Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Let's go a little out of order this week as
we look at who will be left standing at the end of the baseball season.
By out of order, we mean we'll start with our National League preview and have
the American League later in the week.
(That's also a hint, subtle, but a hint, about the team that's going to win it
all in the November Classic. OK, fine, it's still the Fall Classic, but a
possible Game 7 this year would be held on Halloween. If the weather doesn't
cooperate, another hint at the eventual winner, and the game gets postponed,
they'll be playing baseball into November. Yikes).
You can't look at the NL, and potential World Series participants, without
starting with the San Francisco Giants.
They've won two of the last three titles and, naturally, because of that, they
simply know how to win.
I'm not quite sure how they do it, though. Their lineup really doesn't scare
you and their pitching is good, really good, but not great.
Combine the two and it's been plenty good enough to have San Francisco hosting
parades while everybody else looked on with jealousy.
The catch is, the Giants won't even with their division this year. I know what
you're thinking: How can that be when you have Matt Cain and Madison Baumgarner
one-two in the rotation, but it won't be enough.
Can they snag one of the wild card spots? Yes, they can and they will. And when
they do, they'll be very dangerous.
The team that will beat them out and win the NL West will be the hated Los
Angeles Dodgers, making this division the most heated and interesting in all of
The Dodgers will win the division because their pitching is sublime and their
offense is good enough (the loss of Hanley Ramirez for two months not
Speaking of their pitching, How nice is it to have owners who will pay their
No. 2 starter, Zach Greinke, nearly $25 million a year?
Yes, Greinke is good, and was the biggest free agent catch in baseball, but ace
Clayton Kershaw is better, maybe the best in the game.
And when your No. 3 is Josh Beckett, even if he isn't the Beckett of old,
you're going to win a lot of games.
So, where do we stand? The Dodgers win the West and the Giants hold one of the
Let's move on.
Man, do I love the Cincinnati Reds. As do a lot of others since the Reds are
the heavy favorite to win the Central.
They will because they can rake and their pitching is nasty. Joey Votto, Jay
Bruce and Brandon Phillips will power the offense and Johnny Cueto and Mat
Latos will keep the other teams' bats quiet. Having Aroldis Chapman back in the
bullpen where he belongs won't hurt, either.
Another thing that will help the Reds is that their division won't be too much
of a struggle.
The St. Louis Cardinals will hang around for a while as may the Milwaukee
Brewers, but not for long.
The Reds win the Central and the rest of the division fades away. No wild card
Remember when we used to laugh at the Washington Nationals? It wasn't that long
Nobody laughs now because this team is loaded and young.
Bryce Harper, I believe he turns 12 in July, tore it up at the end of last
season and will put up huge numbers.
Stephen Strasburg will be around the whole season and is just unhittable.
Add in Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Dan Haren and Ross Detwiler and you
have a superb rotation.
Mix Harper with Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond and
there's little this team can't do.
The Atlanta Braves will put up a fight, perhaps into early September, and the
aging Philadelphia Phillies might make a run at some point, but the East
belongs to the Nationals. Atlanta does get the second wild card in the NL.
So, where does that leave us at the end of the regular season?
The bottom line: I like the Dodgers, but they won't have enough to keep the
Nationals out of the World Series.
And who will the Nats play in the World Series and who will win it all? That
comes in Thursday's column.
Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several Philadelphia-area
newspapers for over 25 years.
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