2010 record: 91-71, won wild card, lost division series to Giants
Biggest offseason acquisition: Dan Uggla, whose last name perfectly describes his powerful home run swing. And his fielding.
Biggest offseason loss: Closer Billy Wagner, now retired. Fuckin’ shocker.
How will the Braves deal with their first season without Bobby Cox since 1990?: Thanks to their talent and new manager Fredi Gonzalez, the team will be more than fine. I’d be more worried about Mrs. Cox.
Best name on 40-man roster: Jairo Asencio. You want white sauce and hot sauce with that?
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Scott Proctor, who still has something resembling a human arm left after working in a Joe Torre bullpen.
Spring standout: Brandon Beachy has pitched to a 1.13 ERA, assuring himself the fifth spot in the rotation and many dumb puns on his name from headline writers.
Probable Opening Day starter: Tim Hudson, who continues to piss me off for reasons I can’t quite articulate.
Biggest question for 2011: Can the Braves challenge the Phillies for the division title, and if so, will anyone in Atlanta notice?
Strengths: Good young bullpen, lack of crowds at playoff games lessens pressure
Weaknesses: Chipper Jones running out of creative ways to end his season
Semi-serious assessment: As you get older, your hates fade. The white-hot rage I once felt toward the Braves has dissipated almost entirely. It helps that only one figure from the 1990s/2000s team remains (LAAAAA-REEEEE). But it’s also due to them having a team of mostly-home-grown regulars like Brian McCann and Jason Heyward who are much harder to hate than Brian Jordan and Greg Maddux ever were. That extends to the bullpen, which contains a lot of great young arms like Craig Kimbrel and Chris Medlen, with not a John Rocker in the bunch (that I know of). I foresee another wild card in their future, and if the Phillies’ injury woes continue, a division title is not as insane an outcome as it looked this winter. But do humanity a favor and lose the Tomahawk Chop, wouldja?
2010 record: 80-82
Biggest offseason acquisition: John Buck. The Marlins don’t spend a lot of money, but when they do spend it, they’re guaranteed to spend it stupid.
Biggest offseason loss: Slugger Dan Uggla and manager Fredi Gonzalez, both gone to the Braves. The Marlins even provide free gift wrapping when giving pieces away to division rivals.
How will the Marlins mark their last season in Dolphins Stadium?: By burning it to the ground, I hope.
Best name on 40-man roster: Arquimedes Caminero, who wowed the Sally League last season with his ability to displace water.
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Anyone over the age of 25 qualifies for this award on baseball’s versio of Logan’s Run.
Spring standout: Gaby Sanchez is following a great rookie season with a strong spring. I fully expect him to take over Jorge Cantu’s role as Met Killer Extraordinaire.
Probable Opening Day starter: Josh Johnson, who I believe is 937-1 in his career against the Mets, give or take.
Biggest question for 2011: Could Jeff Loria do us all a favor and fuck off?
Strengths: Young lineup can get into movies at kids’ prices
Weaknesses: New stadium will remove excuses for crowds not showing up
Semi-serious assessment: Much of the hate I once felt for the Braves has been sublimated and transferred to the Marlins. God, I hate this team. Sure, they have boatloads of young talent, but they also do painfully idiotic things like give away a huge bat and a manager to a divisional rival. And of course, I’m still traumatized from seeing them end the Mets’ season two years in a row (though the Mets played a hand in it). And then there’s the issue of their horrible, horrible owner, who cries poverty and demands a new stadium at taxpayer expense while pocketing bushels of revenue sharing and luxury tax funds, not putting a cent of it back into the team. Not enough bad things can happen to them (short of physical harm, of course), and if the Mets finish ahead of them this year–which is not impossible–I will be overjoyed.
2010 record: 79-83
Biggest offseason acquisition: The Mets used to be reliable for picking up at least one super-expensive player each winter. Now, their big pickup is Ronnie Paulino, backup catcher who will spend the first eight days of the season suspended for PED use (and is apparently on death’s door).
Biggest offseason loss: Johan Santana’s shoulder
Will the Wilpons’ involvement in the mess affect the Mets’ on-field play?: It’s hard to say; the players have only been asked about it 8 billion times already.
Best name on 40-man roster: Mannyl Alvarez, whose parents are huge fans of typos.
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: 15 years after the ill-fated Generation K, Jason Isringhausen finds himself back in Port St. Lucie. This minor move prompted many “hilarious” METS GONNA SIGN BILL PULSIPHER!!!1! tweets, yet the Yankees adding Bartolo Colon to their bullpen prompted nothing. Life ain’t fair.
