The Commish Online                                                                                
March 26, 2003

With the additions made by Philadelphia and Houston, the N.L. West hasn't received much publicity, but the top three teams might just be the three best in the National League.  The nod has to go to Arizona because they are still the only team that has two pitchers who can absolutely dominate a game each time they toe the rubber.  Dessens and Byung-Hyun Kim are decent options lower in the rotation, making it real difficult for the Diamondbacks to suffer any slump of longer than three games.  Los Angeles is closing the gap, but they are still prone to losing their big names to injury.  If you could guarantee a healthy, full season from Brian Jordan and Kevin Brown, then I would pick Los Angeles to win the division.  That's a big "if," though, and one that hasn't happened in quite a few years.  Nevertheless, the Dodgers have an impressive rotation of experienced but not ancient hurlers and one of the best closers in the game (Gagne).  The lineup is well balanced between speed and power, with LoDuca added some offense at an unlikely position.  If McGriff can hit 25 HRs and 90 RBIs in the middle of the lineup to take pressure off of Shawn Green, the Dodgers just might have a shot at knocking off Arizona.

San Francisco almost won it all, but then overhauled the team and it will probably cost them.  Even though they added some talent (Durham, Alfonzo, Cruz, Moss), they lost their best protection for Barry Bonds in Jeff Kent.  This is still a very good team that can make some noise, but it's never easy to stay on top after making so many changes.   The rotation is solid and Nen is as reliable as anyone (although suffering a nagging injury right now), but the Dodgers have a slight edge in both categories and should edge the Giants out.

Home cooking is enjoyed more by Colorado than just about any team in the league.  Unfortunately for the Rockies, they still have to play half of their games on the road which is where they get into trouble (26-55 last year).  This year's lineup will be downright scary in Colorado, and should be able to hold their own in any ballpark.  Charles Johnson, Jose Hernandez, and Preston Wilson are all offensive improvements compared to last year's players at those positions.  The pitching staff is anchored by young Jason Jennings, but does have veteran lefty Denny Neagle present to balance things out.  Jimenez is underrated as a closer, and the Rockies could really surprise people this year if they didn't have two major things against them:  they play an imbalanced schedule and reside in the difficult N.L. West, and while their hitters get to boost their stats in the Colorado air, the pitchers still have to throw in it, and opposing teams just lick their chops at a chance to boost their stats when they visit the Rockies.

Bringing up the rear is San Diego.  With Hoffman out for at least half the year and Nevin out for the season, this team has nowhere to go but down.  A much heralded and exciting young staff won't be able to shoulder the load for a lineup that may have Mark Kotsay batting third.  The Padres have some upside, but it just won't be seen this year.

NL West
1. Arizona
with Johnson-Schilling, losing streaks are nonexistent
2. Los Angeles
92 wins last year and a healthier Kevin Brown this year
3. San Francisco
lost more than they gained in the offseason
4. Colorado
must figure out a way to win on the road
5. San Diego
lousy, but the youth provides an optimistic future

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