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Philadelphia was the NL's first team playing in back to back World Series since Atlanta in 1995 (won) & 1996 (lost). They're front runners to make it three straight in 2010. Atlanta tries to regain NL glory. The Braves finished first 14 of 15 seasons between 1991-2005 including 11 consecutive East titles. Florida's youth finds ways to win. New York's club invented new ways to lose day after day in '09. Washington re-tooled for '10.
Who will be the beast of the east this year? Time to check out off season winners and losers (in order of 2009 standings).
Philadelphia Phillies (93-69, Lost World Series):
Key additions: Roy Halladay, Placido Polanco, Danys Baez, Jose Contreras, Brian Schneider.
Key losses: Cliff Lee, Kyle Drabek, Pedro Feliz, Brett Myers.
Toronto dangled Halladay and the Phillies got him by way of a three team blockbuster. Time to celebrate? Maybe, maybe not. How did Philly brass cut loose post-season hero Cliff Lee? They could have had Halladay, Lee & Hamels dominating foes for years to come. Phils will not miss a beat without Lee this year. BUT.. one can only wonder what could have been only if the front office was shrewd enough to think "dynasty" instead of instant gratification. Monster batting lineup is much improved with the addition of Polanco.
Projected rotation: Halladay, Hamels, Blanton, Happ, Contreras
Bullpen: Disasterous for much of '09 before finally settling down in September. Lidge rebounded just in time for post season play after nearly being demoted (0-8, 7.21). Relievers will battle for jobs during spring training and should be fine heading into regular season play.
Forecast: Barring injuries, NL East is the Phils to win or lose. Very strong, very deep team.
Florida Marlins (87-75):
Key additions: no standouts
Key losses: Nick Johnson, Russ Gload, Jeremy Hermida, Matt Lindstrom, Scott Proctor, Brendan Donnelly.
How does this team keep threatening to win the East year after year? Simple. Great scouting. Great development system. Florida plays fundamental baseball. This franchise keeps churing out strong pitchers for future champions. Great team chemistry & attitude. Don't be surprised if they're knocking on the door once again.
Projected rotation: Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, ???
Bullpen: All jobs are open. Leo Nunez will be given first crack at nailing down the closer role. Spring training battles will be fun to watch.
Forecast: Never count these guys out. They play with heart and guts. Dangerous club. Signing a veteran slugger or flame thrower would instantly turn the Marlins into playoff contenders.
Atlanta Braves (86-76):
Key additions: Troy Glaus, Takashi Saito, Billy Wagner, Scott Proctor, Erik Hinske.
Key losses: Mike Gonzalez, Adam LaRoche, Kelly Johnson, Rafael Soriano.
2010 will be manager Bobby Cox final season. He's one of the all time greatest in baseball's history. The Braves got stronger gearing up for another pennant push. Atlanta hasn't finished higher than 3rd four years running since winning 11 consecutive division titles. Finger pointing begins with poor bullpen performances. It's been revamped for '10 so look out East. Now there's a new question... can this team score runs? Chipper and Glaus are nearing retirement and the rest of this lineup is very young. Defense could be troublesome too.
Projected rotation: Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrgens, Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson, ???
Bullpen: Revamped and suddenly lights out group highlighted by newcomers Wagner & Saito.
Forecast: If Atlanta can create runs then they'll be back in the thick of things once again.
New York Mets (70-92):
Key additions: Jason Bay, Gary Mathews Jr, Kelvim Escobar, Mike Jacobs, Ryota Igarashi,
Key losses: JJ Putz, Brian Schneider.
Mets completely fell apart last year. Not many teams played sloppier baseball than these guys. Even their new ballpark was severly critiqued. Injuries plagued most star players in '09. Reyes, Beltran, Delgado, Santana, Maine, Wagner, Pagan, Putz and a host of others all missed significant time. I'm not a fan of their current front office and baseball related decision making. They should be considered big losers this winter. Heading into 2010... no bonified starting 1B, C and weak starting rotation. Plenty of bargain salaried free agents are still available from role players to potential starters and the Mets aren't making any moves. NY needs to get every break in '10 to win more than they lose. Health is key #1. Defense #2. Solid pitching #3.
Projected rotation: Santana, Maine, Pelfrey, Perez, ???
Bullpen: Francisco Rodriguez was often victimized by shoddy defense. Setup men blew it all year long. Japanese import Ryota Igarashi is being counted on heavily. Escobar is slated as a reliever. What are the Mets thinking? Obviously, not clearly.
Forecast: If healthy, they might challenge. Far from dominating rotation. Bullpen still in trouble. Lack of batting power and defense still a question mark especially on infield's right side. Looks like another long season for Mets fans.
Washington Nationals (59-103):
Key additions: Chien-Ming Wang, Ivan Rodriguez, Jason Marquis, Eddie Guardado, Adam Kennedy, Brian Bruney and many potential contributors to minor league contracts.
Key losses: No one who will be missed.
I like what Washington has done this winter. Don't get me wrong as I believe it would take a baseball miracle for the Nationals to contend any time soon. On the other hand, respectability and a winning attitude probably got a boost with the addition of a few soon to be instrumental conttibutors. Signing Pudge will help young pitchers. Rotation and bullpen positions up for grabs (as always). Pitching has always been a very big problem for Washington. These guys never seem to throw strikes. Batting lineup will put up runs led by Zimmerman & Dunn.
Projected rotation: Up for grabs. Lannan & Marquis are the only locks as of now. Wang rebounding after multiple injuries and lack of effectiveness for Yanks. If healthy, a great signing.
Bullpen: Spring training to determines who makes big league squad. Personally, I'd like to see Bruney win the job.
Forecast: Playoffs are way off in the distant future. 2010 should be better than recent seasons.
NL East race will be great. Philadelphia remains obvious front runners followed by Atlanta & Florida giving it their all. New York & Washington have a long way to go. As for predictions, lets wait and see how I feel when rosters are finalized. Stay tuned.