Baseball: NL East Preview

By and

So you think the first week is any indication of what’s going to happen in the NL East? So do I.

Top to bottom, this could be the most competitive division in the league. Like any division, the 162-game grind will produce the most complete team as the division champ.

The New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves all stick out for different reasons.

New York has a young lineup that makes most American League teams jealous. With the addition of Johan Santana the Mets’ pitching staff obviously gets a boost, but it wasn’t that good to begin with. Pedro Martinez no longer has the fast ball to compliment anything else in his arsenal, and he’s about five or six years past his prime. El Duque, Orlando Hernandez, is at least five or six months overdue for retirement.

Philadelphia’s pitching problem isn’t so much in its age as its depth. Cole Hamels has an outside chance at finishing a respectable third in the NL Cy Young competition and will have Brett Myers back to provide a solid one-two punch. If Brad Lidge can be better than half the closer that he was in Houston, the Phillies have at least a manageable bullpen to preserve most of the leads arguably the best slugging short stop (Jimmy Rollins), second baseman (Chase Utley) and first baseman (Ryan Howard) will create.

The Braves’ pitching staff might be old, but guys like John Smoltz and Tom Glavine are proven as such. The question is whether they have enough firepower to compete with the division big dogs. When the Braves do get leads, Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano will be like a rickety roller coaster trying to hold them.

Florida has a slew of young talent, including the man who could one day become the best player in the league, Hanley Ramirez. The best bargain in the league won’t be enough as the Phillies win this division in the end.