Which NL Team is the Biggest Disappointment of 2008?
Due to my frustration with writing half of this article only to have my browser crash, this installment of disappointing teams will be far shorter than the last.
Also, before I get into the task at hand, I just want to say congratulations to CC Sabathia for his should-be no-hitter Sunday. If you haven't seen it, earlier this week I deemed the Detroit Tigers the most disappointing team of the American League.
Now to the National League, and then who wins (or loses) out between the two leagues.
Colorado Rockies (NL Wild Card) vs. Atlanta Braves (NL East chumps)
Already it's clear that the level of chump-itude is higher in the American League. But, as they say, that's why they play the games. Or try to play them, at least.
Colorado seemed ready to become one of the National League's elite teams after their World Series appearance last year.
It was assumed that the young pitching would be better after another year of big-league experience and that the offense would still be hot after the long winter that was.
The pitching staff, namely Jeff Francis, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Manny Corpas, has struggled mightily over the course of this season, particularly in the first half. Add this to major injuries to top-tier players like Troy Tulowitzki, Matt Holliday, and Todd Helton, and you have a season full of disappointment and unmet expectations.
Luckily for Colorado, they play in the most disappointing of the six divisions, and even though they're 10 games under .500, they're still only 6.5 games out of the division lead.
Atlanta, meanwhile, was never favored to win its division with the Mets and Phillies controlling the NL East. But they were expected to compete and make the two aforementioned teams sweat a little.
Tim Hudson, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Mike Hampton were supposed to lead the pitching staff and keep the Braves in close games.
Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, Mark Texiera, and Jeff Francoeur were supposed to put a little fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers and get runs across the plate at Turner Field.
Neither of these happened for Atlanta. All four of the pitchers mentioned have missed significant time this season. Hampton missed the entire first half, and the other three are currently on the disabled list, with Smoltz and Glavine both wondering if they'll play professional baseball again.
Jones and McCann have put up good offensive numbers, but Francoeur has struggled and Texiera plays for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of California of the United States now, and the player Atlanta got back, Casey Kotchman, is inactive as of tonight.
So, instead of Atlanta causing problems for the Mets and Phillies, they're busy floundering at 20 games under .500 and getting swept by the Washington Nationals. Which is always disappointing for a team.
I'm going to take the Braves in this matchup. My primary reason for this is that Colorado is still in the postseason chase and has one of the best records in the majors since the start of May. Twenty games under .500 is somewhere I never thought the Braves would be, but here we are, struggling along and waiting for that last game of the season.
San Diego Padres (NL West chumps) vs. Cincinnati Reds (NL Central chumps)
San Diego was on its way to the playoffs last season until Tony Gwynn crushed them in Milwaukee and Colorado lost only one game out of 23 down the stretch. Yeah, I said Tony Gwynn crushed the Padres.
The Padres played the Rockies in a one-game playoff to get into the playoffs. Trevor Hoffman blew a save in that game, and the Padres haven't been the same since.
Padres pitching was supposed to be great again this year, with perennial Cy Young candidate Jake Peavy, Chris Young, and Greg Maddux. There was also speculation that Mark Prior, the former Cubs great, could return with the team. But then he remembered he's Mark Prior.
The offense was never supposed to be great, so I suppose you could say that one part of the team lived up to expectations.
Young, however, missed time early in the season. Maddux plays for the Dodgers now. And everyone knows how Prior's seasons ended: with him on the disabled list. Jake Peavy came as advertised, but his run support has been lacking. He's got a 2.69 ERA and 155 strikeouts, but is only 9-9.
Cincinnati is much like the Braves in that they were never expected to win their division or make the playoffs, but they were supposed to make it interesting for the Brewers and Cubs in the NL Central.
Cincinnati is different from the Padres in that they knew they would be able to score runs. They just didn't know what they were going to get out of Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez, Homer Bailey, Aaron Harang, and Bronson Arroyo.
The Reds did have big bats that belonged to Brandon Phillips, Ken Griffey Jr., and Adam Dunn, and they figured that these guys would be able to carry these teams to a good win-loss record.
Added into the mix was manager Dusty Baker, a proven winner and somebody who, many thought, could change the culture of the franchise.
And while the pitching, especially Cueto and Volquez, has pleasantly surprised, it wasn't enough to win the games necessary to make Dunn and Griffey retainable.
Griffey was sent to the competing White Sox and Dunn now plays for the first-place Diamondbacks in the West. Phillips is the only proven offensive player left, and that left the Reds battling in the cellar of the NL Central while looking toward the future with Joey Votto and Jay Bruce.
I have to put the Padres through to the next round because they were expected to be better than the worst team in the entire league. Cincinnati fans are accustomed to last place, so their failure this year wasn't as significant as the failure of the 2008 Padres.
San Diego Padres (NL West chumps) vs. Atlanta Braves (NL East chumps)
Now in the NLCS, we have the Padres facing off against the Braves. I have the Padres moving on to the World Series of Futility for the same reasons they advanced past Cincinnati. The Padres were expected to contend in the NL West again this season, but, in the majority of games, the San Diego offense has sputtered like almost no other offense in all of baseball this season.
Atlanta was only in this position because someone from the East had to make this tournament, just like someone from the West has to make the good playoffs. So I guess I better congratulate the Braves for making it further than anyone though they could in the disappointment playoffs.
San Diego Padres (NL West chumps) vs. Detroit Tigers (AL Central Chumps)
The World Series of Futility is now set: We have the AL Central chumps, the Detroit Tigers, against the NL West chumps from San Diego.
Each had shortcomings where no expert thought they would have shortcomings. Detroit struggled to score runs while San Diego gave up far too many runs to be competitive, especially given their offensive struggles.
While both sides will certainly have their problems in this series, the kicker for me is how great the Tigers were supposed to be in 2008. Padres fans knew their offense would be terrible, while Tigers fans were expecting 15-run outbursts two or three times a week.
This failure is why I am crowning the Tigers the chumps of the Major Leagues this season, and the winners of the World Series of Futility.
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