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Muscle Sport Magazine

MuscleSport Mag 2010 Baseball Preview – National League

Sports are as predictable as the New York City subway system. Two years ago, the Cinderella Rays won the American League pennant and last season, the Yankees – who spent the most money and had the best team – won it all. At least in the Senior Circuit things were more consistent, with the Phillies splitting the last two Fall Classics with their AL brethren.

Since we’re not putting any money on these predictions, all we have to lose is a little face if they’re way off. So without any further delay, here goes:

NATIONAL LEAGUE

EAST

1 – Philadelphia Phillies – They have been the class of the Senior Circuit and may even take a step up with the acquisition of Roy Halladay. Rightfielder Jason Werth is already a stud and is on the cusp of superstardom. Even in an improved division, the Phils should keep the top spot filled with cheesesteaks.

2 – Florida Marlins – The pesky bunch always finds a way to sneak into contention, even though they go through a complete makeover every few years. Starting pitchers Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco’s success will determine if the Fish can finish in second place or below that. Dan Uggla sets the pace for the offense.

3 – Washington Nationals – This team will be one of the biggest surprises this summer and you heard it here first. Figure on number one overall pick Stephen Strasburg to be called up by May and be added to an already improved and competitive starting rotation. John Lannan and Jason Marquis are more than capable and if lefty Scott Olsen can return from shoulder surgery, they can be four deep. And don’t forget about Chien-Ming Wang, who was the ace of the Yankees staff not too long ago. Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn supply the power.

4 – Atlanta Braves – The ashes that remain from a once dominant team have blown away and all that remains are Chipper Jones and Bobby Cox, who will be managing his last season. Their pitching staff has some talent and may be able to carry them for a while but the depth is not there. Centerfielder Nate McClouth is multi-talented.

5 – New York Mets – This team has more excuses than a cemetery has maggots. Both Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya are on the hot seat and deserve to be. They has been hanging on to the fact that they were one win away from the 2006 World Series for too long and have been trying to patch it up ever since. They are headed north with a team void of power hitters except for Jason Bay, who they overpaid because the other free agents they were looking at were off the market. Their starting rotation? Unless you can clone Johan Santana, they don’t have one. With the rash of injuries that have become commonplace in Flushing, the Mets need to take a long and hard look at their conditioning and training staff. The cellar is awaitin.’

CENTRAL

1 – St. Louis Cardinals – Pitching is the name of the game and the Redbirds have added Brad Penny to an already strong rotation. They need to settle their third base situation and have youngster David Freese penciled in there now. Don’t take the addition of hitting coach Mark McGwire too lightly. This may be the only city that will forgive the former slugger and welcome him with open arms back into the fold and his teaching could go a long way.

2 – Milwaukee Brewers – The Brew Crew has a decent rotation that can keep them in contention for a playoff berth. Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder are capable of huge numbers.

3 – Chicago Cubs – With Lou Pinella’s contract expiring, one would figure that he needs to secure at least a Wild Card berth to retain his job. That will not be easy, especially with a strong bunch out west. This group may have seen their window of opportunity close and a minor rebuilding effort will not hurt them. Just getting Milton Bradley out of town is a plus.

4 – Cincinnati Reds – They may start off okay but will probably trade away their useful veterans by the trading deadline. Names such as Bronson Arroyo, Scott Rolen and Ramon Hernandez will find themselves in another uniform by August 1.

5 – Houston Astros – Brad Mills was brought in as manager and will have a tough go of it. What he does have going for him besides a weak division are good corner outfielders and infielders.

6 – Pittsburgh Pirates – What seems like a never ending rebuilding stage continues foe the Bucs. They do have a decent top three in their rotation, but will probably trade two of them away before too long.

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WEST

1 – San Francisco Giants – Pitching will carry them all the way to October. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Barry Zito make up a tough staff and while the position players lack a legit superstar, all of them are more than serviceable players who can handle the stick.

2 – Los Angeles Dodgers – Joe Torre is simply a winner, regardless of what coast his electric bill is sent to. The Dodgers will just fall short of the division but make it as the Wild card entrant. They need to pick up a quality starter before the deadline and can overtake the Giants if that arm proves to be a major improvement.

3 – Colorado Rockies – This club has made a habit of slow starts and fast finishes. That will run out on them this year. Even the heart of Troy Tulowitzki isn;t enough this time around.

4 – Arizona Diamondbacks – The D-Backs’ season hinges on if Brandon Webb can come back and even be close to what he had been before shoulder surgery. Dan Haren is a good replacement but cannot be the same ace as Webb. Justin Upton is a superstar already at 22 and was awarded with a six-year, $51.25 million deal.

5 – San Diego Padres – They will be more competitive than in ’09 and may even have a shot at avoiding the basement. Bringing in Jon Garland to lead a young staff was a good move.

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Division Winners: Phillies, Cardinals, Giants

Wild Card: Dodgers

National League Champion: Cardinals

Photo by Bill Menzel

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