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Pheiffer Picks Favorites In National League East

Only the Braves and Mets Will Play for the Title

By Rory P. Pheiffer

Sports Columnist

Spring isn’t here yet, but baseball does not wait for spring anymore. Baseball seems to start earlier and earlier each year. Spring training starts in February, exhibition games the first days of March, and opening day in late March. This year Major League Baseball decided to conduct opening day in Japan, forcing the Mets and Cubs to travel to another country to open their baseball season. As much as I’d like to tell you that all the signs that indicate baseball season has arrived are apparent, there aren’t really any signs to indicate as such. Regardless, as much as it may not seem like it, it is time to grab your sunglasses and a few dollars for a hot dog and pop (or soda if you prefer) and make our way to the ballpark (well, don’t forget a warm coat too).

National League East

The Atlanta Braves owned the National League East during the 1990s, and I don't expect anything to change in this decade. They still have a solid pitching staff and their batting order now has more solid hitters at the top with Reggie Sanders and Quilvio Veras. A team with Javier Lopez and Andres Galarraga coming back strong after injuries makes the Braves again unbeatable.

The Mets made some nice off-season acquisitions, especially for their pitching staff where they will be able to move Al Leiter back to the second spot in the rotation and make newly acquired Mike Hampton the staff's ace. They also have the potential to be potent on offense, with the likes of Ricky Henderson, Darryl Hamilton, Mike Piazza, Robin Ventura, Todd Zeile, and Eric Bell. I don’t think they can compete with the Braves because Atlanta has more depth and consistency. If the Mets were going to make it to the World Series, last year was their year. Their time has come and gone. As for the rest of the teams in this division, don’t look for any of them to give Atlanta or New York too much trouble. The Phillies have too many holes in their line-up and the Expos increased their spending this year, but did so by only concentrated on pitching, leaving their offense and fielding still less than desirable. Lastly, the Florida Marlins, a team just three years removed from being crowned World Champions, will continue their recent trend of fighting to remain out of the National League basement.

Look for NL Central and more division previews in upcoming issues.