TMS MLB Preview '08 - NL Central

Just like last season, TMS is previewing the upcoming 2008 baseball season division by division. So strap in and get ready for some of the worst analysis and lack of insight that only we can provide. Today we move on to the Senior Circuit. Next on our list is the NL Central, a division which may have a winner with no more than 85 wins! Chaim, Daft Funk, Dave Thomas, and Brant Brown offer their expertise on how this division is shaping for 2008.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

1. CHICAGO CUBS by Daft Funk
2007: 85-77 (1st)

SO LONG:
OF Cliff Floyd, OF Jacque Jones, C Jason Kendall, P Mark Prior, P Steve Trachsel

WELCOME: IF Alex Cintron, OF Kosuke Fukudome, P Jon Lieber

PROJECTED LINEUP
1. Alfonso Soriano LF
2. Ryan Theriot SS
3. Derrek Lee 1B
4. Aramis Ramirez 3B
5. Kosuke Fukudome RF
6. Mark DeRosa 2B
7. Geovany Soto C
8. Felix Pie CF

Rotation - Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Rich Hill, Jason Marquis, Jon Lieber, Ryan Dempster, Sean Marshall
Setup - Scott Eyre, Bob Howry
Closer - Kerry Wood, Carlos Marmol

Did you see the line to kick this whole thing off? When you can say "So long" to Cliff Floyd, Kendall and Trachsel, even if you don't get anything in return, that should be worth at least 15 extra wins on the upcoming season. The offense, as it did last year, looks stacked. Now if only the Cubs would start mashing the ball right off the bat instead of waiting till September to do so like last year, we'll have something special going this season. Would Brian Roberts look good at the top of the Cubs lineup? Sure thing! Would Chaim's mom look stellar in a thong bikini? Absolutely...but that doesn't mean that it's gonna happen. (What? It did? Awesome.).

We here at the Saloon hope that, one way or another, this Brian Roberts cocktease gets finished and finished soon. I think it would be good to get Roberts, but only if we don't have to give up more than 2 starting pitchers. Last year, the Cubs were blessed with incredible health in their starting rotation, and I wouldn't guarantee being that lucky again next year. The bullpen should be decent, especially in the back end, with Wood, Howry and Marmol all capable of closing. Unless major injuries strike, expect the Cubs to win about 95 games and another Central division title.

PRESEASON AWARDS
Mr. Sexy Time: 3B Aramis Ramirez- Aramis has been one of the most consistent Cubs over the last few years. He's consistent with the bat and consistently banged up all the time. It seems like every year, Aramis has a stretch where no pitcher can get him out, a stretch that abruptly ends when he pulls a hamstring or has some back trouble or sprains a finger. Not this year. I expect a full year from Ramirez, with a potential .310-40-120 season on the horizon, which would make him a solid MVP candidate.

Century Club Award: Have you ever heard of the century club? That's where you attempt to drink one shot glass full of beer every minute for 100 minutes. That may not sound like much, but it comes out to drinking over 12 beers in under 2 hours. And you aren't allowed to get up from the seat you're on. Going to the bathroom and vomiting are also not allowed. There's a variation of the century club called the Atomic Century Club where every 10th shot is tequila or vodka. How would one feel after attempting such a feat? Probably the same as I feel every time every single person in the whole world that sees me wearing a Cubs hat reminds me that the Cubs haven't won the Series in a century as if I hadn't heard that a billion times already!!!

I Pulled One Of These On Your Mom Once: Kosuke Fukudome - No matter how you say it, it still sounds something you would see in a really dirty movie, and then get slapped when you suggested to your wife that you try it at home.

