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Columns > Brian Levenson -  Head Games

Published: 2011/04/03

National League East: Preview

It’s time to take a look at baseball’s National League East, set to the tune the Grateful Dead’s “Deal.” It’s a killer song fit for a division filled with deep seeded rivalry, ambitious plans and the unraveling of it all in New York. Let’s take a look . . . .

Since it cost a lot to win,
and even more to lose

In life and in baseball, fortunes can change fast. No where is that more clear than in the case of the New York Mets, who only five years ago looked to be a perennial power house with a penchant for free agent shopping sprees and the bank account to match. But, times change and in 2011, the Mets can only look forward to a summer competing with the Washington Nationals for the worst team in the National League East. For all of the Mets efforts to spend millions acquiring great players, there seems to be an equal and opposite force at work in the universe, a force determined to undermine their efforts with injury after injury to their stars– concussions, broken hands, bad knees, tired arms – the Mets have seen it all.

Battling the Mets for last place this summer, will be the Washington Nationals, a team that has lost more games than they have won since moving to the nation’s capitol from Montreal, Canada. This team isn’t particularly good, but, better days are ahead for the Nationals, as baseball’s most hyped pitcher, Stephen Strausberg, and most hyped hitter, Bryce Harper, will be on the team for years to come. Too bad neither will have any impact this season.

Wait until that deal come around
Don’t you let that deal go down

The Philadelphia Phillies have won the National League East three years in a row and will look to make it four this year. In the offseason, the Phillies signed pitching ace, Cliff Lee. As a result, the four best starting pitchers in the division are all on the Phillies – Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. Plus, the Phillies lineup is still probably the best in the division, even if Chase Utley is injured and they are getting older and slower every year. By any analysis, the Phillies should win the division.

That leaves the Atlanta Braves and Florida Marlins in the hunt for second place. Atlanta and Florida both made some moves this offseason, even trading with each other for the rights to all-star second baseman, Dan Uggla. But for all of the moves the Braves and Marlins made this winter, it was their inability to prevent the Phillies from landing Cliff Lee that will doom their efforts to win the division. Had either of them signed Cliff Lee, this division would like a whole lot different.

Goes to show, you don’t ever know
Watch each card you play and play it slow

But who knows? It’s a long season, pitchers get hurt, bats get hot, and crazier things have happened. The way it looks now, this division belongs to the Phillies, with the Marlins and Braves playing for second best, and the Nationals and Mets preparing for an epic battle for division worst – a battle that threatens the sanity of millions of New Yorkers and promises to be entertaining at the same time.

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