Recently, Schuyla and I posted our predictions for the 2006 season. What we lacked was justification for our picks. Coming up in a series of articles, I'm gonna give you
a. Not just the winners of the divsions, but how the teams will place/how many games I feel that they'll win.
b. Justification for every choice I made in the previous article. Good times promised. We start with the NL East. Controversy abounds.
2. New York (otherwise known as the Kaz Matsui's)
Why would you say such things?
Starting at the top: Bobby Cox is hands down the best manager in the league. Back to back MOY (trendy, isn't it?) reinforces that. With Cox on the bench, Atlanta is just absolutely unbeatable in this division. And what does everybody say every year? 'The Braves won't win the East this year, I like the (insert trendy pick here).' This year, in a vastly improved division, that trendy pick happens to be the Mets. Sorry, Flushing, the Braves aren't going anywhere for a little while longer. They have better starting pitching (Smoltz, Hudson, Ramirez, Thomson and Sosa. Also, throw Kyle Davies into the mix) than the rest of the division. They've got a scary infield. If Renteria produces, he and Larry will form a ridiculous left side. They have Andruw, who will not fall on his face as many have said. (You heard it here. Repeat 50 HR season.) And of course, they have Francoeur, who, apart from Zach Duke, is my favorite NL rookie who didn't play in many games last year but still was ridiculously successful. Reitsma is shaky, and now, injured, as a closer, but they've got some semi-decent/questionable middle inning and set-up men so if he can do an o.k. job, this team has pretty clear sailing. 96 games.
The Mets. They're good. Good enough to compete for a Wild Card spot. But there are just so many questions surrounding this team that it's impossible to pick them. You look at the Mets' depth chart and they're just absolutely loaded. There is not a hole in this team (other than 5th starter and 2nd base). But the whole thing has the look of a train on some unsteady tracks. Willie Randolph has proven nothing as a manager save that he can tell us what Asian relievers he believes have funk. The pitching could collapse Jenga style if Glavine is too old/injured or if Pedro can't recover. Will they crumble in August like they always do? I can pick them 2nd and possibly winning 88/90 games, but they're not stable enough to dethrone a perennial power like the Braves. Look for an exciting race with an anticlimactic conclusion, like the Mets getting swept by Atlanta in the 2nd to last series of the year.
The Nationals third, ahead of the Phillies you ask? I don't like the Phillies. I don't like the way they're built. I don't like them without Bowa (NY pride). Most of all, I don't like that Lieber is their ace. The Phillies can't win jack with a bunch of 12 win pitchers. (Lieber won 17, but with a 4.2 ERA) All the moves they made suggest that they are ready to make some significant noise. But when they let Millwood go they doomed themselves. As you may have already been able to glean, I believe starting pitching wins championships. In fact, I am an eyewitness to countless years of Yankee baseball that support this theory. And even with these great players like Utley and Howard and Rollins and Abreu, they're just another o.k. team because of their pitching. The Nats have a vastly underrated one in Livan. And don't sleep on John Patterson. It wasn't too long ago that after like 5 starts last year he had an ERA under 1. Nick Johnson is gonna be huge. I can't believe we let him get away. Now, granted, the left side of their infield is Guzman and Zimmerman, probably the worst left side in the league. Plus, Guz just went on the 15 day DL so who the hell they're gonna start at short I haven't the faintest clue. However, in Guillen, Johnson, Vidro, and Soriano, they have the players to get things done. Throw in the league leading save men Cordero, and they finish with around 82 or 83 wins. Phillies are close, I'll give em 80.
Oh, and the Marlins? I'm not writing about them. They are a goddamn joke. Dontrelle and Miggy (the new Miggy) can only take you so far. Cabrera is top 10 or 15 players in baseball but Willis was more than shaky for the U.S. The New York Ranger loving part of me says they can do it with one great player and a helluva goalie/ace... but nah. Look for a ugly season. Really ugly. 65 wins.
Coming up in the predictions of Dyslexia:
The rest of the divisions (except the AL East. You can get my predictions for the East in my coverage on each team. Next is Baltimore by the way)
MVP's, ROY's, CY's and managers of the year.
Plus, my playoff spots.