Saturday, July 14, 2007

MLB Questions: Senior Circuit Edition

And we’re back!!!

While we had a lot of fun dissecting the AL around 24 hours ago (now that's turn around!), there’s no reason the same enthusiasm can’t be found as we now lace up out boots and begin to target the National League [aka the senior circuit].

Maybe that wasn’t the best correlation right there.

Nevertheless, drop your DH-woes and sit back, relax, and ponder – alongside me, of course – the burning hot-stove questions (think ESPN uses that exact vernacular enough?) focusing directly, as well as I can possible hope to at least, on the haves and have nots on the other side of the baseball standings.

National League East
New York Mets
[49-40] lead division by 1.5 games
-Once the hottest team in baseball, the Mets are now searching for answers – as quickly as they can attempt to – as their previous stranglehold over the NL East has all but evaporated away. Front and center of their recent woes is the cold-hard truth that Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, and Paul LoDuca have been more than disappointing this season. The pitching staff, with only John Maine reliable as of late, also needs big-time help. The penultimate question is easy, at least for me: Will Pedro, for better or worse, return this season and bring hope to the Mets nation?

Atlanta Braves [48-42] trail 1.5 for division lead & 2 games behind the wild-card leader
-Yep, they’re back. In fact,
Atlanta stands to benefit the most with the recent woes in Shea and the dogfight that has become the NL West (they all can’t keep winning, can they?). While injuries have hurt a bit, guys like Tim Hudson, Brian McCann, and even Chipper have started to step it up. One letdown this season has yet to come around though. Will Andruw Jones escape his putrid performance thus far this season in time for the Braves to avoid coming up just short in the race for the Playoffs?

Philadelphia Phillies [46-44] trail by 3.5 games for the divison lead & 4 behind the wild-card chase
-I’m sorry, but I don’t buy this team. Not for one second, in fact. They have the wrong player leadership, the wrong front office, and definitely the wrong manager to rally the team into legitimate playoff contention. While they might flirt with a serious run, even until the last few weeks of the season, I gotta ask: At what point do the Phillies completely fall out of the playoff race? Something tells me, it’ll be a couple weeks after loss 10,000.

Florida Marlins [43-48] banished from playoff contention
-There they are…the little team that almost could. Despite an MVP-talent in Miguel Cabrera, this franchise has already twice blown up World Series-potential rosters. The money just isn’t in
South Florida for the Marlins to properly re-sign talent. (Or so that’s what their management always has to say.) Despite plenty of young prodigies already littering the roster, even more may be on the way when one question is finally, perhaps, answered: Is the D-Train moving to a new destination soon?

Washington Nationals [37-53] banished from playoff contention
-Considering how deep and talented the division is (and how untalented the majority of their roster truly is), the Nats could honestly be worse. A lot worse, even. I won’t pick on them though. Instead, I’ll ask: Can Dmitri Young keep up this feel-good story and give Nats fans something positive to cling to?

National League Central
Milwaukee Brewers
[49-40] lead division by 3 games
-What once seemed a runaway choice to secure the division title first, especially with Houston & St. Louis ridiculously underachieving, now has Brewers fans more than a little worried. The Brewers obviously haven’t been in this position, that is in first-place with a youthful, yet talented roster, in at least two decades. Can the Brew Crew right their ship in time to return to the land known as the Playoffs?

Chicago Cubs [46-43] trail division leader by 3 games & 3.5 games behind wild-card leader
-A few hours after Carlos Zambrano knocked Michael Barrett’s lights out, the Cubs seemed mere moments away from internal implosion. Fast forward several weeks and the Cubbies, their fans will now blame ME for saying this, are perhaps the most dangerous team lurking outside of the playoff race. There, I said it. I won’t banish them into further exile with any other comments. Well, except for one question. What excuse, justifiable or not, will Cub fans cling to this season when things ultimately go wrong?

St. Louis Cardinals [40-47] trail division leader by 8 games & wild-card leader by 8.5 games
-I think they’re TKO’d. But as the champs, they get a little more leverage than most would in such a situation. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out their main problem: when does this team, if ever this season, finally get healthy?

Pittsburgh Pirates [40-49] banished from playoff contention
-Even with their historic past, is this team currently thought of as anything except the team a skinnier Barry Bonds once played for?

Houston Astros [39-52] banished from playoff contention
-Not even this Astros team can contend for the playoffs. Honestly, is there a bigger disappointment this season that’s somewhat conveniently been swept under the rug of media attention?

Cincinnati Reds [37-53] banished from playoff contention
-Forget the team and its currently plight, or peril I should say, for a moment. Let’s have some fun instead. How many homers would Griffey have had if he’d stayed healthy? As of right now and for a career. You know you wanna at least venture a guess.

National League West
Los Angeles Dodgers
[51-40] lead division by 0.5 games
-Raise your hand if you thought the Dodgers had the best record in the National League. [Hey, you in the back. Put your hand down, please.] While everything seems to be going well, I still spot this team as an easy-out in the first round. Despite being the only team above the 50-win mark, it’s important to mention, especially within the NL West, their playoff ticket is far from scratched. My real question is: what type of performance, and health, will we see from Brad Penny the second half of this season?

San Diego Padres [49-39] trail division lead by 0.5 games & lead wild-card race by 2 games
-Another poll question. [Get your hands ready again, please.] Who has the least losses in the National League? You guessed the Padres? Seriously. You’d be correct. Now nobody has serious doubts concerning the duo of Peavy/Young right now and the backend of that guy named Hoffman. At least not me. However, is Adrian Gonzalez really the guy to carry this team, with his power, through the murky waters of the NL West playoff chase?

Arizona Diamondbacks [48-43] trail division lead by 3 games & wild-card by 2.5 games
-Sorry to hate, but I’m still bitter over their World Series victory over the Yanks. Name five
Arizona Diamondbacks. Go ahead. I’ll even spot you Randy Johnson. In fact, name two other Diamondbacks.

Colorado Rockies [45-44] trail division leader by 5 games & wild-card race by 4.5 games
-Who’s currently hitting .339, 16 homers, 70 RBIs, 57 runs, 30 2Bs, slugging .567, and has an OPS of .965? He’s your darkhorse NL MVP actually. Might be a good idea to get to know him.

San Francisco Giants [38-50] banished from playoff contention
-I won’t even mention the obvious. In fact, I’ll take a much different, and perhaps more appropriate route. Is Barry Zito the worst free agent signing of this past off-season AND is Tim Lincecum the real future ace in San Fran?

I know, that was two questions for the Giants. But neither involved that BALCO-related guy. (I might need to contact my attorney shortly, at least after making that remark.)

So it appears that the NL has been given its due. While it doesn’t often get the pub of the AL, don’t sleep on everything involved in its wicked and wild playoff chase. (Man, I wanted to use wacky too.)

In case you want more definitive storylines, I’ve got your back. Don’t forget about the logjams currently engulfing the NL West, the Braves/Mets/Phils battling in the East, and that team in Chicago currently looming in the Central.

Oh yeah, and some guy is going for 756, too.

All that and more for the next couple months as we push closer to October.

Until next time...

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