2009 record: 70-92
Local weather: Ball-meltingly hot
Namesake: Venemous rattlesnake responsible for the majority of fatal snakebites in northern Mexico, thus explaining why the Diamondbacks are Lou Dobbs’ favorite team.
Do they really play for the entire state of Arizona?: Yes, except for small pockets of Tempe. They know why.
Perpetually overused team-related headline: Raising Arizona. Cease and desist letters from the Coen Brothers have proven ineffective.
Best name on 40-man roster: Clay Zavada (also owner of best mustache on team)
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Billy Buckner. Not the former Dodgers/Cubs/Red Sox first baseman, but a young relief pitcher. Still, you’d think teams would shy away from anyone named Billy Buckner.
Spring standout: Justin Upton, whose .324 batting average and 16 RBIs are an obvious attempt to shame his brother B.J.
Probable Opening Day starter: Dan Haren, whose hitched delivery is almost as confounding as his facial hair.
Biggest question for 2010: Will their talented core of young players once again prove woefully outmatched, or merely disappointing?
Advantage to start the season: Close proximity of spring training facility removes the disorienting effects of jet lag.
Semi-serious assessment: The Diamondbacks lineup is full of stars, near stars, or should-be stars like Upton, Stephen Drew, and Mark Reynolds (all of them born in years I actually remember, which depresses the shit out of me). But their rotation is Haren and not much else until Brandon Webb comes back from shoulder surgery. They’ll score a lot of runs, but they’ll give a lot up, too, especially in their home park. Even in a relatively weak division, I don’t see how they finish much better than .500 this year.
2009 record: 92-70, NL Wild Card berth, lost division series to Phillies
Local weather: Favorable for skiing and overrated film festivals
Namesake: Local mountain region, thus making them the only major sports team named after a geographic feature (as opposed to players who were themselves large geographic features like John Kruk and Rich Garces).
Will lazy sportswriters still obsess over the humidor at Coors Field?: Do beat reporters love free food?
Perpetually overused team-related headline: Any variation on “Rock”, music-related, not geology-related. As far as I know, no newspaper has employed references to igneous formations in its headlines.
Best name on 40-man roster: Jhoulys Chacin, a jhoully young man.
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Paul Lo Duca, apparently old and wise enough to not write personal checks and thank you notes on team stationary to steroid dealers.
Spring standout: Troy Tulowitzki, owner of 3 home runs and a .425 OBP. But he has fallen a few rungs on the Misspelled Last Name list since the emergence of Jeff Samardzija.
Probable Opening Day starter: Ubaldo Jimenez, trying to undo the damage done by Ugueth Urbina to baseball players whose first names begin with U.
Biggest question for 2010: Even in the cool mountain air, will Jason Giambi continue to sweat gravy every time he blinks?
Advantage to start the season: Very little pressure, as most locals are still too pissed off about the Jay Cutler kerfuffle to care about baseball.
Semi-serious assessment: With Jimenez and a returning Aaron Cook, their rotation could be a very good compliment to an already powerful lineup. I think a lot will hinge on their bullpen, which will be without both Huston Street and Yuniesky Bettancourt to start the year. But they can definitely compete for another wild card berth.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
2009 record: 95-67, NL West title, lost championship series to
Local weather: Partly smoggy with a chance of phonies
Namesake: The denizens of Brooklyn who used to dodge the zigzagging trolley cars that once transversed their borough. Also named for Walter O’Malley, who is currently dodging pitchforks in hell for moving the team to Los Angeles.
Do the fans really arrive in the third inning and leave by the seventh?: That is a completely cliché and unfunny characterization of Dodgers that happens to be 100 percent true.
Perpetually overused team-related headline: [BLANK]wood. Attempts to use other LA neighborhoods like Echo Park, Koreatown, and Crenshaw have not been successful.
Best name on 40-man roster:
Travis Schlichting, whose last name is an extremely dirty word in Yiddish.
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: One-time ace Russ Ortiz, following the unlikely Giants-to-Dodgers trajectory of Jeff Kent. Unlike Kent, he’s not a complete asshole. Also unlike Kent, he’s no longer any good.
Spring standout: Blake DeWitt, who, after a fine 2009 season, is finally starting to make a name for himself that sounds less like a soap opera villain.
Probable Opening Day starter: Vicente Padilla? Seriously? Not Clayton Kershaw or Chad Billingsley? The guy who had one good start in the playoffs? That seems, um, not wise.
Biggest question for 2010: Will Joe Torre finally dig out whatever he’s been trying to dislodge from his nose all these years?
Advantage to start the season: Manny Ramirez is guaranteed to do something stupid and distracting, which will take the pressure off the rest of the team. My guess is, either pee in the outfield grass between innings or something involving a Kardashian.
Semi-serious assessment: Good young pitching, good (mostly) young lineup, good bullpen, good bench. Good enough to make the playoffs and get bounced in the first round.
SAN DIEGO PADRES
2009 record: 75-87
Local weather: Annoyingly perfect
Namesake: The Spanish missionaries who taught Christianity and shame to the indigenous population.
Can you really watch a Padres game from an old factory?: Yes, as long as you don’t mind it being haunted by the tortured souls of the workers who died there in the great fire of 1907.
Perpetually overused team-related headline: Pad People. It’s especially unfair now that San Deigo is no longer overrun by screeching alien clones.
Best name on 40-man roster: Radhames Liz, ancient Egyptian god of right-handed pitchers
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Matt Stairs, whose softball physique would not seem to translate well to Petco.
Spring standout: Chase Headley. You know, from the Newport Headleys? Smashing to see you again, old sport.
Probable Opening Day starter: Jon Garland, whose thoroughly blah qualities prevent me from making any jokes about him.
Biggest question for 2010: When Adrian Gonzalez is traded to the Red Sox, will the return on his value be criminal, or merely pathetic?
Advantage to start the season: Glorious San Diego weather will blunt the pain of a terrible opening month. And all the months to follow.
Semi-serious assessment: In spring, hopes spring eternal. There are not many teams that you can definitively say, right now, will suck this year. This is one of them.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
2009 record: 88-74
Local weather: Self-satisfied
Namesake: The monstrous Philistines who were felled by one stone from David’s sling.
Is that glove in left field made of real leather?: Yes. 700 cows were killed to make it.
Perpetually overused team-related headline: Giant Killers. Comes in handy in both positive and negative results.
Best name on 40-man roster: Waldis Joaquin. Joat a name!
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Mark De Rosa. He may be a Giant now, but I’ll always think of him as that guy who had two sorta decent seasons with the Cubs.
Spring standout: The formerly anonymous John Bowker, which should give you an indication of the state of this team.
Probable Opening Day starter: brand new millionaire Tim Lincecum, who I’m sure will in no way feel any kind of crushing weight from all that anxiety-inducing money
Biggest question for 2010: Will Pablo Sandoval continue to play third base? I mean, seriously? That guy’s built like Big Pun.
Advantage to start the season: Garlic fries. I hear AT&T Park totally has garlic fries.
Semi-serious assessment: Excellent 1-2 punch of Lincecum and Matt Cain, but a weird, OBP-phobic lineup with virtually no speed at all, which makes little sense when you consider the cavernous ballpark they play in. The Giants have the only front office that can give the Mets a run for their money as the most totally out-of-touch management in baseball. Given their pitching, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them compete, but I wouldn’t expect them to make the playoffs either.