Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, LaRussa All Leave: Theo Epstein Cubs' Fear Factor

Darrell HorwitzSenior Writer IIJanuary 25, 2012

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 14:  Prince Fielder #28 of the Milwaukee Brewers and Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals stnad near first base during Game Five of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium on October 14, 2011 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

With Prince Fielder leaving for the safety of Detroit (Am I kidding?), following in the footsteps of Albert Pujols and Tony LaRussa both abandoning the St. Louis Cardinals, there can no longer be any doubt that Chicago Cubs GM Theo Epstein has put the fear of God in the team's competitors.

Not only did Fielder and Pujols leave the NL Central Division — they left the league entirely so as not to be embarrassed by the Cubs' budding dynasty.

It was even worse for former Cardinals manager LaRussa. He figured it was better to quit then go up against Theo and the boys.

Without making any major deals for big-name players so far, the Cubs are already closing in on the competition in their division.

It looks like an episode of Fear Factor. Instead of being afraid of spiders or snakes, their rivals are terrified of the slickster from Boston, and are hightailing it out of town as fast as they can.

These changes bode well for the Cubs future, even if the rebuilding is just in its infant stage. When your opponents lose their best players, it makes your job that much easier.  

The Cardinals will feel the loss of both Pujols and LaRussa. While LaRussa is a Hall of Fame manager, having one of the greatest hitters ever in his lineup every day made his job easy.

Without them, St. Louis doesn't figure to be as strong, even with Adam Wainwright scheduled to return in 2012.

The Milwaukee Brewers lost half of their dynamic duo in Fielder, and Ryan Braun is on the shelf for 50 games due to his suspension for taking a banned substance as of now.

They're the cream of the division, and the cream is starting to curdle.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are rebuilding for the 20th straight year, so that leaves Cincinnati.

The Reds were a disappointment last season. They added Mat Latos in a trade to bolster their rotation, but in the process, may have given too much back in return.

Reliever Sean Marshall was added in a trade from the Cubs and should be a boost for the bullpen.

While they could be the biggest threat in 2012, the National League Central looks more vulnerable than ever.

Even though the Cubs are not yet ready for prime time, they're primed to be the class of the division within a few years with Theo running the show.

To get an idea of the Cubs situation, look at your car's side-view mirrors.

It says, "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear."