Monday, April 16, 2012

Major League Baseball (MLB) 2012: Thoughts on all 16 National League (NL) Teams

By Evan Troxel
Well, here are my thoughts about all 16 National League teams and some of the baseball players who play for some of these teams.  In this article, I tried to include whether I thought a particular team would be postseason bound or not and some of the star players from each team that I recognize as star and/or good players.

My thoughts about the NL East are that first, Atlanta Braves longtime third baseman Chipper Jones is making this year his last season of playing MLB.  I kind of like the Braves and it was disappointing to see them lose to the Phillies in the final game of the Regular Season last year.  I’m glad that the St. Louis Cardinals got to go to the playoffs instead of the Braves last year anyway.  Anyway this season the Braves look to be a fairly mediocre team and miss out on the playoffs…again.  

Something tells me that the Philadelphia Phillies won’t make the playoffs this season.  If they do, maybe they’ll get to the World Series but they’ll get swept by…the Texas Rangers of all teams.  Or they’ll get beat by the Yankees in the World Series or perhaps an NL West team in the playoffs. 
The Miami Marlins acquired some well-known players in the offseason such as starting pitchers Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano, a closer in Heath Bell, shortstop Jose Reyes, and outfielder Austin Kearns.  It’s also interesting to note that former Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez is now playing 3rd Base for the Marlins.  It’s not very often when a reigning player (in Ramirez) at a position gives up his position for the harmony of the team.  

The Marlins spent more money than any other Major League team this offseason so it will be interesting to see how their season plays out.  I think with all the money the Marlins threw around this offseason they will make the playoffs but right now I just don’t see how that will happen.  If the Marlins do make the playoffs I’m going to guess that they will get as far as playing in the National League Championship Series.  There’s got to be some tension with the Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes situation.  Reyes has more speed than Ramirez but I think Ramirez is clearly the better fielder than Reyes is.

The New York Mets have a lot of unknown players on their team.  If they win the World Series this year, I would be very surprised.  Starting pitcher Johan Santana, third baseman David Wright, outfielder Jason Bay, and relief pitcher Ramon Ramirez I’d say are the best players on the Mets.  I don’t know a whole lot about relief pitching but I’d say Ramon Ramirez is one of the better relief pitchers in MLB.  I don’t think the Mets are a playoff team this year at all.
The Washington Nationals I think have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs this season.  They played good in the Regular Season last year but they just couldn’t close the door and finish the Regular Season strong.  In 2005, the Nationals were in first place at the All-Star Break.  However, that was their first season (and currently best season) in Washington.  That year they finished with a record of 81-81.  In 2011 they finished with a record of 80-81.

Unfortunately for the Nationals, longtime catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez is currently a free agent and likely won’t sign with the Nationals because he only played in a handful of games last season and if he wanted to play with the Nationals he probably would have signed with them by now considering he played for the Nationals last season.  Rodriguez also hasn’t got any offers from any MLB club to play for their team which I think is sad considering he might be the best player to ever play the position of catcher.  I suppose Pudge will be wanted if a catcher for some MLB club gets hurt and/or right after the All-Star Break because it is shortly before the Trading Deadline.  I really hope Pudge doesn’t retire anytime soon.

As for the NL Central, I’d say that almost no one wants to play for the Houston Astros right now.  Their “star” players I’d say are their closer in Brett Myers and power hitter and first basemen Carlos Lee.  That’s it!  I think the Astros may get lucky and finish as high as fifth in the NL Central standings at the end of the season.  Plus, by not playing well in 2012, the Astros can leave the NL quietly as they will be a part of the American League (AL) in 2013.

The St. Louis Cardinals I just don’t see them repeating as World Series Champions this year.  The last MLB team to repeat as World Series Champions was the New York Yankees who actually won three years straight from 1998-2000.  The last time an NL team won back-to-back World Championships was the Cincinnati Reds back in the years 1975 and 1976.  The last NL team to repeat before the Reds was the New York Giants back in 1921 and 1922.  And the last NL team before the Giants to repeat was the Chicago Cubs back in 1907 and 1908.

The Chicago Cubs really have one goal obviously and that is really to do whatever it is going to take to win the World Series this year.  For those of you who don’t know, I said the word “obviously” in the previous sentence because the Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908 and they haven’t played in a World Series game since 1945.  I think this year could finally be the year the Cubs win the World Series.

I definitely think the Cubs will make the playoffs this year and I think they will win their division.  If they don’t win their division then they will definitely be one of the last four teams standing in the NL.

I see the Milwaukee Brewers as finishing fifth or sixth in the NL Central this year (or at least that’s what I hope for).  Yeah, I know the previous sentence may sound absurd right now, but Prince Fielder is no longer a Brewer (he now plays for the AL’s Detroit Tigers) and the National Football League’s former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning proved his value in the 2011-2012 season by not playing (so it’s definitely possible for a good team to be bad the next season just because of one player on your team).  As for my NL Central Division predictions this year, the Brewers wouldn’t have finished higher than fourth in the NL Central if I didn’t know about their rivalry with the Cubs.  Realistically though, the Brewers will probably finish between 2nd and 5th in the NL Central this year.

