With the Minnesota Timberwolves struggling, the Minnesota Wild on the outside of the playoff field looking in, and an NFL lockout ongoing, I’m going to start hammering out some Major League Baseball previews.
First, though, I would like to mention that I will be joining host Dom Izzo on “Dizzo’s Den” at 6:30 p.m. tonight (Wednesday) on 970-AM WDAY radio. We’ll be talking Twins baseball, with Opening Day just more than a week away.
I plan to do a division every day, then look at the Twins in-depth before making a typically unsuccessful World Series prediction.
Let’s get started in the National League East, which I think is one of the easier divisions in baseball to figure out.
The Philadelphia Phillies have become a perennial playoff team and World Series contender, and the return this offseason of Cliff Lee after a brief hiatus in Seattle and Texas should help their cause in 2011. The pitching staff is as nasty as they come, with Lee joining Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt.
YetÂ many Phils fans are nervous. Jayson Werth left in the offseason to sign with Washington. Chase Utley has a troublesome knee and will likely begin the year on the disabled list. Brad Lidge has battled tendinitis and is now just working his way back.
Does that open the door for another team to overtake the Phillies? I don’t think so.
That’s no offense to the Atlanta Braves. I like the addition of second baseman Dan Uggla, and I imagine the Braves as well as any other team can make up for the retirement of closer Billy Wagner. Bobby Cox is retired, but Fredi Gonzalez had decent success managing a small-market team in Florida. The Braves will contend for a playoff spot.
The rest of the bunch doesn’t do much for me. The New York Mets are a mess on and off the field. The Florida Marlins, as always, have some good pieces, but I’m not sure if the team as a whole is ready to compete yet. The Washington NationalsÂ are no longer buzzworthy, especially with stud pitcher Stephen Strasburg out for the season after Tommy John surgery.
So, with this division, I’m guessing it will go much like it did last season.
1. Philadelphia Phillies
2. Atlanta Braves
3. New York MetsÂ 3. Florida Marlins
4. Florida Marlins 4. New York Mets
5. Washington Nationals