Well, here we are again, approaching yet another baseball season with bated breath. And as such, your annual Stain predictions commence. Without further ado:
1. Miami Marlins – The name change alone has to be worth 5-7 games in the standings, right? Not to mention pricey additions, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell. It’s true what they say when they say that pitching wins games. And they have it. Keep and eye on reclamation project, Carlos Zambrano. They didn’t really need him, but if he can reclaim any semblance of his former self in a warmer climate and more pitcher-friendly park, they’ll be even better than anticipated. Mike, er, Giancarlo Stanton could hit 50 home runs.
2. Philadelphia Phillies – Or, you know, any other of the four remaining teams in this division. Except for the Mets, everyone else is gonna be mediocre. With this Phillies team, and all their glitzy pitching, you have to wonder, where are the runs gonna come from. Even if Ryan Howard gets back to 100%, he is showing evidence of a decline. Chase Utley is excellent but brittle, and may also be starting a downward slope. Jimmy Rollins too. Hunter Pence is talented but flawed. There’s too much talent here to outright suck, but I see warning flags.
3. Atlanta Braves – I nearly had them winning this division… until I remembered how much Jason Heyward regressed last season. Ageless wonder Chipper Jones is still a threat, but there isn’t enough oomph anywhere to sustain an offense. Jair Jurrjens and Tim Hudson make a good front end of the rotation, nicely filled out by youngsters, Tommy Hanson and Mike Minor (or Julio Teheran… or Brandon Beachy… or Randall Delgado… come to think of it…) I mean seriously… how often can Dan Uggla go on a 30something game hitting streak? The answer is once. And he’s already done it. And it will never happen again.
4. Washington Nationals – No doubt, this is a team on the rise. The obvious stud is Strasburg, and despite his innings limitation, he’s gonna be great. The rest of the guys in the rotation though (Gio Gonzalez, Tom Gorzellany, John Lannan, and Edwin Jackson) are servicable at best. If you an use the word servicable to describe a guy with a no-hitter in his career… If Michael Morse’s coming out party last year was not a fluke, they’ll score a bit… but not as much as they will when Bryce Harper is a star… in 2014.
5. New York Mets – The less said about this oil spill, the better. The overly optimistic will point to Johan Santana’s expected return. I will point to his more than 20 million dollar annual salary on a team that’s more bankrupt than the @#$%ing DODGERS!!! David Wright, one the game’s truly wonderful players in just about every facet, suddenly can’t stay healthy. And I haven’t heard of at least 25% of the guys projected to make the opening day roster. Still optimistic? Frank Francisco is the closer. What are you doing? Put down the weapon. Put it down!!!