Mr. Lifetime Achievement Award: Kerry Wood - What's not to love about Kerry Wood? He never complains, he took a baseball bat to Sammy Sosa's boombox, took the blame for the Game 7 loss to the Marlins, turned down what could have been much more money from other teams to remain with the Cubs out of loyalty, etc. Basically, Kerry Wood is the anti Mark Prior. If I have one guy to give the ball to when I need just one inning, any guy in the entire league, I'm going with Wood. Sure, some others may have better stuff (although Woody has been hitting 97 on the radar gun pretty consistently this spring), but no one has more intensity and willpower than Kerry Wood. This guy is nails. How many times did he bail out the bullpen late in crucial games last season? How money was he in the 2003 NLDS against the Braves? I think one of Wood's worst problems in the past was lack of concentration at times, but now that he'll most likely be pitching the 9th with a slim lead, that shouldn't be a problem. Write in 35 saves with an ERA south of 3.00.

FOR MORE READING
Goat Riders of the Apocalypse
The View From the Bleachers
Hire Jim Essian
The Cub Reporter


2. CINCINNATI REDS by Dave Thomas
2007: 72-90 (5th)

SO LONG:
P Eddie Guardado, OF Josh Hamilton, P Eric Milton

WELCOME: P Jeremy Affeldt, C Paul Bako, P Jose Capellan, P Francisco Cordero, P Josh Fogg, OF Jerry Hairston Jr., OF Corey Patterson, P Edinson Volquez, OF Craig Wilson

PROJECTED LINEUP
1. Jay Bruce Corey Patterson CF
2. Adam Dunn LF
3. Brandon Phillips 2B
4. Ken Griffey Jr. RF
5. Edwin Encarnacion 3B
6. Scott Hatteberg 1B
7. Alex Gonzalez SS
8. David Ross C

Rotation - Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, Josh Fogg, Matt Belisle, Homer Bailey
Setup - Mike Stanton, David Weathers, Bill Bray
Closer - Francisco Cordero

The 2008 season for the Cincinnati Reds can be summed up with one word: Potential. They have an incredible amount of young talent and enough veterans on the squad to improve on the team’s performance last year. However, this simply isn’t going to happen with Dusty Baker behind the wheel. Instead of cruising to the finish line with Joey Votto and Homer Bailey fighting over the toys in their Happy Meals in the back seat while Adam Dunn and Aaron Harang watch movies in the captains chairs, Dusty will nod off, miss his exit, and then suddenly wake up and overcorrect right into those big yellow barrels full of the crushed sandy dreams of Reds fans everywhere.

The rest of Cincinnati's situation is a question mark, as always. Will Griffey sit for half the season? Will Phillips develop into a good cleanup hitter? Is it possible to eat Skyline Chili without dedicating an afternoon to pissing right out of my ass? Well, maybe some things are set in stone. A lot still comes down to Dusty, who has already mentioned that he’s sick of guys like Adam Dunn taking pitches (waiting for the right pitch instead of swinging just "to be aggressive") and drawing walks to clog up the base paths. In other news Votto has hit .289/.385/.476 in the minors. Dusty wants to change his plate approach. Genius.

PRESEASON AWARDS
Mr. Sexy Time - Joey Votto: Joey Votto has been absolutely tearing up the minor leagues and could be a stud at 1B for a while. He's pretty much universally regarded as the best hitting prospect in the minors and if he's actually allowed to play this guy has the potential to put up some sick numbers.

The Dr. Andrews Rewards Member Award - It would be easy to give this award to Ken "breakable" Griffey Jr. but I think this year we may see another career ruined. Dusty is going to test the limits of how many innings Aaron Harang can pitch. My guess is we're going to see somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 innings. By July. Can't wait to see how far his arm flies when it snaps off.

FOR MORE READING
Red Reporter
Reds (and Blues)
Red Hot Mama


3. MILWAUKEE BREWERS by Daft Funk
2007: 83-79 (2nd)

SO LONG: P Francisco Cordero, 2B Tony Graffanino, OF Geoff Jenkins, P Ray King, 3B Corey Koskie, P Scott Linebrink, OF Kevin Mench, C Damian Miller, P Matt Wise

WELCOME: 3B Russell Branyan, OF Mike Cameron, P Eric Gagne, C Jason Kendall, 3B Abraham Nunez, P David Riske

