Friday, May 14, 2010

From the author: What I thought about the N.L. Central two months ago

The N.L. Central

What is it about the Centrals? They are not places of fear. Their non-coasts are defined by mediocrity and uncertainty. This Central has a team that stands alone. The other does not. Still, the Central weaves good stories. It's tales aren't blown out by the ocean or swallowed by the heat of an overgrown metropolis.

1. The St. Louis Cardinals

Probably the most obvious pick in the whole shebang. They are not the best, but they are the most better. That's all. I like Pujols because he is magic without being magical. Pedro was magical. Big Papi, back when he was younger and on steroids was magical. Pujols- I think Pujols is just that good. He just outworks you and he's better.

2. The Milwaukee Brewers

I take back some of what I said before about the Central's mediocrity. I was a different man then. I failed to see the rising star in Cincinnati, the still decent roster in Chicago, the interesting tire stores of Pittsburgh and Houston. But mostly I forgot that the Brewers are still a nifty squad. I suppose they lack pitching, but where's your pitching? I mean seriously, where is it?

3. Here's where I really get to say "Ummm..." There are still four teams to rank and none of them are exactly jumping at me for the honor of third on this worst grouping of the world's very best baseball players. The way I see it, there are two groups of two. The Cs and then the pH. For this group I will reward direction by picking the

Cincinnati Reds.

I associate this team with heat. This is probably wrong. I don't know what the climate is like in Southern Ohio, but based on my four years in Northern Ohio, I'm not ready to declare it a place of heat the way much of the South is. The other thing I associate the Reds with is mediocrity. I think the last time I remember them being good was when I was in high school. It's very possible they snuck in a couple of good years when I wasn't looking- surely there best year of Griffey-Dunn wasn't so bad- but nothing worth more than a "pheh" has happened with this team recently, so part of me extrapolates that and figures that this is more or less the way it is. Now people are saying this team could be good very soon. Probably not this year soon, but perhaps the next one. I want to write anxious things about Dusty Baker and young pitchers, but it just wouldn't accomplish very much.

4. The Chicago Cubes

I lived in Chicago for three and a half years, ending this past August. In the many Cubs fans, I saw a little of the Mets fans I identify with. Being a fan of either one of these teams is more than anything about dashed hopes. Neither is consistently bad, and they will sometimes be quite good. They will keep you thinking that with a few breaks and a nifty second baseman, magic could happen. In the end the story is about the wrong-headedness of the higher-ups and the defeat of the lower downs.

Now I'm going to be a snooty East Coaster and say that the Mets breed seems to me more academic about this general state. Cubs fans are like sophomores who are still full of hope, still charged with orange energy. They will make jokes about their team's century-long championship drought, but behind it all there is something puppy-like. All teams have that to some degree, but Mets fans seem to have the awareness that they are merely the chorus in a Greek tragedy, and Greek tragedies only end one way. Still, I dream...

5. The Houston Astros

This team may slowly be getting smarter. It might be too slow, and... wait, they signed Brandon Lyon to, what was it 3 years $15M? See I was just getting swept up in this whole the Central is not that bad thing, and then I remember that. Here are words that sound bolder than they are: The Astros will never make the playoffs with Carlos Lee on the roster.
That leaves

6. The Pittsburgh Pirates

This team was very successful, or at least very good in some of my most formative years. Back when they had Bonds v.1, Van Slyke and the rest of the gang. Perhaps for that reason I expect them to rise one day. It's kind of like how my dad likes to say "Watch out for catchers." I like to think "The Pirates will be good one of these days." It's not based on a lot, and now I have come to realize that I am merely taking the notion that given enough time, any franchise will eventually be able to put together a very good team, and giving is slightly more weight when it comes to the Pirates.

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