NL East At A Glance

The National League East – A Division of Streaks


The National League has become a division of streaks.  The Braves started the trend by winning the division 14 straight times (there were no division winners in the strike shortened 1994 season.  The Montreal Expos were in 1st place when the season got canceled but aren’t recognized as division champions.)  They were champs from 1991 – 1993 and then 1995-2005.  The Phillies are now the streaking team having won the division 5 straight times dating back to the 2007 season.  Will this year be the end of the streak?  Have the Marlins set themselves up to buy their 3rd World Series title in franchise history?  Will the Nationals rise to power thanks to Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper?  Will the Mets…well lets not get carried away!


The Atlanta Braves 23-14  1st Place

The Braves are the oldest continuous baseball team in history.  They have been playing every year since 1871 and were one of the two charter members of the National League with the Chicago Cubs.  Last year, the Braves became the 3rd franchise to win 10,000 games in their history (joining the San Francisco/New York Giants and the Chicago Cubs…this season the Cincinnati Reds became the 4th franchise with 10,000 wins).  It only seems like Chipper Jones has been around for the majority of those 10,000 wins!  Atlanta currently finds themselves in first place by a mere 1/2 game.  After that monumental collapse at the end of last season, I don’t trust these Braves to be able to maintain this lead.  Offensively, Chipper Jones has 5 home runs and 23 RBI while hitting a decent .298.  However, he’s already missed 11 games this season and he’s bound to miss a helluva lot more by the time the season is over.  Freddie Freeman has had a tremendous season so far with 6 homers and 28 RBI to go with a .277 average.  Dan Uggla isn’t having anywhere near as uggla of a season as last year (5 hrs  23 RBI .277 avg).  The offensive star so far has been Michael Bourn with a .340 avg to go with 11 steals.  He has been caught stealing 5 times already though.  I’m guessing that Uggla, Chipper and Bourn see a dip in production with no one to pick up the slack when it happens.  The other thing going against this version of the Braves is the fact that they don’t have Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz anchoring the pitching staff.  Instead it’s guys named Beachy, Hanson, Hudson and Minor.  While Beachy is currently leading the NL in ERA, how much longer will that be the case?  Hanson and Hudson are injury prone.  Hudson just got off the DL as a matter of fact.  The Braves just have too many keys positions being manned by players held together with duct tape and dental floss (Chipper, Hanson, Hudson) to make a serious run at winning the division.  While the Phillies have come back to the pack, the Nationals and the Marlins have improved dramatically.  Besides, the Braves have a history of choking in the end.


The Washington Nationals 22-14   .5 GB

The Nationals are the aforementioned Montreal Expos relocated and renamed.  Rumors cannot be confirmed nor denied that the team has struggled so mightily since relocating due to taking such a horribly unoriginal nickname for a team in the National League.  I blame it on the fact that Bud Selig and MLB were running the team for a spell after Jeffrey Loria decided to trade them in for the Florida now Miami Marlins.  Now that they have actual ownership, the Nationals have made giant strides to become potential contenders for the division crown.  Their years of suckitude allowed them to draft Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.  They have acquired important parts like Adam LaRoche, Jayson Werth, Michael Morse and Gio Gonzalez.  They have Ian Desmond, Wilson Ramos, Edwin Jackson, Jordan Zimmerman and Tyler Clippard.  They have built a very nice team that has talent and youth at key positions.  Unfortunately, they can’t keep them healthy.  Morse hasn’t played yet this season.  Wilson Ramos is having the worst year ever having been kidnapped in the off season in Venezuela and now having torn his ACL in a game this past week.  LaRoche just got back from an injury.  In addition to the injuries, Strasburg is going to be on an innings limit this season since he is coming back from Tommy John surgery.  Rumors have him at a limit of 160 innings which means he could miss the entire last month of the season.  The Nationals will be wise to stick to that limit because the injury bug is going to keep them from winning the division this year anyway.  It is smarter to win for years to come with a healthy Strasburg than ruin his career by injuring him again to chance one division title.  The final nail in the Nationals coffin this season will be the immaturity of Harper.  After having a bad game, he hit himself with his bat and did this to himself!!!!!  WTF!