PROJECTED LINEUP
1. Rickie Weeks 2B
2. J.J. Hardy SS
3. Ryan Braun LF
4. Prince Fielder 1B
5. Corey Hart RF
6. Bill Hall 3B
7. Mike Cameron CF
8. Jason Kendall C

Rotation - Ben Sheets, Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush, Yovani Gallardo (DL), Carlos Villanueva, Claudio Vargas, Manny Parra
Setup - Salomon Torres, David Riske, Derrick Turnbow
Closer - Eric Gagne

The Brewers seem a bit overrated to me this season. Sure, they jumped out to a great start last year and gave the Cubs a run for their money until the final days of the season, but remember how bad the Cubs started the season last year? If the Cubs had been playing even average baseball over the first two months or so of 2007, the Brewers would have been seen as nothing more than a solid, but unspectacular team.

But this doesn't mean they don't have potential. Take a look at that lineup. What if Rickie Weeks lives up to even part of his massive potential? What if J.J. Hardy plays like it's April all season? What if Bill Hall thinks it's 2006 again? I know these are huge "if's", but it shows you the offensive potential the Brew Crew has. When you trot out a 1-7 that could potentially hit 25/25/40/50/30/25/20 home runs respectively, it doesn't matter that you have Jason Kendall in your lineup.

What could hold the Brewers back this year? Well, their lineup could get hurt/under-perform, they could choke under the pressure of their own expectations (again) and their pitching staff could (and probably will) completely implode. I look at their rotation and say "Ewww..." I look at their bullpen and say "EWWW!" There will be many a home run hit in Miller Park this season.

PRESEASON AWARDS
Mr. Sexy Time: Ryan Braun - Ryan missed a good part of 2007 while in the minors and still put up a dick-droppingly good season. If you stretch his numbers out over 162 games, he would have ended up with a line of .324-49-139-130-22. And that was his first season in the bigs. Fear the Braun.

"You ain't from 'round here, are ya, boy?" - Prince Fielder: Over the offseason, Prince Fielder became a vegetarian. You know what's probably not a good idea? Publicly admitting to giving up meat and attempting to be healthy in the middle of Wisconsin! Remember, people from Wisconsin love only 3 things; Favre, fireworks, and stuffing yourself with as much meat and cheese as possible. Mr. Fielder, you fit in well with the natives last year because you looked just like most Brewer fans (a "fat guy"). But keep making decisions like this one, and you;ll be run out of town. What next, are you going to argue that Robin Yount wasn't a better player than Babe Ruth? Because he was. Ask any Milwaukee fan and he'll tell ya.

Heil, Sausage! - It was just brought to my attention that in the immortal Sausage Race, the Italian Sausage's name is "Guido". Yes, you read that right. What, were "Honkey" and "Gringo" busy on selection day? With a Polish sausage and a chorizo (They make it wear a sombrero! Racists!) also in the race, expect more racial slurs to follow. And if the sausage race really is run by Nazis, would that make Randall Simon the Allies?

FOR MORE READING
Brew Crew Ball
Brewers Bar
Al's Ramblings


4. HOUSTON ASTROS by Huell Howser
2007: 73-89 (4th)

SO LONG:
SS Eric Bruntlett, 2B Chris Burke, 2B Craig Biggio, SS Adam Everett, P Jason Jennings, 3B Mike Lamb, P Brad Lidge, P Trever Miller, OF Orlando Palmeiro, P Chad Qualls, OF Luke Scott

WELCOME: 2B Geoff Blum, OF Michael Bourn, P Doug Brocail, P Jake Cassel, P Shawn Chacon, OF Jose Cruz Jr., OF Darin Erstad, P Geoff Geary, OF Nick Gorneault, 2B Kazuo Matsui, P Chad Paronto, P Jose Valverde

PROJECTED LINEUP
1. Michael Bourn CF
2. Kazuo Matsui 2B
3. Miguel Tejada SS
4. Lance Berkman 1B
5. Carlos Lee LF
6. Hunter Pence RF
7. Ty Wigginton 3B
8. J.R. Towles C

Rotation - Roy Oswalt, Woody Williams, Wandy Rodriguez, Brandon Backe, Shawn Chacon, Chris Sampson
Setup - some guy
Closer - Jose Valverde

Mr Sexytime: Cecil Cooper - After reading this article, I think the 2008 Astros slogan should be "The 2008 Astros: 8% More Black!" How did the Astros come to this frame of mind? I think they watched this clip and decided that the same principal could be applied to a baseball team.

