Saturday, March 22, 2014

Signor Baseball's 2014 NL Preview

Well, it's that time of year again. Mr. Franklin tears himself away from wondering what happened to that airliner (has anybody checked gate 69 at Newark International?), and temporarily crawls out of the ice bath in which he braces himself for another delightful Phoenix Summer. The Crimea Crisis gets shoved to the back burner, all political shenanigans are swept aside for the moment, and he turns his attention to what truly matters: Signor Baseball's 2014 National League preview...

In the East, last year was supposed to be Washington's year. Didn't happen. Atlanta ran away from them. This year, three quarters of the Braves rotation imploded the first week of Spring training. So, hey, better late than never, let's go Nationals! Let's see if Matt Williams is a better manager than he was a third base coach. The Braves have plenty of bats, but their pitching is suddenly a hospital ward. The Phillies are just old, old, old. And some of them are getting grouchy, too. Some old guys are like that. The Mets are still not very good. Money can buy you everything but happiness--and a good team. With the Yankees in a weakened condition this may be a depressing season all around for New Yorkers. And 90 miles north of Cuba, the Marlins are...what exactly? They come up with a bunch of young talent year after year, have won as many World Series as the Yankees in the last eleven seasons, and still nobody comes to see them play. Plus their owner is a complete jerk. Hey, maybe that has something to do with it! Still, they have some bats and a little pitching (at least until their young players are eligible for free agency), so who knows? Washington hasn't won anything yet, the Braves and Phillies do have a couple of arms and a couple of bats, and this may be a year where almost every team in the East plays right around .500 and whoever gets hot in September wins the division.

The Central division, as usual, should be a dog fight until the end.  Reds, Cards, Pirates. Take your pick. At least one of the Wild Cards will come from the runners up. The Reds looked like they had a slight edge before their 100 mph closer took one in the eye a couple of days ago. Ouch. And the Pirates probably won't repeat last year's success. Their pitching just isn't that good. I get tired of picking St. Louis every year, but they put a good solid team on the field every year, and that's all that it takes in this division. So far, in the Windy City, City of the Big Shoulders, Hog Butcher to the World, Blahblahblah, Theo Epstein hasn't been able to work any wonders with the Cubs. They'll battle it out with Milwaukee for last place. Again. The good folks of Chicago certainly deserve better, but as Clint Eastwood once said, "deserves got nothing to do with it." I guess some curses are harder to break than others. And regarding the Brewers, well, any state that elects Scott Walker gets a truly sucky team. That's just Karma, I think.

And finally, out West, apparently Arizona has become a place that good young arms come to die. And with them, the Diamondbacks' hopes of catching the Dodgers. Now, repeat after me, "you can never have enough pitching."  Unfortunately, in an attempt to fill some other holes, the team traded a whole bunch of pitching that would sure come in handy about now. On offense, this Trumbo guy that Arizona brought in to protect Goldschmidt will hit 35-40 homers and strike out a lot. Mark Reynolds comes to mind.The rest of the lineup will scrape away trying to find enough runs to compete. All for naught, because the Dodgers are plain loaded from top to bottom. Case in point: their #5 starter was the D-Backs #1 a couple of years ago. The Giants, though they don't have many bats besides Posey's, should be better than last year--at least good enough to compete for a Wild Card slot. Indeed, San Francisco has won a couple of World Series with essentially the same level of talent. The D-Backs will have to hope that some sort of rotator cuff plague hits LA and San Francisco if they want to have a chance at winning this division. Do not fret, Rockies' and Padres' fans. Colorado and San Diego are still very nice places to spend the summer. And you can get legal weed in Denver! So they got that going for them.

So, light 'em up, and play ball!

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