The smell of the grass, a cold beer, a cheaply made hot dog with all the fixings, and decent baseball game being played out in front of you. All of it on a warm summer day. Soon enough it will be baseball season again and day after day can be thrown away idling in bleacher seats rooting once again for your favorite team. Starting with this article I'll be previewing each team for the upcoming season starting off with the National League teams. Whether your a fantasy league participant, have a favorite team, or simply want to get a bit more into baseball I hope this will help you catch up or at least remind yourself for the 2013 season.
Last year ended in wildcard disappointment for the Braves who look to make an even stronger push to make it deeper into the playoffs. Gone is legendary Chipper Jones and decent ball players like Lyle Overbay and Eric Hinske but in come the Upton brothers, BJ and Justin, who have separately been great outfielders now look to come together for the first time. It will be an interesting balance the Braves will try to strike especially after losing some of the starting pitchers as well. Will this be another almost season or can they finally overcome and show up in late October?
In 2012 the Marlins has stacked the deck in their favor. New stadium, new name, new uniforms, and a new set of teammates that were supposed to come together with their own stock of talent and turn everything around. It wasn’t to be however and 2012 saw the Marlins in the standings basement at the end of the season and saw many key and star players (also read expensive) get traded away with little to no warning. How quickly it all went from love and baseball to disdain and hopelessness. The roster now has fewer recognizable names and possibly a lot less talent but the Marlins still hope to put something together in 2013.
New York Mets:
After some great headline moments in 2012 the Mets have spent their offseason clearing up salary room in hopes to begin anew. Even Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey couldn’t stay in the big apple and was traded away to the Blue Jays. Dickey was the kind of player fans could rally around even through a lackluster season, so it will be interesting to see in what direction the Mets head in now. They still have David Wright sitting at third base but is there any chance the Mets will do anything special this season or will it be another disappointment for all?
A summer slump proved too big last year for the Phillies who ended up missing the playoffs entirely in 2012. In preparation for a return to form in 2013 the Phillies have added some heavyweight bats to their lineup including Michael Young and Delmon Young, with a possible return to form from Yuniesky Betancourt. There certainly seems to be a high chance that the Phillies will be back in the postseason once again with the roster they’re bringing into spring.
What a surprise the Nationals were last year, making it into the playoffs all the while showing off a great stable of talent. This year they’ve added to their roster with great pitching from Dan Haren and Denard Span in centerfield. Zimmerman is recovered from surgery, LaRoche is ready to play his part, and Strasburg won’t have any restrictions this year. The nationals look fully loaded and prepared to make a real run further into the postseason.
Of all teams that consistently give fans a reason to believe only to dash away all hopes, the Cubs never disappoint in the drama department. The end of last year had the Cubs at over 100 losses for the season and looking for answers. They didn’t make major waves in the offseason market but acquisitions like sometimes great sometimes lackluster Edwin Jackson and Japanese phenom Kyuji Fujikawa could turn the Cubs into contenders. More than likely this will be another year without a Cubs team in the playoffs but the best thing about baseball is that anything can happen.
The Reds did not disappoint last year getting deep into the playoffs and losing to the eventual champions, the Giants. Ryan Ludwick, Corky Miller, Jonathon Braxton, and manager Dusty Baker are all back looking to make another run at a World Series appearance. And the addition of Shin-Soo Choo will make their lineup more intimidating for pitchers. Don’t be surprised to see another Reds team among the best in 2013.
All the sudden the Brewers aren’t the only good team in the NL Central. The past few years has seen the rise of the Cardinals and now both the Reds and even the Pirates are showing up to play. This left the Brewers watching playoff games rather than playing in them after last year’s season. However Ryan Braun is still around and despite the lack of big offseason moves the Brewers still have plenty of good bats and great young pitchers. I don’t think their division should forget about the Brewers anytime soon.
The Pirates have been a team that feels like they are close to finding their groove and really making a splash both in their division and possibly even in the playoffs. They made a whole ton of offseason moves but mostly within their own organization and farm system rather than on direct on the field impact. They don’t have a who’s who of MLB players but if you can’t root for a mostly scrappy team of leftovers then who can you root for?
St. Louis Cardinals:
The Cardinals were so close last year but loss in seven games to the eventual champion, the Giants. You would hope that they would be right back in the mix of things in 2013 but some offseason developments may cast doubts of their return to form. Gone are Berkman and Shumaker and in comes Ty Wiggington, an MLB middle infielder and journeymen. Shortstop Furcal and pitcher Chris Carpenter are pretty much out for the season. Despite these negatives the Cardinals still field players like Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, and David freese so don’t write off their chances altogether.
2012 was a middling year for the Diamondbacks, they ended at exactly 50% winning percentage and in the middle of their division, and so was their offseason choices. Out goes the big bat, and big paycheck, of Justin Upton but who isn’t really replaced in anything else they did. They did bring in Eric Chavez, third baseman, who has a decent bat but they also brought in closing pitcher Heath Bell who did terribly in 2012. It’ll be interesting to watch and see if these moves send the diamondbacks back into winning ways or further down the division standings.
The Rockies were in the basement at the end of 2012 and need a good offseason to turn things around this year. They have a decent roster of talented young guys but didn’t make too many efforts to improve themselves. In comes Ryan Wheeler, a young prospect at third base who hopes to make an impact. But then again so does Jeff Francis who pitched to only a 6-16 record last year. It seems the Rockies will be stuck again in the bottom of the division but they are making a few improvements.
Los Angeles Dodgers:
It’s hard to win your division win the eventual champions are in there with you but that’s what the Dodgers did last year and what they’ll have to compete with this year. This offseason may be the jolt they need to push them past, or at least in direct competition with, the Giants. In comes hitting coach Mark McGwire (yes that McGwire), pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin from South Korea, and top free agent pitcher Zack Greinke. They needed some pitching stabilization after losing Blanton, Choate, and League and hitters Bobby Abreu and Shane Victorino. The Dodgers try to fill some of the holes left after 2012 and only 2013 will prove their moves right or not.
San Diego Padres:
Like the others the Padres are doing their best in a rather tough division but they did finish 2012 below .500 winning percentage, which they hope to change. They come in with a new general manager and a slew of trades in the offseason. Former Padre Mark Kotsay returns to help fill in any gaps. Out goes former first pick Nick Schmidt, who hasn’t fulfilled his pick just yet, for Huston Street who is one of the better closers in the game. Out also went their ace pitcher Mat Latos who they got a great deal for, a bunch of young talents from the Reds who just might surge some energy back into the Padres for 2013.
San Francisco Giants:
It isn't easy being the best, especially when your best is borderline on a dynasty. The Giants have been at the top for years now and everything they do is examined and even copied by every other team. No team can stay together forever but how do you get through an offseason without losing, or spending, too much? The Giants do keep great players like Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro, and Andres Torres. The biggest loss in both talent and personality is closer Brian Wilson who is someone whose impact could always be felt and someone who cameras always seem to find even when he wasn't playing due to injury. The Giants always seem ready to make a run for the World Series and 2013 will certainly be another year with them in contention.