Over the course of my time here at WTP Sports, I’ve gotten to cover the game of baseball which is something I’ve always dreamed of doing. And for those of you that know me, or have read any of my baseball articles, or have seen an episode of my baseball podcast, Comic Relievers (Follow us on Twitter @ComicRelievers), know that I will support the Boston Red Sox until I take my last breath. And despite how much I hate the Yankees, I have a tremendous amount of respect for their organization. But what I truly love is the fact that after a dull few years, they’ve done everything they can to revive the rivalry with the Red Sox and compete to once again call themselves the best in the AL East.
Regardless, unless the Sox and Yanks start throwing haymakers at one another on the field every series, whether it be the Sox or the Yanks, or by some wild chance the Rays, that comes out atop the East, it still won’t be the best division to watch this coming season…
I have my eyes on the other division on the East side, the NL East. And when I say have my eyes on it, I mean I can’t friggin’ wait to see if it’ll match up to all the hype that’s surrounded this division since last season ended. Let’s take a look at what’s gone on.
The reigning division champs, the Atlanta Braves, have actually been the quietest team in the entire division this offseason, and yes, that includes the bottom-of-the-barrel Miami Marlins. Early in the offseason, they signed a former MVP in Josh Donaldson to a one-year deal and then brought back a 2018 all star in Nick Markakis. Aaaaand, that’s about it.
Atlanta’s GM has said he’s comfortable with his team’s roster and has high hopes that its young core, who all enjoyed breakout seasons last year, will continue to improve. If I had a middle infield of Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson, with Donaldson and Freeman manning the corners, and a guy like Acuna Jr in the outfield, I would probably feel the same way.
But here’s where things get interesting. Aside from the Marlins, every team in this division has gotten better in hopes to dethrone last year’s division champs. The Mets traded for Cano and Diaz; signed Wilson Ramos, Jed Lowrie, and Jeurys Familia; and made a couple of other moves that filled some holes from last year’s roster. A wild card on this team is Yoenis Cespedes. How well will he look after returning from double heel surgery? If the NL no longer requires a pitcher to hit, the Mets have outfield options which would allow Cespedes time to DH until he’s able to regain his swing and timing. Another note: the Mets have been linked to lefty starter Gio Gonzalez, who is pretty good but not great as of late but would make the Mets starting rotation just stupid filthy.
Then, there’s the Phillies, who, as I wrote about yesterday, finalized a deal for the best catcher in baseball in J.T. Realmuto. This offseason, they’ve also added an all star in Jean Segura, plus huge additions such as Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson to throw into a lineup with Hoskins, Herrera, and Franco, amongst other returning players. But here’s where I think things get even more interesting. Because, again, as I wrote about yesterday, the Phillies are still linked to both Harper and Machado.
According to Phillies GM, they have stupid money to spend. Will they get both? No. But I do feel they have a REAL STRONG SHOT at signing Bryce Harper. Philadelphia is one of two destinations I firmly believe Harper will land, and if they were to sign the newest MLB The Show cover boy, well, I don’t really have to explain what he does to an already stacked lineup.
But, (yes, there’s a but) if Harper does not sign with the Phillies, then he will return to a familiar stadium in 2019.
That’s right. If Bryce Harper does not sign with the Phillies, he’s going back home to the nation’s capital (and home to his baseball life, of course, seeing as Vegas doesn’t have an MLB team…yet). And, to be entirely honest, that doesn’t seem like as bad an idea as it did when the 2018 season ended. I was one of the guys who said Bryce is as good as gone at the end of the year, but seeing what the Nats have done to their roster this offseason has almost made it seem like they’re making a push to win it all with or without him. But with him, they’d have to be the odds on favorite to at least make it to the Fall Classic from the NL.
For example, a rotation already headlined by Scherzer and Strasburg has also added Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez. Pretty nasty. Then, they signed Brian Dozier and bolstered their bullpen and backstop options as well.
So who would I pick to win this star-studded division, anyway? Well, that’s pretty damn tough to say, but I’ll try to break down my reasoning as best I can:
Who has the edge in…
Starting rotation? It’s hard not to pick the Mets here, but I really think what we’ll see out of Washington’s rotation this year will be remarkable.
Bullpen? This one’s tough to say because I also like what the Mets did in this aspect, but I’d have to pick the Phillies based off of what they had last year and the addition of Robertson.
Lineup? If the Phillies sign Harper, then the Phillies. If the Nationals sign Harper, then the Nationals. Yeah, it’s that close.
Overall presence? The Phillies, with or without Harper. But after a late collapse last year and the bold statements made by the GM this offseason, if they have another disappointing finish, I think it’s safe to say a lot more than just players or coaches will be headed out the door next offseason.
Now, some will say, “Hey Mikey didn’t pick the defending division champs in any category!” And in saying that, you’d be correct. Outfield wise, the Nats with or without Harper are more exciting to me. Infield wise, they’re pretty solid, especially with the addition of Donaldson. But the Phils and Nats are pretty competitive in this aspect as well. The starting rotation and bullpen are what scares me about Atlanta, although I’m just not sold. I think they’re a great club, but I think last year’s hype and all-around fun atmosphere combined with some luck brought them to a division title. I expect a little bit of a setback this year and some regret from the GM for not making any moves to counter the moves of his division rival general managers.
All in all, it’s really hard to choose because I like Philly and I like Washington a lot, but whichever of the two that Harper does go to will gain the competitive edge in my eyes. But because I said I’d make a pick, the winner of the most competitive division in baseball in 2019 will be the Philadelphia Phillies. Either way, this one’s gonna be a damn good one, and definitely one you’re gonna wanna watch very closely.
IT’S FINALLY BASEBALL SEASON AGAIN EVERYBODY!!!!!