NL East 2027 Preview by Will Hart
DANVILLE – The year was 1976. Johnny Bench, Sparky Anderson, and Charlie Hustle himself were wreaking havoc on the Evil Empire from New York in a 4 game drubbing in the World Series. This was 4 years after I threw a no-no in Danville, when the doctors said I had to stop throwing due to repetitive motion injury in my throwing arm due to using dull knives cutting my Sizzler steak for my daily post-workout meal. It was the end of an era, for my potential pitching career, and baseball as we knew it. DANVILLE – The year was 1976. Johnny Bench, Sparky Anderson, and Charlie Hustle himself were wreaking havoc on the Evil Empire from New York in a 4 game drubbing in the World Series. This was 4 years after I threw a no-no in Danville, when the doctors said I had to stop throwing due to repetitive motion injury in my throwing arm due to using dull knives cutting my Sizzler steak for my daily post-workout meal. It was the end of an era, for my potential pitching career, and baseball as we knew it.
My tastebuds love you, but my arm will never forgive you, Sizzler.
You see, folks, 1976 was the year that free-agency began in earnest for baseball. It is what actually made those Damn Yankees into an evil empire. Our national pasttime’s ability to treat its players like indentured servants was over. And while that’s great for the working men of the players union, it also brought its own set of grifting hangers on making the differences of haves and have-nots in baseball more pronounced.
Every Yankee signing is an extra $10m for this clown.
It truly was the end of an era. Contracts became bloated with ridiculous addendums like dedicated lockers made from mahogany to Greek yogurt with every pre-game meal. But today’s OMLB signifies another end of an era. Expansion and realignment has turned this league upside down, with crazy divisions and wack-a-doodle playoff tree branches rattling teams to potentially tremendous falls. The change of the era will be evident in no other division than the “new NL East.” Let’s take a drive down in my 1976 Chevy K-20 and throw all the hoped and dreams into the back of the bed while doing doughnuts on the parking lot of past divisional rivalries.
She never would let you down like Manfred did this season.
The Brewers are in a great position to make another appearance in the World Series this season. Led by an older and more experienced crew and the Ichiro-like status of Pan, look to Tony Cingriani to try and rally his troops for once more into the breach. It may all be for naught, though, because even though they have the veteran talent to get it done this season, they need to create a spark make a successful playoff run. These cagey vets have to have the fire that goes along with the quiet professionalism. Yordy Cabrera is obviously a man this team needs to be firing on all cylinders, but will the young guys respect his efforts or will they think he’s just a man playing for his next big contract? Something unsettling from our overseas GM as well when even he won’t put faith in his team publically, Jason says, “hm not sure. I think its gonna be a surprise year and think well see a new team take the top spot.” That isn’t a big vote of confidence in your squad. You know I’ll always have a soft spot on this squad for Willie Hart, but that should go without saying. Brew Crew will threaten this division like my 3rd ex-wife threatened me for taping over our wedding VHS with the 2003 Pedro-Zito pitching duel in the ALDS. But they’ll need a good start, because it sounds like there’s not a lot of faith in their team right now.
A man who would never knock down an old coach.
Returning champion Cubs also will be a threat if Marco Gonzalez can wrangle his team and the Martinez’s into being ready for another run. There’s no love lost between these guys and the boys from Milwaukee. Chicago is going to want to show breaking a years old curse wasn’t a fluke that couldn’t be done again. Losing Nolan Kingham is a big pain-point for most of this locker room but look for Butch Harper to feast on NL pitching this season while he is protected by the able bat of Super-Utility Ledezma. Cubs-Brewers series will resemble the most brutal fights reminiscent of the 1993 masterpiece of American cinema, Best of the Best 2, starring Eric Roberts.
Fighting for lives is another day in the Cubs locker room.
Neither the Cubs nor the Brewers though will hold a candle to the Nationals this season. Led by Miguel Sano, I have him hitting 65 dingers this year, 12 for game winners. This is a team with its head screwed on right. An early spring injury to Jose Perez will test the mettle of this squad. Can they continue without Perez quiet leadership? If they can manage to stay in the hunt the first two months, this team will be set to make a run in the second half. It’s a working-mans pitching staff, the kind of guys who’d be next to you on the line at the old tool and die shop making parts for some of the greatest American machinery in the world. Flashy? No. But guys who will get their hands dirty and get the job done. Keeping their head low and fastballs lower, this team will just beat down opposing pitchers making their bullpen stuff that much more fiery. Scotty Abrams will get 20 wins with a 3.5+ ERA because that’s how teamwork happens.
Picture of Scotty Abrams working in the offseason.
Could this be the year my beloved Reds get back into relevance and into the postseason? No. To this day, I say Christopher Andritso will never win the respect of his team when he’s tossing meatballs toward the plate. This is a guy who couldn’t hit the broad side of a Bartolo. The guys call him a team Captain, but my sources indicate that there’s a mutiny in the works. A few losses and a few blown games by a weak middle-relief crew and this team is going to come apart at the seams. Ken Berry is not a suitable table-setter and gets caught on the basepaths too much. We need smart play, and its not coming out of Cincinnati this season.
