffalo Buffalo, you’ll need to pull that off 3 or 4 more times. And wouldn’t you know they might just get that chance. Young and really good, poised to rule the N.L. East for a while.
2) Atlanta Braves – Speaking of bad endings to a season. YEESH. Still a nice team, even with Chipper Jones’ retirement. In the mix, but with the Nats in the way it’s looking like another appearance in the wild card play-in game for Atlanta to get to the postseason.
3) Philadelphia Phillies – Wow, it seems like this team got really old really quick. Too much experience and too many good players to be counted out, but their window to get a 2nd World Series championship with this group is definitely closing. Can they stay healthy enough to get another shot?
4) New York Mets – Young, and after picking up a couple of nice pieces from the Blue Jays in the R.A. Dickey trade, some talent for their fans to look forward to. And David Wright is sticking around. And John Santana is still there. But clearly a notch or two below the Nationals, Braves, and Phillies.
5) Miami Marlins – We can crap on folks in Miami being lousy sports fans for plenty of reasons. None of those should be about NOT supporting the Marlins. We should just consider this the interval until the next fire sale commences.
THE NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
1) St. Louis Cardinals – The NBA has the Spurs. The NFL has the Steelers. And MLB has the Cardinals. A mid-to-small market franchise that just wins. Think about what you were doing in 1990. That’s the last time the Cardinals lost at least 90 games in a season, and the only time they’ve done it since 1978! Ridiculous. Last year, they lost Albert Pujols AND Tony LaRussa. Whatever, they got to within 1 win of returning to the World Series. Pick against them at your own peril.
2) Cincinnati Reds – This is a fun team to watch. And thanks to the crazy TV and internet cash that has made all Major League clubs flush, not just the big markets, the Reds have been able to keep guys like Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto instead of losing them to free agency. That said, losing in the NLDS after being up 2-0 on the Giants is a tough way to go out. Let’s see if they can bounce back, or if there is a hangover early.
3) Pittsburgh Pirates – If for no other reason than to end the damn “It’s been 20 years since the Pirates had a winning record” narrative. The “There’s been 42345 x 106 coaching changes since Lindy Ruff was hired” storyline thinks this has been played out. Just avoid the late summer swoon that’s hit them the last 2 years, and the schneid will end this year.
4) Milwaukee Brewers – This division always seems to be a matter of the Cardinals + 1 other team, and then everyone else. For about 4-5 years, that other team was Milwaukee. They didn’t totally collapse with Prince Fielder’s exit to Detroit, but have clearly fallen behind both the Cardinals and the Reds now. Feel free to flip-flop them with the Pirates if you’d like.
5) Chicago Cubs – What is it with the National League and bad teams in big markets? It’s Chicago. They still have just about all their games on a superstation. Financially, this team should have so many advantages over their small market division rivals that having to undertake this kind of rebuild shows how badly the team’s been run. Theo Epstein is only in year 2 at the helm, and he’ll need a couple more before the Cubs will be close.
THE NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
1) Los Angeles Dodgers – Imagine Terry Pegula without a salary cap. That is not just an awesome idea to Sabres’ fans, but what Dodgers’ fans have in the ownership group that assumed control in L.A. last year. Between the budget-busting spending going on at Chavez Revine, and the free agent moves going on in Anaheim, Southern California could very well be the epicenter of baseball this summer. And who the hell doesn’t want Vin Scully calling meaningful games in September in his last (?) season behind the mic?
2) San Francisco Giants – No Brian Wilson. Tim Lincecum a shell of his former Cy Young self. No problem. Still a really good club. Just need to be weary of an early-season letdown, but should absolutely be around in October, barring injuries. May need to go the wi,d card route this time around, but after their performance in elimination games last October, do you want to pick against them?
3) Arizona Diamondbacks – An interesting team, just stuck behind the payroll champs and the actual champs. They fell back last year after winning the West in 2011. Maybe still a year or two off.
4) San Diego Padres – Is everyone finished bitching about the size of the park, yet? Sheesh. It’s OK that we have one or two stadiums where it’s kinda hard to hit home runs, right? That said, these guys need to find some bats. I like pitchers’ duels as much as the next guy, but the Padres a just a boring team offensively. Mix that with the arms race between the Angels and Dodgers just a couple of hours north, and the Padres can be easily overlooked, even in their own neighborhood.
5) Colorado Rockies – You ask me “Jason, what about the Rockies?”, and I say “EXACTLY! WHAT ABOUT THE ROCKIES????” Their win total has decreased each of the last 3 years, and with it their hopes for contending. The contending part doesn’t figure to change this summer.
Playoff Teams – Nationals, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants
Pennant – Nationals