FOR MORE READING
The Astros Dugout
The Juice Box
The Crawfish Boxes



5. PITTSBURGH PIRATES by Chaim Witz
2007: 68-94 (6th)

SO LONG:
P Tony Armas, P Shawn Chacon, OF Brad Eldred, SS Cesar Izturis

WELCOME: P T.J. Beam, P Elmer Dessens, 3B Chris Gomez, P Byung-Hyun Kim, 1B Doug Mientkiewicz, SS Jorge Velandia, P Jaret Wright

PROJECTED LINEUP
1. Nate McLouth CF
2. Freddy Sanchez 2B
3. Jason Bay LF
4. Adam LaRoche 1B
5. Xavier Nady RF
6. Jose Bautista 3B
7. Ronny Paulino C
8. Jack Wilson SS

Rotation - Ian Snell, Tom Gorzelanny, Matt Morris, Paul Maholm, Zach Duke
Setup - Damaso Marte
Closer - Matt Capps

Well, on the positive side, the Steel City has purged itself from Tracyball, a scourge that is indigenous to both the Northeast and Southern California. They also axed Dave Littlefield, a GM so bad that he made Isiah Thomas look competent and sane. They are one year shy of tying the all-time record for the most consecutive losing seasons. One would think, with that track record of futility that they'd be able to at least acquire some good prospects through the draft. After all, they've been picking near the top for damn near 16 years now. Go ahead and think that, but you'd be wrong. Kris Benson. JJ Davis. Bobby Bradley. Sean Burnett. Bryan Bullington. Brad Lincoln. Daniel Moskos. Clinton Johnson. You'd be correct in wondering 'Who the hell are these guys and where can I get some nudes of Anna Benson?' Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you the Pirates first-round draft picks over the years.

There are some things to like in Pittsburgh, but nothing that inspires confidence. Nate McLouth seems like he could be good in theory and Matt Capps has the makings of a stud closer. Freddy Sanchez is scrappy and Adam LaRoche is better than his brother. The Pirates are 'cute' and 'scrappy', but that's not enough to break a streak of 15 straight losing seasons.

Thus, for inspiration, I will quote Trent from Swingers. Take his words to heart young Bucs.

Trent: I don't want you to be the guy in the PG-13 movie everyone's *really* hoping makes it happen. I want you to be like the guy in the rated R movie, you know, the guy you're not sure whether or not you like yet. You're not sure where he's coming from. Okay? You're a bad man.

PRESEASON AWARDS
Mr. Sexy Time: OF/1B Steve Pearce - So sexy that he's starting out in AAA! He's 25 years old and is the organization's #2 prospect. His line last year in the minors? .337 BA, 221 hits, 31 HRS, 114 RBIS, all in 487 ABS. All that and he was leading the big league club in dongs this spring. So of course, management gives him some Subway coupons and puts him on the first Greyhound to Indianapolis. Gotta see what this Nady, Xavier kid can do. Don't abandon your boy Pittsburgh.

You Sir, Are No Xavier McDaniel: OF Xavier Nady - (Opening dictionary. Looking up the word 'poop'. Giggling. Looking up the word 'mediocre'. Feigning shock that Websters would actually include a photo of Xavier Nady. Seriously? Is that even allowed? Stopping suddenly upon the stark realization that you're...reading. the. dictionary.)

