As I sit here, watching a show on the Phillies World Series Championship, I sit here and think about next year. Now granted, I understand that there is still a long way to go before the new season starts, but it's never too early for predictions so here goes nothing. Maybe I will come back and look at this in October 2009.
National League West
After starting out last year with a quick lead, the Arizona Diamondbacks fell into a slump and never fully recovered. Even though they pushed hard towards the end of the season they never really did what they were supposed too and finished in second place in the west.
They won 80 and lost 82, finishing two games back from the surging Dodgers.
The Diamondbacks will be pushing hard this off-season to rebuild the team after last years hard campaign.
They have already signed catcher Chris Snyder, and they have good pitchers, even though they have lost Randy Johnson to the San Francisco Giants. I look to see this team finish third in the west.
The Colorado Rockies, after going to the World Series less than a year before, Colorado finished in third place with a 74-88 record. The Rockies during this off-season have lost Brian Fuentes and Matt Holliday among some others, and I think that they will be looking to rebuild this year as well.
They have made several acquisitions and the offseason is still young. The Rockies have signed Alan Embree and Greg Smith.
The Rockies will make a push this season and I think will be tough. All in all, I think they will get another pitcher and possibly another outfielder, due to the fact that Scott Podsednik is a free agent. I see the Rockies as finishing in fourth place.
The Los Angeles Dodgers remain my dark horse of the NL West; they will either be really good or really bad. Last year, they stormed back and won the NL West by two games.
They manhandled the Cubs in the first round of the playoffs only to get silenced by the Phillies in the NLCS. So what about this year?
The Dodgers have lost Greg Maddux, Brad Penny, and Chan Ho Park. Rumor has it they will be losing Jeff Kent, and Manny Ramirez is still up for debate on whether he is going to be signed or not.
The Dodgers have already resigned Rafael Furcal and Mark Loretta, but what is this team going to do now? They obviously need pitching, and how much of a distraction is the Manny Ramirez issue. Are they going to sign Bobby Abreu? Wait and see with this team; I see them finishing in second.
The San Francisco Giants, made moves last offseason picking up Barry Zito and a few key others. Zito did poorly winning only 10 games and losing 17.
The Giants failed to capitalize and finished the season at 72-90. Twelve games out of the lead, the Giants struggled through the second half of the season.
The Giants have already made a lot of moves this off-season and have made heavy acquisitions. It's almost as if it's playoffs or bust. They have signed Bob Howry, Randy Johnson, Edgar Renteria, and Jeremy Affeldt.
They have also been rumored to be after Ramirez and Abreu along with the Dodgers. I think this team is on to something this year. I see the Giants surprising people this year and winning the division.
The San Diego Padres, who have struggled for the last couple years finished this last year as celler dwellers despite efforts by pitchers, Jake Peavy and Brett Tomko.
The Padres front office, in an effort to try and deal Jake Peavy, had deals fall apart with numerous teams including the Cubs and Braves.
The Padres have already lost Josh Bard, and haven't made any big acquisitions this offseason. The rumors are that the Padres are trying to sell to a different owner, and the only thing I see is that Brian Giles is in trouble (assault), and they will most likely lose Trevor Hoffman.
I look at the Padres not being able to finish higher than 5th place this season either.
So in order I see the National League West:
National League Central
The Chicago Cubs walked away with the division, and despite a late push by the Milwaukee Brewers, they easily won 97 games to win the division. The Cubs picked up Reed Johnson, Jim Edmonds, and transitioned Kerry Wood to a closer and Ryan Dempster to a starter.
The lack of a left-handed batter sealed the Cubs fate in the NLDS, as the Dodgers swept the Cubs and knocked them out of the playoffs before Lou Pinella realized what had happened.
This off-season has already hurt a lot of Cubs fans, as they have lost Mark DeRosa and Kerry Wood. They have signed Kevin Gregg, Aaron Miles, and resigned Ryan Dempster.
Rumors are that they will be signing Milton Bradley, and Jake Peavy rumors still fly. I see the Cubs winning this division, but not by much. The Cubs need to make a couple more key moves for me to be more satisfied that they will go far in the playoffs.
The Houston Astros, a team that has given the Cubs heartache over the last couple years, struggled last year as they began rebuilding and were 11 games off the mark last year.
The Astros couldn't keep up in the Central and only won 86 games. During this off-season they lost Mark Loretta and Ty Wiggington but acquired Aaron Boone, Mike Hampton, and resigned Latroy Hawkins.
The Astros are really hurting due to the economic pinch, and will struggle this year. I don't see them doing very much more this offseason. I see them finishing in third place.
The Cincinnati Reds, who have been a middle of the road team for the last couple years, have had a busy offseason already. Most well-known is their acquisition of free agent, Willy Taveras. The Reds also signed Ramon Hernandez and Arthur Rhodes.
