This year may be the best year for Major League Baseball in a long time.
For the first time the league starts off with no overhyped home run chase, no steroid trials, and despite the bombshell that was the Mitchell Report in the offseason, no real controversy.
That being said, the action on the field is primed to be extremely competitive in almost every division.
Here's my breakdown and predictions for the NL East:
Winner: The NY Mets
With the addition of Johan Santana, the Mets have the best mix of veteran and young pitchers and batters to be a team for the ages.
The two weaknesses in their armor are the outfield (average age of 31), and the catcher spot, where the much weaker Brian Schneider is taking over for Captain Red Ass himself, Paul Lo Duca.
Their strength will more than make up for their weaknesses.
Sleeper: Atlanta Braves
Don't laugh. They've always had consistent production from their farm system, and despite the relative age and decreasing productivity of half their rotation, they still remain very deep in the bullpen and the minors system.
Couple that with a middle of the order that may be the first switch-hitting duo in history to slug more than 30 home runs batting back-to-back (Chipper Jones and Mark Texeira) and young hungry players from the minors, then you've got a recipe for a team that can surprise a lot of teams.
Overrated: Philadelphia Phillies
The fact that everyone and their mother is picking this team to either win or place in the East is almost (but not quite) sad enough to be completely laughable.
Yes, they may have the third straight NL MVP in Chase Utley (Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins won it the last two seasons, respectively), but after their potent lineup, not much looks strong.
Their pitching is both old and young, but altogether ineffective. And if you're betting on a return to form for closer Brad Lidge, shelf that idea. He's already on the shelf with health problems, and even when he was healthy, something seemed broken (Albert Pujols can do that to a guy).
Look for a third place finish or worse.
Maybe Next Year: Washington Nationals
If these guys can get one or two of their starters to step up, they could contend sooner.
They have great young talented position players picked up off of waiver wires or stolen from the Mets (Lastings Milledge for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider?), a deep talented bullpen, and more importantly, a brand new, state-of-the-art stadium set to be ready on Opening Day.
They may not be the best in the division right now, but they will surprise some people, and could be in contention next season.