Sam Cassell Called. He Wants His Rugged Good Looks Back: SP Tom Gorzelanny - Seriously. Not cute. His chompers actually have an arrest warrant issued for them. Dead or alive. Superficiality aside, the boy can pitch well enough, all things considered. He teams with Ian Snell, the poor man's Chazz Zambrano, to give the Pirates at least an outside shot at winning 2 out of every 5 games. He qualifies as a 'crafty lefty'. Fellow starter Matt Morris? He's what we call a 'shitty righty'.

FOR MORE READING
Honest Wagner
Where Have You Gone Andy Van Slyke?
Raul Mondesi's House


6. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS by Brant Brown
2007: 78-84 (3rd)

SO LONG: C Gary Bennett, 3B Russell Branyan, 2B Miguel Cairo, SS David Eckstein, P Troy Percival, 3B Scott Rolen, C Kelly Stinnett, OF So Taguchi, P Kip Wells, OF Preston Wilson

WELCOME: P Dewon Brazelton, P Matt Clement, SS Cesar Izturis, P Ron Flores, 2B D'Angelo Jimenez, C Jason LaRue, P Kyle Lohse, C Josh Phelps, P Ron Villone, P John Wasdin

PROJECTED LINEUP
1. Skip Schumaker RF
2. Chris Duncan/Brian Barton LF
3. Albert Pujols 1B
4. Rick Ankiel CF
5. Troy Glaus 3B
6. Adam Kennedy 2B
7. Yadier Molina C
8. Cesar Izturis SS

Rotation - Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse, Joel Pineiro, Braden Looper, Matt Clement, Todd Wellemeyer, Anthony Reyes
Setup - Russ Springer, Ryan Franklin
Closer - Jason Isringhausen

NOTES - Oh man. This is gonna be bad. If there's one team that will drive a player or manager to drinking, it's the Cardinals. I mean, just look at this roster. Did you hear that woosh sound? That was ownership flushing away 10 players from last years team, only 10 worse players came right back up into the toilet bowl. Well, at least they still have So Taguchi. What? Are you kidding me? They even got rid of him? Matt Clement? Cesar Izturis? Their big signing was Kyle Lohse? Wow, this will be a monumentally rough year in St. Louis.

Albert Pujols has a bum elbow and will likely need surgery at some point during the season. He's a tough guy, so he's going to wait it out and do more damage to the elbow before he opts for surgery though. C'mon Albert, suck it up and take care of yourself. This team isn't going anywhere with or without you. When your best offensive player will likely be a 29 year old former pitching prospect from your own system, you've got a long road ahead. I can't say it enough. This is going to be one hellish year on the city of St. Louis. They can hope all they want for Chris Carpenter to come back healthy, but that's not much to hang your hat on. Troy Glaus and his K's and won't do much good here. Does Adam Kennedy still have braces?

You could say that they cleaned up the clubhouse tension by getting rid of Scott Rolen, but I wonder how the players feel about his absence. LaRussa is in his death throes as manager. Why go out of your way to make him happy. They need to cut ties with LaRussa and start fresh. Personally, I'm glad to see Jim Edmonds gone, that ass-hat.

PRESEASON AWARDS
Mr. Sexy Time - Steven Jackson: Jackson took a bit of a step back in 2007 compared to his output in 2006. He played in four fewer games due to injury, but put up a whopping eight less touchdowns than in 2006, and dropped over 500 total rushing yards. Heading into next season, Jackson.......huh? What's that? Oh, baseball? Oh, wrong St. Louis team. Baseball you say? The Cardinals? No, they don't have anybody that could be deemed sexy.

The Kirby Puckett "I Can't See So Good" Award - Juan Encarnacion: Terrible freak accident for Encarnacion. We shouldn't make light of such things. However, it's the Cardinals, so it's probably some sort of karma for the atrocities of 2006.

Team Most Valuable (HGH) Purchaser - Rick Ankiel: Shaaaaaaaaaammmmmmmmme! Shaaaaaaaaammmmmmmme! Shuuuuuuuuuuuuuuunnnnnnnnnnn! Shuuuuuuuuuuuunnnnnnnnnn!

FOR MORE READING
Viva El Birdos
Cardinals Diaspora
That's a Winner

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