I don't forsee anything changing this year, the Reds don't have the pitching to keep up in the division and they will do all they can but I still think this is a rebuilding year for them.
The Reds won 74 games last season and will probably duplicate that number this year. The Reds will finish in fifth place.
The Milwaukee Brewers, who used youngsters and speed to do damage in the National League Central, lost to the Phillies in the NLDS 3-1. The wild card team is bracing to lose a lot of players this off-season and owner Mark Attanasio has already asked for a salary cap.
The Brewers have lost Sabathia and free agents remain aplenty. Included in that list are Jason Kendall, Ray Durham, Ben Sheets, and Craig Counsell.
After signing Mike Lamb, there will probably be a few more acquisitions. Prince Fielder always remains a threat, but can the Milwaukee Brewers finally catch the Cubs and win the division? I don't think so. I see the Brewers finishing in second place again this year.
The Pittsburgh Pirates, who are getting better each year, finished last year in last place 30 games out but are still 3-4 years away from having a good squad. They have signed Ryan Doumit, and acquired Ramon Vazquez. They don't have the payroll to keep up with the other teams, and it is almost certain that their payroll will be less this year than last year.
I don't see the Pirates finishing high this season. I don't see them leaving last place. 6th place for the Pirates this year.
The St. Louis Cardinals finished last year in fourth place. Quite a shock considering they were a first-place team less than two years prior. The Cardinals won 86 games and were a lot better than they looked on paper.
Injuries tore through the organization early and the Cardinals suffered because of it. Their bright spots were Rick Ankiel and of course, Albert Pujols.
The Cardinals have lost Cesar Izturis, Aaron Miles, and Felipe Lopez. They picked up Khalil Greene and resigned Jason Larue. The Cardinals are looking at another rough year.
I think they need a few more arms and their age is starting to catch up with them. But Tony LaRussa is a gem. This team is my darkhorse in the Central. I see them finishing in third.
In conclusion, the National League Central plays out like this:
National League East
The Philadelphia Phillies, 2008 World Champions, breezed through the playoffs as they finally got themselves a World Series victory for the first time since 1980.
Making sure that they can compete in the NL East, the Phillies have already toughened their team by adding Raul Ibanez and John Mabry. They also resigned Scott Eyre and Jamie Moyer.
The Phillies hung on to beat the Mets and keep them out of the playoffs. I look for it to come down to the wire this year just like last year. I see the Phillies finishing in second place, one or two games out.
The New York Mets, after leading most of the season, fell apart yet again in the last month due to their inability to close out games. Billy Wagner was out and the Mets ended up finishing in second place.
They have tried to beef up their lineup by signing Francisco Rodriguez, Shawn Green, and Jeremy Reed. The Mets do have a lot of free agents; including Moises Alou, Pedro Martinez, Tony Armas Jr., and Orlando Hernandez.
It will be interesting to see if the Mets will spend as much as their counterparts in the American League. They signed Rodriguez to close out games, and I think the Mets will be tough this next year.
Like I already said, though, it will come down to the wire. The Mets need to avoid injuries. I see the Mets winning the division.
The Florida Marlins were always a pesky team, staying in most games, just being unable to keep up with the Mets or Phillies. The Marlins finished seven games out at 84-77.
The Marlins signed Scott Proctor from the Dodgers, who will be a formidable pitcher for them. The Marlins lost Kevin Gregg, Mike Jacobs, and Matt Treanor, among others.
The Marlins picked up Josh Johnson, Jose Ceda, and Dan Meyer. The Marlins are a young team who are trying to rely on speed and pitching to win games. I see the Marlins finishing in fourth place this year.
The Atlanta Braves struggled through most of this year, having problems with pitching and finding a good outfield bat. They only won 72 games this last year losing 90.
They finished an astonishing 20 games out of first place. The Braves have had a pretty quiet off-season. They lost Mike Hampton, Jorge Julio, and Tyler Flowers.
The Braves have signed Greg Norton. The team still has a lot of free agents, including Julian Tavarez, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and Will Ohman.
I see this Braves team better than last year, but not good enough to compete with the Phillies and the Mets. Braves finish in third place this year.
The Washington Nationals suffered through a LONG season, winning only 59 games. The Nationals suffered a dismal 102 losses dropping to 32 1/2 games back at the season's end.
The team has lost Aaron Boone who left for Houston, and Emilio Bonifacio. The Nationals are trying to respond to a dismal year by making some moves this offseason.
The Nationals have signed Daniel Cabrera, along with Scott Olsen, Willie Harris, and Pete Orr. I think they will have another tough year this year but it won't be as bad as last year. I still see the Nationals finishing in 5th place.
So to wrap up the National League East:
And so the teams going to the playoffs will be, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, New York Mets, and wild-card Philadelphia Phillies. Here's how the NL playoffs play out. Giants beat the Phillies, Cubs beat the Mets, Giants beat the Cubs to win the NL championship.
American League coming soon!