Scratchbomb’s Thoroughly Compromised 2010 MLB Preview: NL Central

harrycaray.jpgCHICAGO CUBS

2009 record: 83-78

Local weather: If you don’t like it, just wait a minute!* (* joke stolen from your grampa)

Namesake: The smaller partner in a “bear” relationship

Has it really been 102 years since they won a World Series?: Yes, but some days it only feels like 75.

Perpetually overused team-related headline: Lovable Losers. How many losers have you known that were lovable? Most losers are bitter, sour human beings.

Best name on 40-man roster: Esmailin Caridad, because when you’re Esmailin, the whole world esmailes with you.

The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Kevin Millar. Or as he used to be known by guys named Sully, MILLAHHHHHH!

Spring standout: Youngster Tyler Colvin, who’s not only batting .468, but is also not a pitcher, so he can’t have a Kerry Wood/Mark Prior-style flameout.

Probable Opening Day starter: Carlos Zambrano, provided he doesn’t get into a scrape with a Gatorade cooler first.

Biggest question for 2010: In what ways will the fates cruelly toy with this team this season?

Advantage to start the season: Arctic conditions will adversely affect visiting teams who have not brought their own Sherpas.

Semi-serious assessment: Only the total shitshow that was the 2009 Mets prevented the Cubs from being the most disappointing team in baseball last season. I would expect them to improve, but they’re also relying on a number of players who’ve been hurt off and on the past few seasons (Zambrano, Derrek Lee, Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez). I could see the Cubs finishing anywhere on the continuum of success. Except winning the World Series, of course. That will never, ever happen. Ever.

Redstockings.jpgCINCINNATI REDS

2009 record: 78-84

Local weather: Surprisingly southern

Namesake: A primary color. They’ve been around since 1876; people were less imaginative then.

Are they still owned by a chain-smoking Nazi?: No, the Reds have been almost completely Nazi free since 1999.

Perpetually overused team-related headline: Red October ? (always with the question mark)

Best name on 40-man roster: Yonder Alonso, best Reds prospect since Hither Johnson

The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Miguel Cairo, knocking one more team off of his MLB card. Two more and he gets a free six-inch sub.

Spring standout: Aroldis Chapman, Cuban exile who’s wowed scouts with his array of pitches. He definitely looks ready to make the roster, which is why Dusty Baker stepped up his injury regimen.

Probable Opening Day starter: Aaron Harang, who probably won’t be as high on Opening Day as he looks in every single picture taken of him.

Biggest question for 2010: Will the Reds trade away Bronson Arroyo to either New York team, and if so, will it give Mike Francesa a spontaneous orgasm?

Advantage to start the season: Opposing team can be weighted down with a pre-game buffet of Skyline Chili.

Semi-serious assessment: A great lineup could be buoyed by a good rotation, if Chapman pitches as advertised and if Edinson Volquez can contribute this season. However, never underestimate Dusty Baker and his ability to destroy everything he touches.


2009 record: 74-88

Local weather: Bullet ridden

Namesake: The very makeup of the stars themselves, reflecting the personality of their original owner, Carl Sagan.

How many people have perished climbing Tal’s Hill?: Forty-seven confirmed, another dozen missing and presumed dead.

Perpetually overused team-related headline: Houston, We Have a Problem. I’m sick of hearing that line in any context. I officially declare it banned from the American venacular for 10 years. The End.

Best name on 40-man roster: Stormin’ Yorman Bazardo

The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Kaz Matsui. Yes, the man who once injured himself putting in his contacts and went on the DL with anal fissures is somehow still in the major leagues.

Spring standout: Chris Johnson, who’s hit 5 homers this spring in an attempt to rise above his completely vanilla name.

Probable Opening Day starter: Roy Oswalt, presumably, though he recently had to get a “back injection” to combat a hamstring issue. Treating the back for your glutes–did he go to the Mets’ doctors?

Biggest question for 2010: Will karma finally permit somebody to beat the living shit out of Brett Myers?

Advantage to start the season: The friendly confines of Minute Maid Park will protect the home team from contracting scurvy.