Spring standout: Rule 5 picks Brad Emaus and Pedro Beato have played their way into the lineup and bullpen, respectively. Just noting that not all team news is a kick in the dick for fans.
Probable Opening Day starter: Thanks to Santana’s injury, the maddeningly inconsistent Mike Pelfrey will take the mound. He could strike out 10 or give up 8 home runs–tune in to find out which!
Biggest question for 2011: Will the Mets ignore the advice of most analysts and decide to play this season anyway?
Strengths: Decent lineup, Shake Shack in center field
Weaknesses: A Charlie Brown-esque rain cloud that follows them wherever they go
Semi-serious assessment: I pretty much agree with everything in Will Leitch’s recent take on the Mets’ prospects for this year and the future (though I would’ve left out his gratuitous mention of Beltran’s called strike 3 in the 2006 NLCS). The only thing I would add/emphasize is that this team should be much more enjoyable to watch than the oppressively bad and boring teams of 2009/2010. The lineup is better than people give it credit for, and the additions of Chrises Young and Capuano to the rotation have the potential to pay off big (for what each pitcher cost, it wouldn’t take much for either deal to be worth it). Does that translate into competing? Stranger things have happened, but I will be happy enough to be entertained by the Mets again, and I hope Sandy Alderson and Co. get the chance to build this team into a sustainable winner without being driven out of town by the voracious sports tabloids.
2010 record: 97-65, division title, won division series against Reds, lost NLCS to Giants
Biggest offseason acquisition: Cliff Lee, now the Elizabeth Taylor to the Phillies’ Richard Burton.
Biggest offseason loss: Jayson Werth, lost when the Nationals gave him a 25-year, $743 billion contract.
Does the signing of Luis Castillo signal concern over Chase Utley’s health?: Not necessarily; I think the Phillies believe that even Castillo can hit home runs at Citizen’s Bank Park.
Best name on 40-man roster: Antonio Bastardo, you win again.
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Shane Victorino, just because I can not fucking stand him.
Spring standout: Roy Halladay has given up one run so far this spring. So he’s slipping!
Probable Opening Day starter: Halladay, who I’m sure will throw a complete game on roughly 67 pitches.
Biggest question for 2011: The Phillies may have improved their rotation, but can they make similar strides in the area of tasing fans?
Strengths: Pitching rotation forged in the fires of Mordor itself
Weaknesses: Rash of injuries may stretch team’s grission to the breaking point
Semi-serious assessment: When the Phillies picked up Cliff Lee, it seemed nothing stood between them and another World Series appearance. Since then, they’ve experienced a string of injuries that can either be described as Biblical or Mets-ian. First Utley, whose return date remains nebulous. Then rookie phenom Domonic Brown, counted on to take over for Werth in right, went down. Now an MRI on Brad LIdge’s elbow looms large. Their otherworldly starting rotation remains intact for the moment, so they still have to be considered the favorite to win the division. However, the gap between them and the Braves is much slimmer than it looked in December. I guess that’s why they play the games.
2010 record: 69-93
Biggest offseason acquisition: Jayson Werth. Did you know he now earns more money than the President?!
Biggest offseason loss: Stephen Strasburg, done for the year with Tommy John surgery. Kids, there will be no Stras-mas this year.
How soon will first-round phenom Bryce Harper be called up?: How soon can he get a plane ticket?
Best name on 40-man roster: Atahualpa Severino, ancient Aztec god of future relievers.
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Chien-Ming Wang, once canonized in the Bronx, now still trying to fight his way back into a rotation. Sad, really.
Spring standout: Michael Morse has a stunning 8 home runs this spring. Great, one more thing to worry about.
Probable Opening Day starter: Livan Hernandez has been announced. Look, he doesn’t have much time left, so we said we’d just let him do it, okay?
Biggest question for 2011: Will the Nationals manage to take a good young core and developing players and screw it up with some dumb move?
Strengths: Deep farm system, cherry blossoms
Weaknesses: Too cozy with all those fatcats in Congress
Semi-serious assessment: The Nationals are slowly extricating themselves from the residual doldrums of MLB ownership. Their farm system is finally starting to pay dividends, and they’ve been mostly smart in how they spend what money they do have. Then they go ahead and hand out the Werth contract, which made no sense on an infinite number of levels. The length and the money involved mean that, unless Werth turns into Albert Pujols, there is zero chance it winds up being a good deal when all is said and done. With Strasburg and Harper in the wings, the Nats may not be far away from contending, but rebuilding continues this year.