2004: 96-66 (.593) Division Winner
The Braves are supposed to have been dead in the water for something like nine years now. At the end of each season, they lose some vaunted member of the previous years championship core (an MVP candidate here, a few Cy Young winners there), only to scrounge up some deadbeat from the Mexican League, or a barely-adequate innings sponge from the bottom of another team’s roster and turn them into pure gold.
I’m sure this season will be no different.
My guess is that Tim Hudson will win 23 games with the help of run support from the Jones boys and a healthy Marcus Giles, while John Smoltz’s arm will fall off in his third start, allowing Horacio Ramierez to flounder about in way too many starts for Leo Mazzone’s magical rocking heiney to save.
2004: 86-76 (.531)
Philly is trying to take the Saint Louis route into the playoffs, with barely-better-than-league-average pitching and a powerful offense. The only problem is, they’re the Phillies and God hasn’t liked them since Mike Schmidt retired, so Jim Thome, Bobby Abreu and Chase Utley are all going to run into each other chasing a pop foul about two months into the season, leaving luminaries such as Kenny Lofton, Jimmy Rollins and David Bell to carry the load.
2004: 83-79 (.512)
Josh Beckett tanked it for my Roto team last year, so I’m a bit bitter about his chances in 2005. He’s had similar blister problems to Jeremy Affeldt, and aside from a few superb playoff performances is sinking dangerously close to similar average-ness. If he can turn it around, then he’ll be part of a mostly young (welcome back, Al) staff that sports a ton of upside.
As for the offense, we know that Juan Pierre is fast, Carlos Delgado is strong and Paul Lo Duca sucks in the second half. Miguel Cabrera’s rocket ship to stardom should offset Mike Lowell’s age-related declines.
Of course, Jeff Conine always seems to garner too many at bats over the course of a season, and Guillermo Mota isn’t nearly as good without the fear of Gagne behind him.
2004: 71-91 (.438)
Carlos has to cry alone at night with his money on a winless team deep into June, then remembers that he’s a superstar, puts the team on his back and goes all 2004 Postseason on the league for the remainder of the schedule.
Pedro will be too distracted by Kris Benson’s sultry wife to do anything remarkable.
2004: 67-95 (.414)
A poor start leads to low fan interest for the Nationals. MLB acts quickly to recoup revenues and sends the team on a barnstorming tour of North America, hitting up Las Vegas, Portland, Monterey, Vancouver and assorted farming communities throughout the Northern states.
Brad Wilkerson defects to the Oaxaca Warriors during a layover in July and wins MVP honors in the Mexican League.
Meanwhile, the travel schedule hampers the team and opponents alike, allowing the National’s record to float near .400 until the league finally settles on Billings as their new home. Thrilled to find out they have a new baseball team, the citizens of Montana come out in force, cheering the players on and providing enough inspiration for a climb towards respectability.