How cool is it to go to MLB.com and find scores? The preseason is upon us! I love it. This is the time of the year that I like to look at the depth charts for each team and predict how they will place in their division. I have found that even though there are so many factors in a 162-game season, including injuries, over-achieving rookies, under-achieving veterans and so on, this is still a great time of the season to predict how they will fair in the coming season.
Since I am a national league guy, I will start with the National League and because I am a Cardinal fan, I will start with the NL Central. This may be the best division in baseball. I still think the NL Central is going to be a very strong division this year. I think the Cardinals have actually improved a bit. So I pick them yet again to win the division. The Pirates will have increased confidence and have a strong veteran club. I pick them second in the division and grabbing one of the wild card spots. With a new manager and lack of depth, the Reds are a big question mark. Their starting pitching is very strong and Chapman is a crazy good closer, but the offense looks weak to me and I will put them in third just missing out on the wild card.
The bottom – it’s a toss up between the Brewers and the Cubs. Neither team has improved significantly, so I am going to take the Cubs fourth just under five hundred with the Brewers a game or two behind them. Not a lot of change from last year. I just can’t see that anybody has done enough to knock the Cardinals out of first.
Let’s start by my saying that you can tell my husband loves me – he didn’t put the Cubs in last place. I’m a Cub fan, despite winters of trying to wean myself away from the frustration and self-hatred. It’s a nightmare living with a Cardinals fan and was a discussion when we first met… I know, right? How could any self-respecting Cub fan marry a Cardinals fan?
But I do agree that the Brewers will find themselves in last place. It’s hard to believe that a team can outdo the Cubs in dysfunction, but I believe the Brewers may be able to do that this year. The Return of Ryan Braun will contribute to this dysfunction in a meaningful way. First, it will be interesting to see the reception he receives from the crowd on the home opener. I’ve heard a wide range of responses from people in Milwaukee, ranging from ‘happy to have him back’ to ‘he’s a slimeball.’ Second, I think he’s going to work so hard to prove that he deserves their love, he’s going to struggle. Baseball is a game where you can’t force performance – it’s almost magical. The harder you push, the more likely you are to fail. Braun will have to work against my third point, the drug hangover. The question in the back of his mind, the question in everyone’s mind – was my great performance only due to the drugs? It’s a slippery slope when you use something to improve performance. You forget that you are a talented player and see any improvements as a function of the drugs. So once you don’t have the drugs, there’s a hangover of sorts, that doubt in your own mind, true or not, that you can’t do the job. I think this is going to create an environment for the Brewers that will keep them from being successful this year.