Where innuendo is always welcome
There seems to be this growing perception in the national sports media that baseball is fading into relative obsolescence in the American Consciousness. Football appears to be the end-all be-all when it comes to our nation’s sporting interest, at least if you take ESPN’s nauseating overexposure of Adam Schefter and Todd McShay as an indicator. Baseball’s too slow, they say. Apparently our text-happy, ADHD riddled youth can’t pay attention to an entire 3 hour game not involving someone a concussive blindside hit or a reverse windmill on a fast break. Even with mongoloids like McGwire and Bonds on the cream and the clear and chicks digging the long ball, people say baseball is a silver medallist at best. And yet…football and basketball are games. Baseball is a fucking past time. It’s so damn American it makes apple pie look communist. As a matter of fact the US government should officially put the kibosh on Columbus Day and make MLB Opening Day a national holiday. I also propose that we make “Centerfield” by John Fogerty our national anthem. I mean, what sounds more patriotic, a song written about dime store rockets coming at us in a war we lost or a song about desire and jacking up home runs in little league? It is with the clarion call of Say Hey Willie in my heart and those wretched pastel colored Miami Marlins1 jerseys seared on my retinas, that I give you my National League Preview for 2012.
Philadelphia Phillies (NL East Champions): Looking at the Phillies roster and their ridiculous starting rotation and it seems like they should be the frontrunners for the NL pennant, which would be a safe assumption…if it was 2010. All but two of the Phil’s starters are in their thirties, and with forty-one year old Jim Thome (who is starting in place of the oft injured Ryan Howard) in the lineup next to twenty-two year old Freddy Galvis, you have a situation where your team’s first baseman could easily be the father of your second baseman. And with Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee climbing into their mid-thirties, this might be the last best chance for Philadelphia to get back into The World Series.
Miami Marlins: New stadium, new name and atrocious new uniforms. All that’s well and good, but the biggest addition to the team is former Mets shortstop Jose Reyes who, along with newly minted third baseman Hanley Ramirez, make up the best left side of the infield in baseball. However, with the hiring of Bi-Polar Ozzie Guillen as manager and the equally crazy Carlos Zambrano in the rotation, Miami may have recruited he two most unstable men in Chicago to their team. I’ve got the over/under combined breakdowns at 5 and if they freak out at each other, we might have a manager-player brawl that makes Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson look like besties who have sleepovers during homestands. Yet, All this newness should net the Marlins a 2nd place finish in the NL East this year.
Washington Nationals: The fact that coming in 3rd place again this year would tie for the best finish in the Nats 7 year history should tell you everything you need to know about the franchise. Until they make the playoffs, I’m not even acknowledging them as being an MLB franchise. I will continue to pretend that they play in Montreal and are consistently playing in the wrong stadium while wearing the wrong uniforms. But with one of the best young rotations in baseball and some improvement on offense, I might call them by their proper name sooner rather than later. Also, if you’d like a fun drinking game to play, simply watch a Nats game when Stephen Strasburg is pitching and take a drink every time the announcers mention inning counts, Tommy John surgery and rotator cuff. I guarantee you’ll be plastered by the 3rd inning.
Atlanta Braves: Chipper Jones is all that remains of the Braves squad that won the 95 World Series. That team had the big three of Glavine, Maddux and Smoltz. They had the crime dog at first, Javy Lopez behind the plate and David Justice’s MENSA card carrying ass in right. And Bobby Cox, one of the 10 best managers in baseball history, filling out the lineup card every day. Nowadays, Chipper plays the hot corner next to some kid named Pastornicky, their only healthy ace is some dutch guy named Jair, and the future of the franchise rests on the shoulders of the self-destructing Jason Heyward, who had last year’s biggest Sophomore Slump this side of Sam Bradford. The Braves could continue the magical re-appearing act that has been their trademark over the past few years, but I wouldn’t count on it.
