Clearing up the NL East; Buh-Bye Tex, Hello NY, and the Fish Refuse to Die
The first half of the 2008 MLB season left us breathless. We saw a team, whose name has been synonymous with failure for so long, overcome both the Red Sox Nation and Yankee Country.
We saw a man overcome his personal demons and addictions and begin to fulfill the expectations that were put on him when he was selected first overall in 1999.
We saw teams spend big bucks and receive little results (Yankees, Tigers) while small markets teams reaped rewards without paying a pretty penny (Rays, Marlins).
After a splendid first half, what will the second half of the season hold as we make our way towards October?
Playoff Picture. The phrase will be uttered thousands of times in the coming months, so much that you will want to mute Tim Kurkjian and the rest of the Baseball Tonight Crew just so you don't have to hear it.
The overuse of the phrase will be deserved though, as it is shaping up to one of the more thrilling playoff races in recent memory, with no division except the AL West having a clear leader.
The NL East was as competitive as any other coming out of the break with four teams having serious hopes of winning the division. Over the past week, each of these four teams have played at least one of its division rivals, with the Braves and Phillies each playing two.
It was a thrilling week for fans of teams in the NL East, and after yesterday's results, the playoff picture has become a little bit clearer.
The Braves are done. With six consecutive games against division rivals, the Braves needed to come away with at least four wins to still consider themselves serious contenders.
After last night’s disappointing loss to the Phillies, in which the Braves blew a five run lead for the second straight day, they will no doubt look to shop Mark Teixeira and attempt to rebuild for next year.
It's a shame that a team with as much offensive potential as the Braves was letdown by an extensive amount of injuries to its pitching staff throughout the season.
The Marlins will simply not go away. A team without a notable pitching ace or closer has managed to hang around all year and put up enough runs to keep winning games.
That being said, their lack of pitching as well as poor play in the field, the Marlins are among the league leaders in errors, will lead to their demise near the end of the season. It has been over a hundred years since a team has led the league in errors and went on to winning a world series and the Marlins will not be the team to end that streak.
The Phillies problem is simple. Hitting: Check, Relief Pitcher: Check, Pitching: Problem. While the Phillies overall team ERA is respectable, 14th in the league at 4.04, it goes without saying that their starting pitching has problems.
It has been an off year for Cole Hamels and while acquiring Joe Blanton from the A's recently helps, he is not the arm that will push the Phils over the top.
Brett Meyers might soon follow Dontrelle Willis to AAA, and Jamie Moyer could keel over on the mound at any point. The offense will continue to produce, but the lack of consistent arms will keep Philadelphia out of the playoffs.
There were skeptics when Jerry Manuel was named interim head coach of the Mets after Willie Randolph's late night firing, but all he has done since taking over is rejuvenate the stagnant offense and lead the Mets to a 22-12 record along with a seat atop the division.
The pitching is also starting to click as Johan Santana is returning to form and Mike Pelfrey has been unhittable as of late.
Look for Omar Minaya to try to swing a trade for an OF to add depth to their lineup and look for the Mets to win the division and make a strong push to represent the National League in the World Series.
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