March 26, 2003
Philadelphia did everything possible to make a run at Atlanta this year and it just might pay off. Stealing Millwood and acquiring Thome and David Bell make the Phillies an instant contender. However, 11 straight division titles don't happen on accident. Despite losing Glavine to free agency, the Braves have rebuilt their staff with quality arms and still have Maddux to anchor the rotation when the going gets tough. Their pitching is certainly not what it used to be, but with Sheffield, Jones, and Jones in the outfield, the Braves can finally outscore the opposition once in a while. Besides Andruw Jones, defense is always a question mark, but the nod has to go to the Braves because of the experience factor.
The next 3 teams are capable of finishing in any order, but I feel the Marlins have the best shot at third place. Pudge Rodriguez may be getting up in years, but he is still a major acquisition for Florida and will help the team at the plate and behind it (although some Marlins' pitchers are already questioning his game calling). Florida doesn't possess a lot of pop at the plate, but the have players who will wreak havoc on the basepaths and find ways to score. If Burnett and Beckett keep themselves healthy, the rest of the rotation and the eventual promotion of Spooneybarger to closer will keep them in the hunt most of the way.
A lot of nagging injuries on Montreal's pitching staff will keep this team in the lower tier of the East. Talent abounds in the lineup with Vladimir Guerrero solidifying the middle of the order, but there are too many question marks to pose a serious threat. Can Jeff Liefer have success as an everyday player? Will Endy Chavez or Jose Macias make an impact in center field? Will they be able to get through a season with a healing Scott Stewart as their closer? Will the Hernandez brothers care enough to carry the load for this team?
Rounding out the East is the always spending New York Mets. They may have landed Glavine for the front of the rotation, but the fact that David Cone is trying to win the fifth starter spot doesn't speak well for the back end of the rotation. Throw in an injured Astacio and an overrated Steve Trachsel and you've got the makings of a last place season. Half of the hitters are threatening, but having Burnitz, Sanchez, Wigginton (?), and Cedeno in the lineup puts a lot of pressure on Alomar and Mo Vaughn to improve drastically on last year. The relief corps is stable, but will the game matter when they come in to pitch?
potent outfield and remade rotation should be enough for another division title
will provide a serious threat to Atlanta, but young pitching and Bowa's outbursts will shortchange them
the surprise team as Pudge adjusts well and the young talent blossoms under easygoing Torborg
too much talent to finish last
5. New York
another disappointment as Glavine and Floyd arrive a couple years late