Sweet Nasty MLB Preview: N.L. East
The Sweetest Nastiest MLB Preview
1) Philadelphia Phillies – When you finish on top, keep almost your entire team together (while no one in your division gets significantly better), and play in one of the homer-friendliest ball parks in the majors, you’ve earned the right to stay on top.
THE SWEET: A young team that knows they know how to win. It ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up. And the Phillies have talked the talk and walked right behind it. Jimmy Rollins. Ryan Howard. Chase Utley. Cole Hammels. Those could be your first 4 picks in Fantasy and you’d have one hell of a good start. And those guys ACTUALLY play together. Add another year of confidence under Shane Victorino’s and Brad Lidge’s belts and throw in a professional hitter like Raul Ibanez and this team has the makings of a repeat.
THE NASTY: Complacency and starting pitching depth. Young guys who have won tend to get comfortable. We’ll see if that happens to this team. Almost everyone is back, but does that mean more reminiscing of 2008 and less concentration on 2009? Moyer is another year older, while Joe Blanton is an innings eater, at best. So if Hammels is out for any length of time, that weakness will be exposed.
PREDICTION: The two biggest losses were Pat Burrell (who the Phillies have been trying to get rid of for 3 years) and JC Romero’s 50-game suspension. But the biggest gains by teams in the division were K-Rod and Derek Lowe. Neither is enough to knock this team off the top spot.
2) Atlanta Braves – A lot of people picked the Braves to make some noise last year. A lot of people paid $12 a piece to see Paul Blart: Mall Cop. I did neither. But after addressing several of their most glaring needs and another year of maturity, I think the Braves are ready to make a move.
THE SWEET: Pitching. Trading for a “plenty-of-tread-left-on-the-tires” Javier Vazquez and picking up Japanese starter Kenshin Kawakami really a bolster a staff that was badly in need of new blood. Jair Jurrjens was getting lonely as the only real, dependable starter last season after Tim Hudson went down. And if Tom Glavine can give them anything in the 5th spot, along with teaching the kids something, the Braves staff could be tough to face in any series.
THE NASTY: Pitching. Signing a “Hot-Dog-down-a-hallway” Derek Lowe for 4 years/$60M to be your ace was as desperate for a attention as Lindsey Lohan blaming bloggers for her demise as an actress. (But see Labor Pains, coming soon! To ABC Family! Your movies don’t even go straight to video, LiLo! But, sure, that’s my fault. Just do Playboy and get it over with. I’m in parentheses again, aren’t I? Ok. Back to the preview.) Derek Lowe would have been a great pick up for the Phillies. The Mets. The Rockies. Hell, the Dodgers should have kept him. He keeps the ball on the ground and in the ball park and gives you 6 innings every time. But he’s 35 and doesn’t strike anyone out. He’s a great number 3. Maybe number 2. But number 1? For $60 million? Matching up with the Cole Hammelses, Johan Santanas, or Tim Lincecums? Good luck.
PREDICTION: I didn’t even get into the health factor for this team, and with Chipper Jones and Garrett Anderson on the left side, it’s a factor. The Braves could be Paul Blart: Mall Cop, a blockbuster that you don’t really see coming or think could ever, EVER happen. Or they could be Labor Pains, a straight-to-basic cable stink bomb which forces its star to turn to porn. (That metaphor may have gotten away from me. Maybe…)
3) New York Mets – The Mets are here for 3 reasons. 1) Johan Santana hasn’t had elbow surgery. Yet. 2) “Citi” Field is apparently a launching pad. 3) Another year, another choke to try and shake off.
THE SWEET: New Ballpark smell. “Citi” Field could be one of baseball’s exciting alternatives to steroids, by all accounts. No one will know until they play some games there. Shea was known as a pitcher’s park, but if it’s closer to the band box that is Citizens Bank Park in Philly, look for that line up of All-Stars to take advantage.
