Quick question before I begin:
Why are there six teams in the NL Central and only four in the AL West? Can’t we move Houston to the AL West and even things out? Why can't the Brewers go back to the American League? Do I have to do everything?
Running this division down is always the most time consuming because there are so many teams. Besides, how is it fair that the Pirates get to beat up on the Cubs, Phillies and Mets every year?
2008 Status: 97-64; first place; lost to Dodgers in NLDS
Key Offseason Moves: Resigning Ryan Dempster to 4 years; signing Milton Bradley to 3, Aaron Miles to 2, Joey Gathright to 1, Ronny Cedeno to 1 then him trading to Seattle for Aaron Heilman in a classic ‘Sucker!’ move; signed off on Rich Harden for another year; let Kerry Wood go.
What’s It All Mean: After being the team to beat nearly wire to wire last year the Cubs ran across the Dodgers and Manny buzzsaw in the playoffs. But was that series an indication of bigger problems? The offense nearly disappeared against mediocre pitching and most of the players looked out of their element. Is this a lineup that is not built for the post season?
Wild Card: Carlos Marmol, the closer taking over for Wood. If he’s dependable and efficient expect the Cubs to have another good year. If not, they’ll be trading pieces to plug the hole.
Bottom Line: Still the most loaded team in the National League. Whether this translates to a trip to the Series or another first round exit remains to be seen.
2008 Status: 74-88; fifth place
Key Offseason Moves: Traded for Micah Owings, catcher Ramon Hernandez, and the almighty dollar; if signing Willy Taveraz, Jacque Jones and Arthur Rhodes can be considered moves then we should put those on the list, too.
What’s It All Mean: That the Reds and Pirates will be duking it out for worst team in the National League again. On the bright side they get to play each other quite a few times. Bright for their fans, not for the population in general who enjoy well played baseball games.
Wild Card: The apocalypse? MLB suddenly folding due to financial ruin? Some unforeseen event that cancels the entire season for the Reds. I really got nothing here.
Bottom Line: It’s bad enough that this team will be dreadful again, but it doesn’t even look like it will be an entertaining type of dreadful. The only thing worse than being bad is being boring. The Reds look like they’ll be both this season.
2008 Status: 86-75; a surprising 3rd place.
Key Offseason Moves: Signing Mike Hampton to minor league deal; signing Aaron Boone and Jason Michaels to one year deals; signing Jose Valverde to one year; acquired a bunch of flotsam and jetsam from other team’s cast offs.
What’s It All Mean: As long as Berkman, Tejeda, Lee, and Pence maintain their production this will be a fun team to watch. Whether any pitcher besides Oswalt can keep the Astros in games is the big question mark. Signing Hampton is a desperation move.
Wild Card: Wally Rodriquez, currently projected as the number two starter. Has been lights out at home the last two seasons but awful on the road. Can he pull it together for a complete season? That he’s 30 probably means no.
Bottom Line: Offensively, this team will be exciting to watch (especially at home), but doesn’t look like the pitching is there for them to make an extended run. Admittedly, they’ve signed a bunch of pitchers to minor league deals. Maybe one of them can show something?
2008 Status: 90-72; second place, lost to Phillies in NLDS
Key Offseason Moves: The biggest were who they lost. Namely CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets; their 1-2 for the second half of last year. Picked up Mike Cameron’s option for 2009; signed the following to one year deals: Todd Coffey, Mike Lamb, Jorge Julio, JJ Hardy, Trevor Hoffman, Craig Counsell, Dave Bush, Cory Hart. Traded Prince Fielder to Boston Red Sox for bunch of prospects that will never amount to anything. This last one has yet to happen, but I can dream.
What’s It All Mean: With Fielder, Hardy, Braun, and Cameron the lineup will pack a punch. However, who is going to start for this team? Yovani Gallardo could be their number one and he’s just 23 years old and an unknown. Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan will be their typical mediocre selves, so they better score a lot of runs.
Wild Card: Whoever their best pitching prospect is in AAA. Chances are we’ll find out what he’s made of by July.
Bottom Line: Don’t expect the playoffs again this year, Milwaukee.
2008 Status: 65-95; last place; angry fan base staging a walk out
Key Offseason Moves: Believe it or not the Pirates made three (3) moves this offseason. Total. Signed Eric Hinske to one year; Paul Maholm to three years; Adam LeRoche to one year.
What’s It All Mean: Well, let’s see. This team lost 95 games last season and did next to nothing to improve or even give the illusion of making it seem like they kinda sorta wanted to improve. Barry Bonds is spinning in his grave right now.
Wild Card: That the Reds are worse.
Bottom Line: Next time you step in dog shit and are trying to get it off by scraping it against a curb think of the Pirate fans. They’re the equivalent of the curb. The dog shit is the team and the shoe is the Pirate ownership.
ST LOUIS CARDINALS
2008 Status: 86-76; fourth place; entire summer without another LaRussa DUI which was disappointing.
Key Offseason Moves: Signed Kyle Lohse to 4 years; traded for Khalil Greene because his hair is funny; released Adam Kennedy (hair not funny enough); signed Royce Ring, Todd Wellemeyer, and Chris Duncan.
What’s It All Mean: They still have Pujols, so they’ll be fun to watch at least once every 3 innings. LaRussa, as much as I enjoy making fun of him, did his best managing last season. If Greene can fit in and provide some spark, St Louis might be onto something.
Wild Card: Rick Ankiel. Can he keep up the stats and be all that he can be without the HGH prescriptions?
Bottom Line: Never count them out. Decent enough rotation and they have improved a bit from last season. Expect them to be a factor.
Today’s distraction: Some musical statistics for your consideration. Just remember that Rick Astley would never give you up nor let you down. He’s a good guy like that.