New York Mets: If it’s possible, I think the Metropolitans have taken over the title of the National League’s most pathetic club, taking the title from the mighty Pirates of Pittsburgh, who managed to claw their way into the playoff race last year. Aside from their on the field issues and the loss of all-star shortstop Jose Reyes to their division rivals in Miami, the most depressing storyline for New York has been their owner’s involvement in the Bernie Madoff scandal and the subsequent settlement that saw Mets co-owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz $162 million dollars in the hole over the next 5 years. ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian is predicting that a good season for the Mets will be one in which they don’t lose 90 games. Way to set the bar low guys.
Cincinnati Reds (NL Central Champions): This past week, Dusty Baker uttered three of the most dangerous words in baseball: closer by committee. After Ryan Madson was put on the DL before ever throwing a meaningful pitch for the Reds, the closer position is wide open, which may sound like terrible news for Reds fans. But, before you hyperventilate, let me just point out that whoever the closers may be this year, none of them are Francisco Cordero. I’ve got to say that being rid of that Dominican lardass is such a relief. The actor who played the kid in Little Big League would be a step up from El Gordo. With the addition of Mat Latos and Sean Marshall in the offseason along with all-stars Votto, Phillips and Bruce in the lineup, the Reds should squeak out a divisional crown.
St. Louis Cardinals (Wild Card): Coming off of a World Series win in 2011, the Cardinals are about to face a lineup without Albert Pujols in the heart of it for the first time in 11 years. Without Pujols, St. Louis’ offense goes from fearsome to forgettable. They might have the most injury prone lineup in the league and it remains to be seen whether Holliday and Big Puma can keep cranking out all-star numbers without Pujols in-between them. Despite their offensive dip, the Cards still have the best rotation in the NL Central and a impressive young closer in Jason Motte. They should be able to snag a wild card spot from their drunken neighbors to the North.
Milwaukee Brewer: After sticking it to the man for accusing him of sticking himself with a banned substance, reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun returns to the Brew Crew as their leader and power source for 2012. Unfortunately for the Milwaukee faithful, Braun is in for a bit of a swoon and not because he can’t load up on goat testosterone before games. In the confines of Miller Park Braun should be fine, but on the road he will struggle mightily in front of hostile crowds. Unlike Barry Bonds, who apparently was fueled by the enmity and hatred of others, Braun will get an old-fashioned ego-fuck an lose about 40 points of his average and 5-10 homers in unfamiliar stadia. And with Prince Fielder gone, the Brewers go from a team with phenomenal hitting and terrible defense to a team with decent hitting and terrible defense.
Pittsburgh Pirates: This year the Buccos will try to avoid adding insult to infamy by being the first club in MLB history to have 20 consecutive losing seasons. I want you to think about that for a second. The last time the Pirates had a winning season, Arsenio Hall still had a talk show and TLC were wearing condoms as eye patches. The price of gas the last time Pittsburgh was in the black was $1.13 per gallon and Barack Obama had just finished law school. It has been a long…long draught and it doesn’t look like it’s going to end anytime soon. Despite showing signs of life before the all-star break last year, Pittsburgh finished the season 19-43 and this year’s production should fall somewhere in-between those two halves. However, Bucs fans can take solace in watching Andrew McCutcheon’s development as an all-star centerfielder, knowing that their cheap front office will let him end up with the Red Sox in a couple years.
Chicago Cubs: It may seem like little consolation to fans of a team who hasn’t won a World Series in 103 years, but the Cubs finally seem to be retooling the right way, although it may take a few years to materialize in the win-loss column. They have a really strong farm system along with Cuban wunderkind Starlin Castro at short and the makings of a decent rotation. That being said, their offense will limp along in such spectacular a manner that even the indifferent Wrigley fans will look up from their Old Style in disgust. The 103rd time isn’t the charm. I think that they should slaughter Kerry Wood at home plate as a sign to the gods that they are faithful to Joe Boo.