THE NASTY: Starting Pitching. If only the rest of the rotation was as smooth as Santana at the top. (Huh? Get it? Smooth? By Carlos Santana? No? Hmm, I’ll try and do better.) GM Omar Minaya looked into rotation changes, but instead gambled on the possibility of more good Oliver Perez performances than bad. (Shhhh. You can hear Omar calling for a 7 as he rolls the dice. C’mon 7!) Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, and Livan Hernandez’s fat costume round out the rest of the staff. Yes, the bullpen is better, but Mets fans better hope that Johan’s elbow is healthy, otherwise their stock will be lower than Citibank’s.
PREDICTION: This team may need to be blown up. David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Santana are some of the best players in the game today, but are the failures of the past 2 seasons too much for them to bear? And if Johan misses significant time, this team will drop faster than a training bra at a Jonas Brothers concert. (And yes, I did see that South Park…One of their best.)
4) Florida Marlins – If only this team had some money or fans to watch them. Then maybe they wouldn’t give away half their good players every year. 2 steps forward, 1 back. They were surprisingly competitive last year and decided to build on that by…trading 2/5ths of their starting rotation, their closer, and their starting 1B and LF. Yeah. Championship contenders do that.
THE SWEET: Hanley Ramirez. An MVP waiting to happen. He’s the top player in fantasy and one of the most exciting players in the game. And the Marlins considered trading him in the off-season! Even after signing him to the richest deal in club history last May, 6 years/$70 million. The team got their stadium deal, finally. Now let’s see if the stadium can get a team around Ramirez.
THE NASTY: The Reset Button. Closer Kevin Gregg? Thanks for the 30 saves. Enjoy the snow in Chicago. 1B Mike Jacobs? Thanks for the 30 homers. Enjoy the ribs in KC. Scott Olsen and Josh Willingham? Yes you can! Off you go to DC. No wonder fans don’t come to the ballpark. They don’t know anyone who’s on the team! It’s not college. You shouldn’t have to learn a whole new roster every year, with a couple of underclassmen who stick around. Maybe they should take the names off the jerseys and fans can pretend Darren Daulton and Al Leiter are still there.
PREDICTION: If you got runs for promising futures, the Marlins would lead the league. Cameron Maybin will be great. Ricky Nolasco is a solid major league starter. Dan Uggla is a top 5, gritty 2B. But in the present, the Marlins will be the toughest 4th place team to play in the league.
5) Washington Nationals – The Nationals should have one goal in mind. Don’t finish in last place. It’s good to have goals. There is no way on God’s green Earth that they can achieve it, but you should always have a goal in mind. Losing your GM in Spring Training? Not a good start.
THE SWEET: Um…Hope has come to Washington DC? Looking at that roster, that’s about all I can muster. Let me try again. (Pause.) Adam Dunn and a healthy Nick Johnson join Ryan Zimmerman as a decent 3-4-5 combo in the line up. There you go, Nationals fan.
THE NASTY: Every spot in the line up and the entire pitching staff. To not finish last, the Nats need all of these things happen: Cristian Guzman repeats his success of last season, Lastings Millage finally gets it, Scott Olsen doesn’t punch anyone, Elijah Dukes finally gets it AND doesn’t punch anyone, Nick Johnson stays healthy (why are you laughing?), Daniel Cabrera pitches like Nuke LaLouche AFTER a season of sex with Susan Sarandon, Austin Kerns lives up to the potential he had 7 years ago, best buddy Adam Dunn hits 50 points higher than his career avg of .247 and cuts his K’s in half, and staff “ace” John Lannan builds on his 11 career wins in 37 career starts and wins 20 games. (And yes, I did have to look up his first name after seeing that J. Lannan was the opening day starter for Washington.) But if that happens, watch out!
PREDICTION: The Mets can breathe a sigh of relief. Even if Johan Santana is out for the year, they can’t finish last in their division. That space has been rented for 2009 by the Washington Nationals.