Major League Baseball

Inside The Wheelhouse: 2010 NL East Preview

Jimmy Rollins Game 4It’s that time of year again where we look at the upcoming 2010 Major League Baseball season. Throughout the next couple of days I will preview every division in Major League Baseball then ending my blog series previewing the 2010 MLB Season by looking at the teams I see entering the playoffs this year and who will win the World Series when it’s all said & done. In this edition of my blog I will preview the NL East division, the division that has given us the last two National League Champions.

NL East:

1. Philadelphia Phillies
This honestly shouldn’t come as a surprise to any fan of Major League Baseball right now that the Philadelphia Phillies would be atop the National League East division. The Phillies are the reigning back-to-back National League Champions and are by far one of the best teams in all of Baseball right now. Did I mention yet that the Phillies added the best pitcher in Major League Baseball after trading away their postseason ace (Cliff Lee) in a three team deal for Roy Halladay?

The Phillies have one of the most fundamentally sound lineups in all of baseball and they match that with their great defense. There should be little to no questions marks as we enter 2010 on how they will fair offensively. The only interesting part of the offensive puzzle in Philadelphia will be whether or not Jimmy Rollins bounces back this season and how new third baseman Placido Polanco will adapt to his new National League teammates.

As for constant problems in Philadelphia look no further then their bullpen and if you don’t believe me ask the New York Yankees. Brad Lidge was horrible last year and the other specialists in the bullpen didn’t fair any better. Once the starting pitcher walks off the mound this year in Philadelphia start placing the heart monitor on its fan base cause it could get gruesome rather quick.

Besides the question mark in the bullpen fans will wonder how Cole Hamels will bounce back after a sub-par season. This once glorified future ace now has to settle for the #2 starter in the rotation behind Roy Halladay. Hamels struggled in the regular season and it transcended into the postseason as he was constantly inconsistent for the NL Champs. Look for Hamels to bounce back in 2010 and for the Phillies to contend for the NL crown once again.

2. Atlanta Braves

I love this team this year as the surprise team in all of Baseball and I’m certainly not the only one on board with that statement. This will be longtime manager Bobby Cox’s swan song in Major League Baseball this season and the Braves want him to go out in style. This is a team to reckon with when it comes to the NL Wild Card this season.

The Braves will be showing off their new future franchise player in 20 year old Jason Heyward to the Baseball masses this season. Heyward has been compared to a young Albert Pujols & Ken Griffey Jr. and has the power of Ryan Howard. This kid is for real and will be the future face of the Braves franchise for quite sometime.

As for question marks going into this season you have to look at how young their roster is and their starting rotation. The Braves of the current time period are filled with 20 year old players that will make this team a strong contender for the NL crown for years to come but this is the time period where they go through their learning stages before they can become a National League monster. While the NL East is not in their sights right now they will be a strong contender for it come next season. This will be the surprise team of the National League right now.

When it comes to the starting rotation the Braves traded away their arguably top starter in Javier Vazquez for outfielder Melky Cabrera to the Yankees. What that means now is that this team belongs to future ace Tommy Hanson. Hanson will be surrounded with veteran leadership in Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson to carry the pace of the rotation as well. While Hanson, Lowe and Hudson are a solid 1-2-3 in any rotation look for age to play a part in whether or not the Braves or contenders come mid-season. Jair Jurrjens will become a solid #3 or #4 starting pitcher in Atlanta giving this team amazing depth in their rotation.

3. New York Mets

This was the most disappointing teams in all of Baseball in 2009. The New York Mets were favored by some to be the team to win the NL East crown, the team to represent the NL in the World Series and for some; the team to be World Champions. Neither of those things happened in 2010 and the Mets weren’t even close for any of those prophecies from happening as they dealt with a season headlined by injuries.

At one point in the season 8 of the 9 Mets who started on opening day rested injuries on the DL sending Mets fans on the brink of jumping off the Whitestone Bridge. To say the season was marred in injury in literally an understatement as the white flag was waved in Queens during the month of June. Don’t believe me? Replay the Luis Castillo dropping the pop-up/walk off error play against the New York Yankees.

