Monday, March 27, 2006

The 14 Most Relevant Baseball Teams of 2006: Part I - The National League

After our recent 3 part series about the Top 14 Game Shows of All Time.. it is time once again to roll out another Top 14 List.. And with baseball’s Opening Day just around the corner.. It’s time for Natesradamus’s predictions for the upcoming year. For me, baseball season started Thursday night when my NCAA brackets went down the tubes with the demise of 2 of my Final Four teams… Duke and this year’s big choke team - Gonzaga. As I tossed out my bracket sheet and thanked CBS for streaming the games for free.. It was time to go back to the usual routine of Larry King and Rita Cosby… not even realizing that Sunday would mean the elimination of my other Final 4 Teams - Villanova and UConn.

Now that I am back from my NCAA hiatus, I see that both Larry and Rita are still covering the tragic death of that grad student and the indictment of the bouncer…. I wonder if it would get this much coverage if she wasn’t so pretty. Then it is time to hear commentary about this teacher who had sex with her student and had her charges dropped because the boy was freaking out over all the media coverage. Yet the woman rapist just doesn’t get it… and continues to blame the media for this big mess.

I got a kick out of one of these lawyer talking heads who said this was every teenaged boys dream.. To have sex with an incredibly hot teacher. However, if these horny teenaged boys want to get hot blondes… they should do what other teens do… have a party and arrange for some call girls to come up to their tree house. These kids should not be getting their sex from the people who are supposed to teach them about Napolean and Shakespeare and integers and dangling participles. If this teacher wants to have sex with young boys she should change her career to what she has already proven to be - a whore. But not in a school.

So anyway without further ado… we start with the National League… later in the week we will unveil the rest of the list with the teams from The American League.

THE METS - Of course we will start out with my favorite team.. And no.. they are not on the list because I am a fan… The Mets will be much improved in ‘06. They added slugger Carlos Delgado at 1st base, plus the team is expecting some big numbers from Carlos Beltran and David Wright to shore up the middle of the line-up. The team may have made some costly oddball moves in the offseason however.. Trading Jae Seo OR Kris Benson may have made sense… but sending away both of them to shore up the bullpen may come back to bite them in the tushy if the starters fall short and Aaron Heilman and Victor Zambrano can’t pick up the slack.

I also wasn’t too thrilled to see Mike Cameron go to San Diego and I think that he and Mike Piazza may end up combining for approximately 40 dingers there. Oh well.. Billy Wagner will be a vast improvement to the bullpen. And once Pedro’s toe gets better… fans will be back at the park wearing Vote for Pedro shirts… while I will wear my rebellious Vote for Summer shirt. I don’t know how much gas Tom Glavine has in the tank.. But Steve Trachsel should bounce back from an injury filled 2005. I also like the new radio announcer Tom McCarthy.. He sounds just like Gary Cohen except he talks just a bit slower..

THE BRAVES - They win the division every year and I will continue to pick them as long as the streak continues. They look lousy on paper every year.. But they always bounce back. John Smoltz and Tim Hudson anchor the front of the rotation, and the rest of the starters will pitch lights out as soon as they put on the uniform. The bullpen has a big hole with Chris Reitsma as the stopper.. But somehow the Braves will put it all together. The lineup looks weak.. Andruw Jones won’t have such a great year like last year.. But I am so tired of picking against the Braves and seeing them win that I sheepishly again concede the division to them.

THE PHILLIES - The National League East is gonna be one strong division this year.. And the Phillies have the horses to make a run at the top. The lineup is stellar with big bopping bats of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell. If Rollins’s hitting streak continues into the season it could be a distraction since many will debate any comparison to Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game streak which took place in one season. The pitching staff is pretty decent and is anchored by Jon Lieber and Brent Myers. Who knows how much Tom Gordon will do now that he is back in the spotlight as the closer?… With the talent in this division (and the gimme games against The Nationals and The Marlins) it makes you wonder how the Braves will finish higher than 3rd.

THE CARDINALS - They should do pretty well this year.. Albert Pujols is arguably the best hitter in the National League and the Cardinal fans are praying for a full season of health from Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds. Mark Mulder, and Chris Carpenter anchor a strong staff, and like their counterparts in Atlanta, the Cards have a knack of getting the most out of pitchers who have been mediocre with other teams. Jason Isringhausen should nail down his annual 30-35 saves. It’s hard to believe that Larry Walker isn’t playing anymore. I think he will make it to The Hall of Fame. What a great player he was!

THE ASTROS - Their success could hinge on Roger Clemens decision to retire. He can’t return to the team till May 1, and I get the feeling he will be so bored away from the game that he will re-sign with the team after the one month hiatus. Roy Oswalt is still the ace of the staff… and Brandon Backe and Andy Pettite ain’t too shabby either. Brad Lidge is arguably the best stopper in the NL. The Astros also have a pretty potent lineup with Lance Berkman, Morgan Ensberg, Preston Wilson and Jason Lane. The only reason they will finish 2nd to the Cards is because St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa is a genius.

THE CUBS - A borderline for the Top 14.. Maybe no. 14 overall… and a lot of it hinges on the health of pitchers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood who are injured.. Yet again. The back of the rotation is quite solid with Carlos Zambrano and Greg Maddux.. (who might be in his final season), but those 2 can’t carry this team without Prior and/or Wood. The top of the lineup is improved with the acquisition of Juan Pierre.. The only player with a Spanish-French name. Derrek Lee is coming off an amazing year, and he will anchor the lineup with Aramis Ramirez. Stopper Ryan Dempster will have to repeat his ‘05 success to keep the Cubs on this list.

