The 2012 Major League Baseball season began last week with an already forgotten series in Japan between the A’s and the Mariners. Then we went back into Spring Training mode. Tomorrow night, the Marlins host the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. The day after that, some more teams play. The same thing happens Friday. Eventually, all the teams will have played a regular season baseball game. Yes, it’s quite a snazzy plan concocted by Bird Selig and friends.
Today, it’s a tryst with the NL East.
2011 Record — 102-60, 1st place
Notable Additions — Jonathan Papelbon, Laynce Nix, Chad Qualls, Jim Thome, and Ty Wigginton. Perhaps the mild-mannered, classy Thome will rub off on Cobra Kai veteran and notorious prick, Jonathan Papelbon.
Good News — Dontrelle Willis has taken his 30-city adventure tour to Baltimore and Jimmy Rollins, who signed a three-year deal, will likely finish his career in Philly. Most important is of course the starting pitching: Doc, Clifton, and Cole form an exquisite three-headed monster.
Bad News — Here’s a great nugget from MLB Trade Rumors: Papelbon signed for more than Heath Bell, Ryan Madson, Francisco Cordero, Takashi Saito and Francisco Rodriguez combined. Sure, they overpaid, but could we have asked for a better villain to join forces with the Philadelphia Phillies? It’s the absolute perfect landing spot for him. Now we just need the Mets to be good again so an actual rivalry can exist, and then we’ll be all set. Additonally, they’ll be starting the season without the services of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. Brutal. Have fun counting on Ty Wigginton to make up for the lost production.
Outlook — The Phils have won five straight division titles and finished second for three consecutive seasons before that run began. But the creaky Phils are old and beat up, so I’m expecting — or at least hoping — for a shakeup in this division. Finally. I had already been thinking of third place for Philly, and then I went to their page on Baseball Reference and realized that what I saw — “3rd of 5” — was a telling omen. Yup, 84 wins, 3rd place.
Probable 2012 Anthem — For one thing, it’s Philly. Plus Papelbon now resides on the roster, so, yes, “Bodies” by Drowning Pool. This should really be his new entrance music anyway.
New York Mets
2011 Record — 77-85, 4th place
Notable Additions — Jon Rauch, Ronny Cedeno, Ramon Ramirez, and renowned opener Frank Frank. Why didn’t Sandy Alderson just attack himself with an industrial strength staple gun? I bet it would have been more fulfilling than this offseason “free agent hunt.”
Tragic Losses — Jose Reyes, Willie Harris, Ronny Paulino, Chris Capuano, and Jason Isringhausen. Reyes is obviously the irreplaceable hole here that will be dearly missed amongst the fans. But now, now he decides to sport orange hair? He’s just rubbing it in at this point, though I’m not sure resembling a more effeminate version of Sisqo is really rubbing it in. Whatever, it’s Miami.
Good News — Johan Santana has been named the team’s Opening Day starter. Seriously, this is great news for the Mets. Santana will be returning after undergoing shoulder surgery 19 freaking months ago. Remember when the Yankees were in the hunt for Johan’s services with a new trade scenario seemingly every day? That feels like 10 years ago. Hopefully he can stay healthy.
Bad News — RA Dickey, Jon Niese, Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee will join Santana in the rotation. Dickey recently revealed he was sexually abused as a child, Pelfrey reeks of a guy dying for a fresh start, who the hell knows what Gee will bring this year, and Niese is about to shift into cruise control aftter he signs a 5-year deal. OK, perhaps that last part wasn’t fair, although I would love it if pitcher contracts were more in the NFL mold. We would see far fewer overpaid jackasses simply going through the motions. On a side note, the team reduced payroll by a record $50 million. Safe to say fan expectations are pessimistically realistic.
Outlook — Somehow they won 77 games last year with all the injuries they ran into along with an ugly cloud of drama hovering over the team like ruthless wing gas. But given their personnel, is this season really going to be all that different? Last place with 74 wins.
Probable 2012 Anthem — The Tetris theme song.