Semi-serious assessment: Along with the Mets and the Giants, Houston remains one of the most woefully clueless front offices in baseball, and they made even fewer moves in the off season than either New York or San Francisco. Virtually nothing in the pitching department aside from Oswalt (who may be hurt already). Some good hitters in their lineup, but not enough to compensate for their other faults. Houston definitely has a problem (dammit, now I did it).

sausage_race.jpgMILWAUKEE BREWERS

2009 record: 80-82

Local weather: Rich in dairy products

Namesake: Those brave, pioneering German immigrants who devised ways to turn beer–once a beverage crafted with care and artistry–into bland, processed swill as authentic as American cheese.

Which meat product will next be added to the famous Miller Park sausage race?: I’d guess either braunschweiger or turducken.

Perpetually overused team-related headline: Sausage Party. Go ahead, google it.

Best name on 40-man roster: Cody Scarpetta, simultaneously the most WASPy and most Italian name ever

The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Jim Edmonds, who’s not hitting much, but can still make an easy play in center field look like the hardest thing in the world

Spring standout: Alcides Escobar, international man of mystery

Probable Opening Day starter: Yovani Gallardo, one of the best pitchers in baseball that nobody talks about. What, I have to be snarky in all of these responses?

Biggest question for 2010: Will Prince Fielder go up to bat with a bag of Cheetos in one hand? You know he wants to.

Advantage to start the season: Brewers will gird themselves for the upcoming season with a thick layer of brats, cheese curds, and Miller Lite.

Semi-serious assessment: A softball-ish lineup, a decent rotation bolstered by the workmanlike Doug Davis and Randy Wolf, and the all-time saves leader in their bullpen. They lost pitching guru Mike Maddux and replaced him with another savant, the perpetually jacketed Rick Peterson. They could definitely challenge the Cardinals for the NL Central crown this year.

pirates_mascot.jpgPITTSBURGH PIRATES

2009 record: 62-99

Local weather: Rusty

Namesake: The scurvy, mangy dogs what inspired an overused comedy meme, says I. Arr!

What is the most depressing fact about them?: Kids now entering college have never been alive when the Pirates had a winning record.

Perpetually overused team-related headline: N/A. The Pirates do not get headlines.

Best name on 40-man roster: Gorkys Hernandez, whose first name is either a playground insult or a race of aliens from Doctor Who

The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Bobby Crosby. Like many ex-Rookies of the Year, he has fallen on hard times.

Spring standout: Andrew McCutchen, a talented young outfielder who Pirates fans can look forward to being traded at the deadline a few years from now.

Probable Opening Day starter: Zach Duke, who I would also not be surprised to see packing his bags for greener pastures by July.

Biggest question for 2010: Does this team still exist? Technically, yes.

Advantage to start the season: Complete lack of expectations.

Semi-serious assessment: It completely sucks that the Pirates are eliminated by April every year. And it also sucks that baseball’s imbalance of power has rendered a once mighty franchise a complete punchline (that I just contributed to). But it really sucks that their management has not followed the example of teams like the Twins and A’s, and poured their limited resources into development and drafting. Until they do, they shall continue to languish.

cardinals.jpgST. LOUIS CARDINALS

2009 record: 91-71, NL Central title, lost division series to Dodgers

Local weather: Midwestern, beer-y

Namesake: A senior ecclesiastical official in the Holy Roman Catholic Church

How will Mark McGwire be received on Opening Day?: With cheerfully clueless applause.

Perpetually overused team-related headline: In the Cards! Real cut ups, St. Louis fans are.

Best name on 40-man roster: Albert Pujols. You know, his last name sounds kinda dirty, if you think about it. I wonder if anyone’s pointed that out before?

The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Brad Penny, ex-Dodger/Marlin/Red Sox/Giant pitcher who looked shot for most of last year. So I’m sure Dave Duncan will turn him into a 19-game winner.

Spring standout: Trever Miller, who has yet to give up an earned run this spring. If only someone could teach him how to spell.

Probable Opening Day starter: Chris Carpenter. Adam Wainwright says he’s okay with that, but my friend texted me and she said he’s totally not.

Biggest question for 2010: In what hilarious way will Matt Holliday misjudge a fly ball this season?

Advantage to start the season: Easy-to-please home crowd will applaud anything done on a baseball diamond.

Semi-serious assessment: Not an explosive lineup, but any lineup with Pujols is a lineup to be reckoned with. As is any pitching staff tutored by Dave Duncan. I fully expect them to win the division yet again. Sorry.