The Pittsburgh Pirates I think will have a good season this year but they probably won’t make the playoffs.  It would be interesting to see them finish 7th or 8th overall in the NL this season and a “close” 3rd or 4th in the NL Central (to the teams who are better than them).  The Pirates star players I’d say are Andrew McCutchen, Clint Barmes, Nate McLouth, and the seemingly always injured (and currently injured) starting pitcher A.J. Burnett.
The Cincinnati Reds have star players in 106 mph throwing relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman, second baseman Brandon Phillips, third baseman Scott Rolen, and power hitting first baseman Joey Votto.  The Reds may be playoff contenders come September and will probably finish between 2nd and 4th in the NL Central division standings although I don’t think they will finish last within the division.
In the NL West, the Arizona Diamondbacks (D-Backs for short) have stars in their closer J.J. Putz, outfielder Justin Upton, and relief pitcher Takashi Saito.  The Diamondbacks made the playoffs last year by positively improving with 29 more wins than they had in 2010.  The D-Backs give me the impression that last season was no fluke and they will be serious playoff contenders again this year.  I expect to see the Diamondbacks either barely get in the playoffs or just miss making the playoffs for the 2012 season.

The Colorado Rockies made some offseason moves and acquired starting pitchers Jeremy Guthrie and 49 year-old Jamie Moyer, outfielders Tyler Colvin and Michael Cuddyer, and second baseman and shortstop Marco Scutaro.  I’m looking forward to seeing how much of an impact Cuddyer and Scutaro make for the Rockies this season.  The Rockies wouldn’t have any reason to believe they are a good team if it weren’t for their leadership and experienced based ballplayers in Todd Helton and Jason Giambi.  

The star players for the Rockies are Todd Helton, Jason Giambi, Carlos Gonzalez, and Troy Tulowitzki.  My thoughts about Helton are that he is a good player, I like him, and I hope he stays with the Rockies for his entire career.  I respect Giambi because it appears he has moved on from being linked to steroids unlike his former teammate with the New York Yankees in Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds.  

Carlos Gonzalez (“Cargo” his nickname) is a risk taker (both offensively and defensively) and as an outfielder he dives to catch the baseball (when it could easily be out of his reach/grasp and he tries not to let it get into the gap) unlike most outfielders (or even infielders for that matter).  Cargo is probably one of the better sluggers in MLB (although he is careless and/or lazy batting at times in that he tries to slug or at least pull the baseball which could result in serious injuries), I’m surprised he hasn’t gotten injured much as a result of his aggressive and hustle-like play, and he’s a smart player.  I like Cargo, he’s probably one of the hardest working ballplayers in the Majors currently, but he’s definitely not my favorite or one of my favorite players in MLB.
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is the second most careless player in the Majors (the first is the careless Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard who would be better off playing in the National Basketball Association (NBA) with how he plays overall and just his attitude about MLB if you ask me or at least he could blend in well if he were a part of the NBA.  In my opinion, Ryan Howard doesn’t stretch at all or at least stretch well which is one of the reasons why I believe he is starting this season on the Disabled List and why I think he is careless.)  I dislike Tulowitzki, I can’t wait to see how long it is until he gets hurt again (that’s how careless I think he is), he is careless when he bats and it seems like he uses up all his strength when he hits a home run or at least when he hits the ball a long ways, and he definitely pulls the baseball.  I don’t think he should be trying to slug the ball…just hit ground balls and line drives!  I think Tulowitzki is one of the sloppiest defensive players in the Majors.  I hope the Rockies can make the playoffs this season or at least soon in upcoming seasons.

The Los Angeles Dodgers arguably might have the best player in MLB in Matt Kemp.  So far this season he has been hustling a lot and he looks very serious when he plays.  I would say he too is another player who is one of the hardest working baseball players in MLB currently.  The Dodgers as of Monday morning, April 16th, 2012 have a record of 9-1, are in first place in the NL West, and have the best record, most wins and fewest losses, and best winning percentage in the Majors.  The Dodgers will probably be going to the playoffs this season with how well they’ve been playing so far this year.  

The San Diego Padres I don’t think will make the playoffs this year after getting rid of their star closer in Heath Bell and sending him to the Miami Marlins.  The Padres star players are starting pitchers Clayton Richard and Edinson Volquez, relief pitcher Micah Owings, closer Huston Street, second baseman Orlando Hudson, and outfielder Cameron Maybin.  I’d also say outfielders Mark Kotsay and Carlos Quentin are star players for the Padres but both of them are currently on the Disabled List (as I’m typing this article).  It would be nice to see the Padres at least improve their record this season as opposed to last season.

The San Francisco Giants proved last season how bad they can play when their star catcher in Buster Posey cannot play.  They actually only lost 6 more games in 2011 than they did in 2010.  I think the Giants are far from going to the playoffs this year (or at least that’s what I hope happens).  I think the Giants starting pitcher Barry Zito could be better than he has played since he put on a Giants uniform.  I wish he would compete more and not play so mediocre and/or modestly.  The well-known Giants closer Brian Wilson who helped the Giants clinch a World Series Championship in 2010 appears to be done for the 2012 season.  It sounds like Brian Wilson is going to have to undergo Tommy John surgery and the full rehabilitation from the surgery won’t be complete until about a year after the surgery.

Well, I hope you all enjoyed something about this article.

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