The New York Mets 20-16  2.5 GB

The New York Mets have been a laughingstock of the league for the last decade or so.  The owners are involved in a ponzi scheme that has cost them millions of dollars.  They really had no choice but to let Jose Reyes walk away for nothing in return.  Oh wait, they could have traded him and got something but they didn’t.  They have even more millions lost in the rotting corpse of Jason Bay that might be even worse than the money lost in the ponzi scheme.  They are dwarfed in their home market by the Yankees.  They have the stigma of knowing that they should have been dynasty of the 80s was derailed by cocaine, booze and out of control parties that ruined the careers of Daryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden.  Yet, here they are just 2.5 games out of 1st place on this young season.  David Wright has been healthy and slugging.  His 4 home runs 21 RBI .408 average with an OPS of 1.105 is unreal.  That means he is due to come crashing back down to earth and probably have 1 or 2 stints on the DL while he’s at it.  Daniel Murphy has been playing over his head as well with a .336 average.  He is not going to be able to keep that up either.  They were counting on Lucas Duda to be a 25 homer 100 RBI guy but so far he has been very inconsistent.  He’s hit 4 home runs but only has 17 RBI and a .257 batting average.  They need him to start driving in more runs and raise his average about 20 points to balance out the decline coming for Murphy and Wright.  The corpse of Jason Bay’s career is doing exactly what was expected (3 hrs only 5 RBI and a .240 avg).  RA Dickey and Jon Niese have been impressive on the pitching side of things and it looks like Johan Santana might be able to give them a full season at almost the same level as his dominant Cy Young years.  He has an ERA of 2.92 and 41 strikeouts.  I don’t trust Dickey to stay at this performance level all year and Santana’s health is a big question mark.  I just don’t see the Mets keeping this together for the entire season.  Then again, I’m biased since I’m carrying Ron Santo’s hatred for the Mets with me now that he is gone.  So for the love of Ron Santo, I predict that the Mets fall apart and don’t have a repeat of the 1969 Miracle Mets.


The Miami Marlins 19-17  3.5 GB

The Marlins and the Angels were throwing around money during the winter meetings in Dallas like they had just won the lottery 52 weeks in a row.  I’ve already covered the epic failure that the Angels have been so far this season after their spending spree.  The Marlins haven’t quite been that bad but they haven’t been good either.  Heath Bell lost his closer role and has since been reinstated when no one else took the position and ran with it.  Ozzie Guillen almost created a riot in Miami by saying that he liked Fidel Castro.  Who would have thought that Ozzie Guillen would put his foot in his mouth?  Giancarlo Stanton started off slower than molassess going uphill in December.  He’s currently sitting at 7 HRs and 22 RBI with a .281 average.  Not the greatest average but MUCH better than what he did last year so a regression could occur.  Emilio Bonifacio has 19 stolen bases so far but is only batting .264.  If he could get on base at a decent clip, he could get 100 steals in a season!  What breaks my heart the most about this team, even more than how hideously ugly their new logo is, is how well Carlos Zambrano has been doing.  I will always love Big Z.  He was one of my favorite Cubs.  I love that he is doing well.  It breaks my heart that it is for another team and it breaks my heart that the Cubs are paying for him to pitch well for the Marlins while the Cubs get Chris Volstad.  Another off season acquisition is also paying off for the Marlins as Mark Buehrle has an ERA of 2.81.  While Big Z and Buehrle don’t have great records, that is only the early season woes of the offense more than it is on them.  Since the Marlins are swinging the bats better, those records will improve.  I will admit though that it brings a smile to my face to see that the Marlins brand new stadium is already half empty for games.  So you can give the Florida sports fans a new stadium, go out and buy Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, Ozzie Guillen, Mark Buehrle and bring in Carlos Zambrano but the fans still won’t buy tickets on a nightly basis to support the team!  I blame this hideous logo:


The Philadelphia Phillies 18-19  5 GB

The team that has won the last 5 division titles have STRUGGLED so far this year.  They have also not been healthy.  Ryan Howard hasn’t played yet since blowing out his achilles in the playoffs.  Chase Utley has been held together with used chewing gum and scotch tape.  Cliff Lee pitched a 10 inning gem and promptly hurt himself in the 10th inning and went on the DL.  Yet they are still hovering around .500 and are only 5 GB.  What happens when they get fully healthy?  I guess the better question is will they get fully healthy?  While I think Chase Utley is finished, Ryan Howard will come back soon and by the end of July, he will be cranking out home runs.  Carlos Ruiz is becoming one of the best hitting catchers in baseball (6 hrs 23 RBI and .337 avg).  Hunter Pence already has 9 HRs and will definitely improve upon his .255 average.  Jimmy Rollins is another health risk and someone nearing the end of the road but he will improve upon his .231 average.  Add in the fact that they still have Doc Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee in their starting rotation and I think the Phillies will be alright in the long run.  As much as it pains me to say, I still see the Phillies winning this division.  They are going to do it in ugly fashion and they will get blitzed in the playoffs but I just don’t see the Braves or Nationals being ready to take the crown from the defending champions.  The Marlins are going to have to decide whether the half empty stadium is because of Guillen’s pro-Castro remarks or whether they are going to have to find a way to cut salary because they are just never going to draw period.  There will be at least two more Guillen foot in the mouth moments to distract the team.  There will be a Zambrano explosion or two to deal with.  The Marlins aren’t used to the attention and I don’t think they’ll handle it well.  As long as the Phillies don’t panic and trade free agents to be Shane Victorino and Cole Hamels, I see them surviving.  When it comes down to the last week of the season and the division is on the line, who are you going to trust?  Beachy, Minor and Hanson; Niese, Dickey and Santana; Buehrle, Z and Johnson; Gonzalez, Jackson and someone other than Strasburg  or Halladay, Hamels and Lee? And whose to say that they don’t go out and bring back Roy Oswalt for the home stretch?






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