There really isn’t much to gloat about for Met fans right now as the Mets really didn’t make a splash in the free agent market. They didn’t make a single change to their horrible rotation, they said farewell to Carlos Delgado at first and brought Jason Bay (who is towards the end of his prime) in to play left field at Citi Field. There were no signs of improvement from the front office as they kept with the team they basically had on the field last season minus the injuries.

The Mets will start the season with all-star players Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran on the DL for quite sometime surprising not a single Met fan as they don’t remember these players from last year anyway. The Mets 2010 season campaign will rest on the shoulders of David Wright as he tries to prove that he is a true locker room leader in Queens. Finally when it comes to the Mets I really don’t see Jerry Manuel (Mets manager) and/or Omar Minaya lasting the full season in Queens.

4. Florida Marlins

The Florida Marlins could be considered the surprise team in Baseball last season as they made an exciting run at the playoffs towards the end of September only to have the rug cut out from under them with just weeks to go. The Marlins franchise seems to always surprise Baseball fans for years and years now. Don’t believe me? Remember 1997 and 2003?

I really don’t see the Marlins capitalizing on their mediocre success from last season and transcending it into a run at the NL East or NL Wild Card crown. While myself and many Baseball fans would love to see a fresh face make a splash into playoff contention I just don’t see it coming from this team. This team is un-surprisingly very young still and has a lot to learn overtime.

The Marlins are filled with potential great prospects and will need Hanley Ramirez to continue to lead the ballclub into greater successes throughout the season. They had a great run last year thanks to the implosions of the New York Mets and the Nationals being, well, the National. Whether or not Han-Ram stays healthy will help determine how long the Marlins last.

While I do have the Marlins 4th in the NL East in predictions they can also serve the role as the #4 team in the NL East be a couple games over .500 for a good portion of the year. The NL East is by far the most talented division in the National League and will soon mirror their AL East counterparts a couple years from now due to the depth of talent each team has on their squad. They may make a run at the NL Wild Card come late-August but look for them to fizzle out by early-September.

5. Washington Nationals

What is there to say about one of the worst teams in Baseball? It shouldn’t come as a surprise to many out there that I have the Nationals ranked 5th in the NL East this season. When you surround your season on the waiting process for a possible big time pitcher in Stephen Strasburg there really isn’t much to say.

I believe the Nationals could destroy the hopes and dreams of the young rookie in Stephen Strasburg in being a complete failure at the big league level. The talk of bringing him up to the big leagues around May 1st without little to any experience in the minor league level is stupid. I don’t care how fast he can throw a ball, he needs to develop himself into be a great pitcher down the line and not right now.

Look at Mark Prior who recently left the game of Baseball because his arm is so shot he can’t throw a ball past 85mph anymore. That right there should be the focal point of the development of young Stephen Strasburg. Don’t rush the process, just let it pan out and develop the way it should. You can’t rush success.

The Nationals should see very productive years from Ryan Zimmerman, Nyger Morgan and Adam Dunn but that’s it really. This team is young and is still learning. If they win more then 65 games this season then it will be a “great success” as I could hear my inner-Borat speaking for some reason. This is the bottom of the barrel team in the National League, if not all of Major League Baseball.

Jeff Peck is the producer for the “Wheelhouse Radio” program that airs every Sunday – Thursday @ 8pm ET/5pm PT at www.blogtalkradio.com/thewheelhouse and at www.errorfm.com @ 2am ET/11pm PT

Jeff also co-hosts “The Still Real to us show” with Eric Gargiulo which can be available at www.wheelhouseradio.com and can be downloaded in the “Real Guy Radio” section of the site. There you can also download many different shows including “The Wheelhouse”, “24 on 24” and “Lost: Smoke Monsters and You.”

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You can follow “The Champ Jeff Peck” on Twitter at www.twitter.com/therealjeffpeck you can also follow Wheelhouse Radio on twitter at www.twitter.com/thewheelhouse and you can e-mail them @ [email protected].

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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