The FYC's NL Central Mid-Season Showband & Review

First off, I'd like to thank Phil Garner for not putting Scott Rolen in to play 3rd base in the 9th inning of the All-Star game. Scott Ballgame is in there and he gets the groundball that Miggy C. missed 9 out of 10 time. I guarantee it.

Way to cost the NL home field advantage come October, Capt. Moustache. God, I hate the Astros.

Now, on to The FYC's NL Central Mid-Season Showband & Review:

For the past three years, I have been defending the merits of the National League. Sure the America League is more exciting to watch, but it’s a different style of ball. The AL is like the hottest of rap tracks (I’m thinking maybe Dre/Pac with “California Love”) – it’s full of hard hitting beats and machine-gun lyrics and is instant gratification personified (yes, I know that’s not really the correct usage for personification. Get over it.) On the other hand, the NL is like a great jam by the Allman Brothers, something with lot’s of nooks and crannies which can be enjoyed for years to come and in many different ways (read: on drugs.)

However, after June’s inter-league debacle, I realized I was wrong. If I were to compare the two leagues to musical acts now, I would say the AL is Led Zeppelin circa 1970 (un-fucking-beatable) and the NL is Rob Pilatus from Milli Vanilli (not only bad, but also dead.)

Bottom line: The National League is fucking horrible.

On to the NL Central then! (Oh, and if you need, take a look back to see what I said about the Cent before the season started, but I can't imagine why you would care.)

St Louis Cardinals (Actual record: 48-39; Preseason Projected Record: 96-66)

The Cardinals went 3-13 between June 20th and July 6th. And they are still ahead of the rest of their division by at least four games. That is how bad the NL is.

Between their horrendous starting pitching, craptacular bullpen, Jim Edmonds aging 27 years during the off-season, and an apparent robot of some sort (Juan Encarnacion) starting in right field, it is amazing that the Cardinals were able to muster together 48 wins before the All Star break.

Of course, Amazing is also the middle name of Albert Pujols, so that kind of makes sense (not really. His middle name is actually Albert!) Despite missing over two weeks of action, Pujols has still cranked out 29 home runs and driven in 76 runs. Just off the top of my head, I can think of at least ten wins this season which he is solely responsible for. Do not be surprised by any more heroics Pujols pulls off. At this point, “El Hombre” could find the cure for cancer in between innings and I wouldn’t be shocked.

The Cardinals, while not a great team, should continue to keep chugging along and will probably win the Central by virtual default. What happens after that, I’m really not sure… I doubt it will be pretty, though. If the Cards win a World Series the way they are comprised right now, I will eat my hat.

Biggest First Half Surprise: Scott Rolen’s .331 Batting Average. Sure, he’s about 15 pounds lighter (cough… steroids… cough) but Scotty Ballgame is back on track.
Biggest First Half Bust: Mark Mulder’s 6.09 Earned Run Average. Mulder has been about as effective as random hobo being thrown out on the mound, and a heck of a lot more expensive.

Cincinnati Reds (Actual Record: 45-44; PPR: 76-86)

In the Preseason preview, I wrote: “this team is going to score a lot of runs… However, they are also going to give up a lot of runs.” I was right on the first part of that (as was every other person) and completely and totally wrong on the second part (again, so was everyone else.)

Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo have combined for 18 wins, 318 K’s, and an ERA in the mid 3.00’s. I did not see that coming. Of course, Arroyo’s transformation into an ace is probably a good example of the quality of play in the NL, but let’s let the little crooner have his moment in the sun, no?

Biggest First Half Surprise: Brandon Phillips. Where the hell did he come from?
Biggest First Half Bust: Esteban Yan’s continued ability to be a Major Leaguer. Who keeps signing him and why?

Milwaukee Brewers (AR: 44-46; PPR: 87-75)

All you need to know about the Brewers in three quick bullet points:

Biggest First Half Surprise: Bill Hall’s 17 home runs (cough…HgH… cough)
Biggest First Half Bust: Prince Fielder failing to win Nathan’s hot dog eating contest.

Houston Astros (AR: 43-46, PPR:86-76)

I would love to count the Astros out of the postseason race right now, but it seems like every year they have some sort of remarkable second half turnaround and make a push to play some cold baseball in October (is there anything better than going to a baseball game when it’s 45 degrees out late in October? No… No there is not. Another reason to hate domes.)

If the ‘Stros want to get back on track, they are going to have to figure out just who in the hell is going to close their games out, because Brad Lidge is less then effective this year. In fact, he kind of stinks. Yep… Stinky.

And Houston can be thankful that they have Lance Berkman (.317/24/79) in the lineup because with Morgan Ensberg having a good case of the cold bat, the ‘Stros lineup is less than intimidating. How they have 43 wins right now is beyond me. Phil Garner’s mustache must really be motivating these boys to play their asses off.

As always, I’m sure Houston will find a way to make it interesting down the stretch. Also, there will still be a god damn hill in the outfield.

Biggest First Half Surprise: The fact that I was able to write a few paragraphs about the Astros and not mention Roger Clemens. If I worked for ESPN, I would be fired for that (I probably wouldn’t have a soul, either.)
Biggest First Half Bust: Take your pick: Andy Pettitte, Brad Lidge, Wandy Rodriguez, or Taylor Buchholz.

Chicago Cubs (AR: 34-54; PPR: 77-85)

For the Cubs’ first three months of 2006, if it could possibly go wrong, it did:

Kerry Wood and Mark Prior still have not made it back to the mound effectively. Derrek Lee got hurt. Greg Maddux is 117 years old. Aramis Ramirez forgot how to hit. Juan Pierre wasn’t nearly as good as advertised.

One would think that things possibly could not get any worse. Wrong. If the Chicago Cubs are involved, it can always get worse.

Biggest First Half Surprise: The fact that Cubs fans have not yet murdered General Manager Jim Hendry and Manager Dusty Baker.
Biggest First Half Bust: Mark Prior is still being sold by the organization as if he was an ace, even though he is 0-4 with a 7.71 ERA.

Pittsburgh Pirates (30-60, 62-100)

The Pirates are honestly the worst baseball team I have ever seen play. Aside from Jason Bay, there is not one player on this team that I would pay money to watch play.

It is absolutely pathetic how bad the Pirates ownership has allowed this once proud and historic franchise to decay. It’s an embarrassment to everyone involved.

Before the season, I figured they would lose about 100 games. Now, only losing 100 would be an accomplishment for the Pirates. It’s just sad.

Biggest First Half Surprise: Freddy Sanchez cranking out a .358 average. Also, it’s a great use of the name “Freddy” instead of “Fred.”
Biggest First Half Bust: Oliver Perez not only being demoted to AAA, but not even being good at that level. What the hell happened to this guy (cough… greenies… cough)?


How I think they’ll finish out:
St. Louis 92-70; Losers of the NLCS to the Pond Scum
Milwaukee 86-76
Houston 82-80
Cincinnati 82-80
Chicago 63-99
Pittsburgh 55-107


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