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Even without Albert Pujols, the St. Louis Cardinals still have the best situation in the National League Central. The pitching is there and the offense will still be productive.
The other five teams have bigger issues or aren't ready to compete for a title yet.
The Chicago Cubs are in a rebuilding mode and have lost one of their biggest offensive threats in Aramis Ramirez.
The Cincinnati Reds are a solid team but the pitching is very suspect. So far the Reds have shown 2010 was a fluke.
Houston was the worst team in Major League Baseball in 2011 and lost over 100 games. This is the club's final year in the division and a title seems way too far out of reach. It'd be an astronomical turn-around for the Astros.
Pittsburgh has experienced years of failure but in 2011 they showed glimpses of brilliance. There is a nice young team there, but are they ready to handle success in 2012? Probably not.
And then there's Milwaukee. Losing Prince Fielder and being without Ryan Braun for 50 games would leave this club anemic on offense to start the year. It is very unlikely Milwaukee returns with as much success.
That leaves the weak NL Central for the taking in 2012.
The Cardinals have the best opportunity to seize it and they must do just that.
Steven Conklin is a contributing writer for the Bleacher Report and a student at the University of Central Missouri. He joined B/R in October 2011 and is currently a B/R intern. Any comments, questions or suggestions are more than welcome.