2011 Record — 72-90, 5th place
Notable Additions — This is the shiny new car in the division. The freshly coined Miami Marlins had a huge offseason in nearly every capacity. The team has moved into a ridiculous new stadium, acquired manager Ozzie Guillen from the White Sox, and brought in Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Carlos Zambrano, and Heath Bell. I’m not sure if that’s exactly how Jeffrey Loria drew it up, but it feels damn close to nearly every star aligning.
Tragic Losses — Javier Vazquez and Chris Volstad. Good riddance. Their offseason was pretty much the polar opposite of Atlanta’s in that they’ve lost so little and added so much.
Good News — Look at all those wonderful new toys. Plus, Marlins Park has a Bobblehead Museum and a club that stays open until 3 am. Safe to say they successfully covered all the key demographics. Plus, Marlins fans may actually attend Marlins games. Watching Logan Morrison track down a fly ball in left field last night while a sea of fans looked on through the outfield glass was surreal.
Bad News — Oh, check it out, Jose and Hanley have dyed their hair orange and have chosen to barber their eyebrows. Sweet look, assholes.
Outlook — I feel terrible for fans of the Marlins simply due to how much I’m liking them to win the division. Sorry, but the official call here is a scintillating 1st place finish with 92 wins.
Probable 2012 Anthem — I already mentioned Sisqo in reference to Reyes in the Mets portion, so “Thong Song” feels apt. Throw in the Miami factor and it’s a no-brainer.
2011 Record — 80-81, 3rd place
Notable Additions — Edwin Jackson, Brad Lidge, Mark DeRosa, Ryan Perry, and Gio Gonzalez. The Nationals aren’t a joke anymore. They weren’t last year either, finishing just one game under .500. So hope in D.C. remains alive and well, which is rather nice when you consider the living, breathing vomit that is the putrid Redskins and the vile Wizards.
Tragic Losses — Livan Hernandez, Laynce Nix, Pudge Rodriguez, Jonny Gomes, and the great Alex Cora, whose steady existence in the major leagues is heading into its 15th season. Aside from losing Livan and his 175 IP, no one will be complaining about the absence of this cast.
Good News — Edwin Jackson and Gio Gonzalez joining Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann makes for a suddenly nice starting rotation. Can Wang return to his once commanding presence or will he continue to shrivel up like a frightened turtle? Getting anything productive from Wang would be an amazing bonus.
Bad News — It’s the Nats. This could all come apart like a visibly decaying Patrick Ewing, whose game fell off a cliff seemingly in a matter of minutes. And I didn’t know where to file this question, so it’s going here: How is manager Davey Johnson only 69? Feels like he should be dangerously close to a feeble 90.
Outlook — The satisfying surge to prominence continues. Second place with 89 wins.
Probable 2012 Anthem — “What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger)” by Kelly Clarkson. Why? This team gets no respect until they rightfully earn it.
2011 Record — 89-73, 2nd place, lost wildcard spot due to amusing chokejob
Notable Additions — Eric Hinske, Jack Wilson, and Chris Jones. Really? Beyond embarrassing. All I can belt out at the moment is Newman’s memorable “Oooh, the humanity!” Even more inspiring? Wilson will begin the season on the DL. High fives all around.
Tragic Losses — Derek Lowe, Alex Gonzalez, Nate McLouth, Scott Linebrink, and George Sherrill. I enjoy that the Braves front office opted to re-stock the shelves with Solo cups, paper plates and no utensils.
Good News — The ratio of women to men in Atlanta is something like 20 to 1. Twenty. Outstanding. This golden nugget of a statistic should routinely serve as good news for every player on the Atlanta roster.
Bad News — The Braves did a lot of chatting this offseason in regard to moving some key players — mainly Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado — but ultimately kept their pants on and called it a night. Even worse, Tim Hudson will miss the first month of the season.
Outlook — Pretty big step back. Times are changing in the NL East. 4th place, 80 wins.
Probable 2012 Anthem — “A few More Rednecks” by the Charlie Daniels Band.