The National League Central: ugh. By far the worst division in baseball, riddled with parity and mediocrity, this division has no redeeming qualities beyond schadenfreude and waiting to see if the Brewers' young players ever put it all together. The 83-win Cardinals, who are only world champions the way George W. Bush is president, actually got worse...but I'm still not sure any other team did enough to catch them. If any team in this division wins 90 games, I'll attend the first Nickelback tour to hit town once the season's over.
This is a "what-the-fuck" pick. I'll take the Brewers because they're the only team in the Central I can possibly imagine being interesting, and this will give me an excuse to root for them even though my chief fantasy rival owns Ben Sheets. If Sheets puts together a full, healthy season, I just might be buying myself some earplugs for that Nickelback show. Otherwise, forget about it. Rickie Weeks is reaching a now-or-never stage of his career. If he doesn't perform, he risks becoming a toolsy prospect who never develops into what scouts think he can be. Ryan Braun will be up by May 15. Still, fuck Bud Selig.
Pujols and Carpenter and pray for an apocalypse. Despite the monumental heart, grit, soul, determination and whiteness of David Eckstein, the Cards just aren't very good. They would probably have been better served re-signing Jeff Weaver, who in the National League is just awful as opposed to historically bad, and leaving Adam Wainwright in the closer's role. Isringhausen seems done. At least Tony LaRussa and Scott Rolen are speaking to each other this year. Phew!
Jim Hendry's unprecedented spending spree was probably just enough to get the Cubs to average. Still, holes abound. Outfield defense is a clear problem, as is on-base percentage. And the back end of the rotation. And the bullpen. Hmmm...maybe average is a bit of an overstatement. "Not quite as grotesque"? Let's go with that. Mainly because Derrek Lee is back and healthy and has another monster year in him.
Houston lost Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens, and replaced them with Jason Jennings. I'm no sabermetrician, but I'm guessing that's a net loss for 2007. The Astros are struggling to find an identity in the post-Bagwell era, and it would help if Biggio would up and quit too, giving up his quest for 3,000 hits but freeing up at-bats for the likes of Jason Lane. And until Brad Lidge has a 40-save season, no one can ever convince me that the Pujols home run didn't destroy his psyche. At least he hasn't pulled a Donnie Moore yet.
Harang and Arroyo form a solid front two in the rotation, but the back end is Nationals-esque. The bullpen is dreadful and without a clear-cut closer, at least until Todd Coffey shows he can step up. The offense will not improve over the 2006 version that allowed the Red to creep into contention. Adam Dunn is a great player, but he's not getting any better. Brandon Phillips is going to be worse. Edwin Encarnacion should improve, but not enough to withstand the gaping holes in the pitching staff. If Wayne Krivsky has a master plan, aside from "pray Homer Bailey is the answer", he needs to start enacting Phase II.
Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.