National League preview: East Division

March 29, 2011|By Dave van Dyck, Tribune reporter

Predicted finish, records

Phillies Braves Marlins Mets Nationals 94-68 93-69 80-82 77-85 70-92

Pennants, wild cards since 1995: 8, 3.

Average payroll: $104 million (second of six divisions).

Manager with World Series rings: Charlie Manuel ('08).

Players with MVP awards: Jimmy Rollins ('07), Ryan Howard ('06), Chipper Jones ('99).

Pitchers with Cy Young awards: Roy Halladay ('03, '10), Cliff Lee ('08), Johan Santana ('04, '06).

Possible high fantasy picks: Howard, David Wright, Jason Heyward, Hanley Ramirez.

2011 awards

MVP: Rollins, Phillies. It's a comeback, injury-free season for spark plug of the team. Worth considering: Howard, Dan Uggla, Jason Heyward.

Cy Young: Halladay, Phillies. He's No. 1 until proven otherwise on a very good staff. Worth considering: Lee, Josh Johnson, Derek Lowe.

Rookie of the Year:

Freddie Freeman, Braves. He might be as good as — better than? — Heyward as Braves keep producing talent. Worth considering: Bryce Harper, Matt Dominguez.

Manager of the Year: Manuel, Phillies. But don't overlook Fredi Gonzalez if the Braves can find a way to overtake an injury-plagued Phillies team.

Nine questions

1

Who is Fredi Gonzalez and what's he doing in Bobby Cox's office?

We're about to find out just how much Cox meant to the Braves' decade-long success, as longtime student Gonzalez takes over. Things will be different in Atlanta, and it's possible that's not all bad.

2

Who is Joe Blanton and what's he doing in the

Phillies' rotation?

Of course, everyone knows that Blanton is the least famous and the odd man out in the Phillies' Fab Four rotation of Halladay, Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. But as a proven fifth starter, he will do just fine in making this baseball's best.

3

Is Jayson Werth really worth it?

We're talking $126 million over seven years, and there are several opposing general managers who don't think so. In truth, Werth probably was worth more to the Phillies, not in money value, but in team value. As "another guy" in Philly, he was very good; as "the guy" for the Nationals, he will be in over his head.

4

What's that Madoff mess with the Mets?

Even without all the behind-the-scenes money stuff, the Mets have done quite well at destroying a once-proud franchise (thanks, Omar Minaya, for that Jason Bay signing). New GM Sandy Alderson is burning through useless payroll trying to correct it, but that's a long-term project.

5

Isn't it about time for the Marlins to win another World Series?

Well, actually, past time. In the natural mathematic progression, those Fish should have leaped out of the water and won in 2009, given their '97 and '03 wild-card championships. Sorry to say, but it will continue unless ownership uses some of that revenue boost from a new stadium.

6

Is it the water or maybe the South Philly meatballs and gravy?

Whatever the reason, the injuries continue, with closer Brad Lidge (again) and Chase Utley being bitten by the injury bug. This was a World Series championship team last year if healthy. It could be again this year, if healthy.

7

Who's most under the gun?

Take your pick from the Braves: Nate McLouth, Dan Uggla or Chipper Jones. Or take all three. McLouth would seem the most logical, given his complete collapse last season. The Braves need his speed in the lineup.

8

Who's on the endangered species list?

Given the influx of new GMs and managers and the Marlins' history of impatience, the logical choice would be Edwin Rodriguez, who has won half of the 92 games he has managed. That usually isn't good enough, even with Ozzie Guillen apparently staying in Chicago.

9

Which team is most likely to get a lift at the trade deadline?

Unless they run off and hide from the Braves, which is unlikely, the Phillies will spend anything necessary to keep open that short window of winning another World Series.

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