THE GIANTS - The only team from the NL West worthy of this list. The Padres won the division last year as a barely better than 500 team. and that’s because Barry Bonds was out most of the year. I won’t use today’s column to blast Bonds.. But if he can eke out one more solid year, this team should do quite well. (Imagine that Hall of Fame Day.. Maddux and Bonds.. I can see the Lupica columns now!) If Bonds has enough in the gas tank to put up some decent numbers, the team will easily win the division. The outfield will have a four man rotation with Bonds, fellow old-timers Moises Alou and Steve Finley and Randy Winn. The rotation has a strong starting 3 with Jason Schmidt, free agent Matt Morris, and Noah Lowry. Armando Benitez will be counted on to perform for a contending team… a task he has had great difficulty with in the past. But Bonds is good enough to carry the team and give WFAN afternoon drive host Chris Mad Dog Russo something to bark about during the season.

Also, I wonder what will happen once Bonds breaks Babe Ruth’s homer record of 714 and starts to target Hank Aaron’s all time record of 755. Bonds is so hated by so many people that the glare of the spotlight will be tough to overcome. If he finishes the year in the 730s or 740s will he give it one more shot despite the widespread heckling he will get from the fans? And will the anti-Bonds sentiment become a race issue? The all time home run record is held by a black man… so the racism angle might lose some muster. Keep in mind that Aaron got a ton of vicious racist hate mail as he made his run at 714. Hank Aaron’s record may not be broken by Bonds, but what happens if A-Rod is still playing into his 40’s?

Division Winners: Braves, Cardinals, Giants
Wild Card: The Mets
Wild Card if I wasn’t such a big Met fan; The Astros
Final Wild Card Pick: The Mets!
Pennant Winner: St. Louis Cardinals
The Audrey Raines is Bad! Award for Biggest Surprise Team: The vastly improved Pirates
The Don’t Jump to Conclusions that Audrey Raines is Bad! Based on the 24 Promos Award: Nate for jumping to conclusions that Audrey Raines is Bad! Based on the 24 promos.

Later in the week.. The American League and The rest of the Top 14!


Pumpstradamus said...

WOW, fabulous post, Nate! Absolutely gripping, I was on the edge of my seat. Can't wait for the rest!

(Okay, just to let your readers in on the joke, I'm not really a big sports fan.)

All kidding aside, I'm reminded of the time when they were doing 'The Dying Swan' at the ballet, and there was a rumour that some bookies had drifted into town from upstate New York and that they had fixed the ballet. My suspicions were confirmed when I learned the audience had bet a ton of money on the swan to live! (Little did I know, the FBI would show up in the middle of Act II, place the swan under federal arrest, brutally interrogate half a dozen pigeons and subpoena an entire flock of geese.)

Go Cardinals!

Nate said...

Hysterical... I thought there was going to be a different punchline. Don't forget Part II is coming later this week. Maybe you and Dangerspouse wanna wander over to the NPR blog during the Baseball Preview?

Cardinal Pump said...

P.S. - Speaking of cardinals and baseball: "Newly elevated Sean Cardinal O'Malley of the archdiocese of Boston showed his lighter side when asked why he was wearing blue socks instead of red socks under his sandals. He said he would start wearing red socks when the Red Sox win the pennant again.

Nate said...

The Dying Swan? I thought it reminded you of the time when you went to the opera.. someone leaped out.. stole a bass and ran home! (Or however that old joke goes..)

Dangerspouse said...

Good grief. I thought it was hard following your television entries....

Nate said...

Brace yourself Dangerspouse... we have one more baseball column and then its back to the regular silliness. I will mention Caspar Weinberger in it.. if that is any consolation..

In the interim feel free to join Cardinal Pump at the NPR blog... (Im amazed the 2 of you arent best buds... you both read a lot and dont watch tv or sports, and listen to npr!)

By the way Danger... did you see the front page of the NJ Herald the other day... there is a pic of our former station owner!

Also.. I just read your St. Paddys day column about the constipated dog.. Brilliant!!

P. Damus said...

I will mention Caspar Weinberger in it.. if that is any consolation..

That's good to know, but kindly refrain from any puns like, "Caspar's now a friendly ghost".

On a related and coincidental note, today is the 23rd anniversary of one of my favorite comic strips, where a penguin sat in a meadow and uttered the poem:

How I love to watch the morn
With golden sun that shines,
Up above to nicely warm
These frosty toes of mine
The wind doth taste of bittersweet,
Like jasper wine and sugar.
I bet it's blown through others' feet,
like those of... Caspar Weinberger.

- Berke Breathed (as spoken by P. Opus), March 30, 1983

Dangerspouse said...

Aw, thanks for the nice words about my horrific holiday, Nate. Made it worth every disgusting second of living through it, now.

Oh man, "Cap" Weinberger. I'm still furious that he was pardoned. Don't get me started....

Ooh, which of the M&M's got the press coverage? I'll have to hunt that down. I'll bet they finally got snagged flagrantly shredding labor law regulations. Again.

Ok, off to check Cardinal Pump. Thanks again!

Nate said...

Oh believe me, I am definitely no fan of Mr. Weinberger... and you are right on the money about his pardon.

I will have to have you and New Wifey (TM) over to the house along with Pump and Mrs. Pump so you guys can discuss books and NPR while I look at you with a blank stare.. just like when we used to work together!

Maybe we will have you over for our Passover-St. Patty's Day celebration with some Sephardi corned beef.

Word out to my homey Pump.. is Dangers labor law regulations joke legally ok? It is just a joke of course..:)

Dangerspouse said...

Oh brother, don't tell me Pump's a lawyer?

Oh wait - he IS Jewish....


Dangerspouse said...

Oops, almost forgot to ask....

Where can one read the aforementioned Pump/NPR blog? I couldn't find a link.