Houston Astros: Outside of the most devoted baseball junkie, I guarantee you that Carlos Lee’s name is the only one you recognize on the Astros’ opening day roster. Honestly, I think you could change the names of over half their lineup and no one in Minute Made Park would know the difference. Houston lost 106 games last year and threaten to do even worse. They finished 40 games behind the NL Central champion Brewers—40 games! Milwaukee could have sent a local girl scout troop out as their starting lineup from mid-August on and they still would have been ahead of the Astros. And, unlike their equally atrocious NFL counterparts in Indianapolis, they didn’t win a number one game-changer of a draft pick for their troubles because it takes years for even the most polished players to make it up to the show after being drafted. If you were wondering, Texans training camp opens in late July.
San Francisco Giants (NL West Championship): This team automatically wins the NL West due to the transitive property of great nicknames. You’ve got The Panda, Pablo Sandoval, at third, Big Time Timmy Jim Lincecum leading the rotation and Brian “The Beard” Wilson closing out games. No team in the majors comes close to matching the Giants nicknamery. Beyond name recognition, San Francisco gets back their star catcher Buster Posey after his left ankle was obliterated in a home plate collision with the Marlins’ Scott Cousins. Regardless of whether Posey can play the majority of the season behind the plate or if he has to get a lot of at-bats at first, his clutch hitting and leadership should push the Giants into the top spot in the NL West.
Arizona Diamondbacks (Wild Card): No one not wearing a Diamondbacks jersey saw their road to the playoffs coming last year. Led by reigning NL Manager of the Year Kirk Gibson, this team busted off 94 wins and lost to Milwaukee in the NLDS. Like last year, the team has no marquee stars, yet has a lengthy list of gamers who win games and play smart baseball. With the addition of Jason Kubel, Arizona adds some needed power to its lineup and looks to make the playoffs again this year. I would make a joke here, but there isn’t much that’s interesting or funny about the Diamondbacks except that their closer’s last name is Putz.
Colorado Rockies: Well, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the 2nd most potent offense in the league added veteran rakers Michael Cuddyer and Ramon Hernandez to their lineup. The bad news is that their pitching, which was the 2nd worst in the NL last year, looks just as atrocious this year. To put their pitching woes in perspective, they guy that they acquired over the offseason to lead their rotation, Jeremy Guthrie, was 9-17 with a 4.33 ERA for the last place Orioles in 2011. The Colorado Rockies, a team with the worst park for pitchers in the majors, actively sought a pitcher to be their ace who only won 28% of the 32 games he started last year. They would have been better off getting Tebow to pitch for them. At least then Jesus would be helping out behind the backstop. It would have been a real life Angels in the outfield, but in Denver instead of Los Angeles because, clearly, LA is the run by the devil.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Having Magic Johnson buy your team isn’t going to make it any better this year. If your team only finishes 3 games above .500 with an NL MVP runner up in Matt Kemp and an Cy Young Award winner in Clayton Kershaw, then your team’s going to need a lot more help than Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano and Mark Ellis to make the playoffs. With Dee Gordon and Juan Uribe in the middle of the infield, the Dodgers will still a lot of bases, provided either player can actually advance the 90 feet from home to first. It looks as if Dodger fans will be leaving in the 4th inning to more losing affairs than usual.
San Diego Padres: As a Reds fan, I am uniquely qualified to judge the impact of the trade that sent staff ace Mat Latos to Cincinnati for Edinson Volquez and Yonder Alonso. If memory serves me, I’ve been to Great American Ballpark for 5 games when Edinson Volquez was on the hill. In three of those games, he gave up 6 or more runs in the first three innings of play. I have never in all my life seen a pitcher so predisposed to early inning meltdowns than Edinson Volquez. As for Alonso, he may be a good hitter down the line, but I was never happy to see him in the lineup. The Padres will dwell in the basement once again this year and I can only assume a large part of it is karmic punishment for those horrendous army camo unis they wear from time to time. This is Petco Park, not Fallujah people.
1Is it just me, or would it be righteous if the Miami Marlins made their name singular like the Stanford Cardinal? The Miami Marlin just sounds so much cooler, like a Dick Tracy villain. And, yes, I’m trying to bring back the word righteous.