Bringing ‘em out of retirement for BP tryouts.
What can you say about the Pioneers? No really, what can you say? Can you say its odd to have a vintage-sounding name on the most recent expansion team? Can you say that the last thing the East Coast needed was yet another franchise in the same 200 mile radius? Can you say that being in Jersey just means there will be a longer subway series battle for supremacy? No, you can’t say any of that because we have no idea what the identity of this team is gonna be. Bunch of young guys getting their first full-time roles means that Jared Sandberg will be herding cats all year. And I don’t think he has the disciplinarian style to create a focused identity out of this squad. “I was a Tampa draftee for the 1998 expansion. There was a lot of confusion and inconsistency. This is the opposite. We have a clear goal.” That goal? .500 ball and no playoff berth.And the spirit of mediocrity starts in the front office, where GM Eddie Paxil says they’re shooting for a .500 season. “The chant is 82-80 in 27 and even the fans have picked up on it.” That’s right Eddie, they have, and they’re not gonna tolerate a poor effort just to make .500 ball. That’s not the mindset of a champion. It’s no inspiration for new ball players to know that doing just enough will ensure their arbitration hearings all go their way. We won’t see an effort so half-hearted since Chipotle made quite possibly the worst Queso ever to grace a plastic cup.
It’s the wrong color and tastes like grainy cheddar.
The St. Louis Cardinals are finally assembling a team worth watching again. After dealing with exorbitant tastes of previous management, this is a team that is leaner and cash positive coming into the season. The management needs to make bold moves now. It’s time to call for Simmons to get into the 3 spot. He may not be the flashiest guy these days, but every runner he knocks in this year will be an inspiration for the rest of the squad. Leaving him at 8th in the lineup guarantees that Greg Veliz will kill the inning swinging a wet newspaper at the ball thinking he can hit like Max Scherzer. Bold moves will move this team to contention this year. And I’m talking about putting experience on the bench so that guys like Luiz Jimenez will have proper guidance on how to market his fireball skills. St. Louis, hear me now, hire Bartolo for Bench Coach while you can. Otherwise, expect them to be down in the cellar of the NL East waiting for guys to develop.
Pitch, hit, dunk, kick, Bartolo’s the man.
This brings us to Bartolo’s former team, the Mets. There is no better baseball hero playing right now than Bobby Hamilton. He created the heyday of Mariners baseball and went off to find fame in New York. He’s come into his own there, setting a fine example for the rest of the crew. Bobby can play anywhere, and if you asked him to he’d probably be catching or pitching just for the fun of it. Fans love his attitude and that’s what makes him a special ball player. “Cats” playing with Cullen has been the best partnership since Hardcastle and McCormick. Joe Douglass is downright scary closing games for the Mets and the 1-2-3 of Pinel, Dixon and Mendoza is the best trio since Hardcastle and McCormick and McCormick’s Cody Coyote car.
The men, and the car. Hardcastle (RIP) would be a Mets fan today.
The Pittsburgh Pirates continue to move in the right direction, but they still don’t have the offense to contend in this rough division. The pitchers are young, talented, and top to bottom a top 5 pitching crew. But the offense is going to have to overperform especially since Bo Rose is playing right field with hands made out of stone. MacKinley doesn’t have the range to make up for Rose and MacDonald is an average fielder in left. That pitching staff is going to have a great FIP because the fielding is a flat out liability on this team. Walt Henderson can’t hit reliably either but did anyone notice the weird thing about this lineup? Pittsburgh opening 8 are all lefties save one. This is some kind of novelty team, not a baseball team. Freakish left handed lineup who is ready to be mowed down by left handed relievers. Should other teams bring in the “Opener” against Pittsburgh? We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, the only “openers” the fans should be using are bottle openers, this team will require them.
Pirates baseball is delicious!
This could be the year the Phillies put it all together. I was your faithful sports reporter who predicted their ascension. This year I say they become a one team wrecking crew through the NL East. This could be the Angels of the NL if they keep on the trajectory they are going. Herman Easter is going to finish his transition to a starting role and Will Benson will crush baseballs making the Mailman seem like a non-Prime delivery. This lineup is so potent they have to put Mario Rivera 5th, when he could easily hit 3rd in most OMLB teams. Mark it down, folks, the Phillies take the NL East this season and make their first appearance in the World Series in decades. This is their time.
Maybe this era of the OMLB is ending. And maybe an old guy like me needs to be ready for the change this time because I can’t really fight it. Sparky Anderson dealt with the change and became the first manager to win a World Series in both leagues, after winning it with my Reds in ’76. Will Hart, signing off from Danville, Kentucky. For more visit – http://twtwsports.blogspot.com/
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