I said at the start of the reviews that the NL East was my most intriguing league - the number of impact free agents signed, the change of managers in Philadelphia, the Expos / Nats, the Braves.....
So here was our discussion;
RSN: Well the NL East added the most impact players over the close season - which one would you say stands out?
NYN: That is a toughie, Raul Mondesi has been a 30-30 guy before, but I'm going to have to pick against him because he's shit. It has to be Carlos Beltran, the premier free agent on the market, was on fire throughout the playoffs, I don't think you could argue for anyone else, could you?
RSN: I don't know - I think Pedro is the most intriguing because he has such incredible ability when he is on, it just seems that 'on' isn't what is used to be. I also have a feeling that Tim Hudson kind of slipped under the radar because of the Mets signings. However, given he has a day to day role, it probably has to be Beltran - is he as good as the media have anointed him, or is it simply hitting at the right time, with national spotlight in the play-offs?
NYN: I think its a bit from column A and a bit from column B, his post-season hot streak probably added $50m to his contract, he is an awesome defensive player and a very good switch hitter, but he is not a great hitter, do you think the switch to the NL and NY will hinder him?
RSN: If I am being honest, the thing that I think will hinder him is the NY Mets - I still don't think that this is a good team - certainly better than in 2004, but that isn't exactly glowing praise! He will also be slightly impacted by Shea, which is, at least slightly, a pitchers park - people shouldn't forget that when he moved to the NL he suffered a slight adjustment affect, but he may well be over that process already - the Mets might at least get a break that way. After signing Pedro, the media instantly gave them the title the best rotation in the NL - is that deserved - is it even the best in the NL East?
NYN: I like what Florida has, I really do. Beckett, Burnett, Dontrelle and Al Leiter match up well against anyone, I would go with them ahead of the Mets, Victor Zambrano is no Scott Kazmir that is for sure. What do you think of the Mets new manager, is he capable of turning things around?
RSN: Well he has an impressive reputation given he has never managed at this level. He is clearly trying to instigate a Yankees style atmosphere in the clubhouse, with many of the clubhouse rules being imported from the Bronx. I guess we will get a better idea of his management style - both in-game and out of game - once he has his first Pedro 'incident' - which I think is inevitable and when we see his approach on the bases - will he be aggressive, will he be a quick or slow hook - it just adds to the interest. The Marlins certainly have an impressive rotation, how much does Delgado help?
NYN: He helps in a big way, Deldago, Cabrera and Lowell hitting in the heart of the line-up has got to be scary for opposing pitchers. With Pierre and Castillo running around like they have ants in their pants on the bases, you can be sure the Marlins will score a lot of runs this year, however in close games in the 9th they'll be handing the ball to Guillermo Mota, could this be their undoing?
RSN: He is another of the power set-up to closer transformations that seem to be increasingly popular - I guess the other example this year is K-Rod in Anaheim. Looking at his numbers, he has the peripheral numbers you would like in a closer, high strike out numbers, low walk numbers - I think he will succeed. What about the Braves - a new closer, and the return of Smoltz to the rotation does he pitch 200 innings?
NYN: Simply put - no. Feel sorry for Smoltz to be honest, the chances of him getting an arm injury are quite high and as much as I'd like to see him return to the rotation and dominate, I just can't see it, his new pal though Tim Hudson, he's being tipped for Cy Youngs left, right and centre, is this unjust pressure?
RSN: maybe not unjust, but don't know that it is realistic either - Hudson hadn't won the AL Cy Young, and it is not as if there is a dearth of decent pitchers in the NL - Schmidt, Clemens, Pedro, Sheets might have one or two things to say about that. He has also broken down the last couple of seasons, and while I don't think that should be held against him, he perhaps has to show that he can sustain it for a full year. Is this the year? The Year that the Braves finally fail?
NYN: Yes. I just think the others are now ready to strike, the era has to end someone and lets be honest, the Marlins have the talent to win it all this year, whether they do or not we'll have to wait and see but the Braves are not the favorites in most of the pundits eyes, c'mon the added Raul Mondesi to the OF, surely they deserve not to win just for that?
RSN: lol - I agree, I appreciate that almost everyone says every year that the Braves fall out of first, but I do think that they look weaker this year - although I have them 2nd in the NL East, it wouldn't surprise me to see them 3rd, or shock horror, 4th! What about the Phillies - when they don’t succeed this year, they won't be able to use the Bowa excuse, what excuse will they use?
NYN: That Bowa spell a gypsy curse over the whole ball club, or that Rocky Balboa's latest comeback took away the fans or that Earth is round...I could go on, they just simply aren't good enough, I like it when teams just own up to this, still we have a new team this year, over in the capital, how do you fancy their chances?
RSN: in much the same way that I fancy cold cabbage - not much. I think it is a shame that a team moving to a new environment is being mismanaged in this way - MLB have had three years to find a new owner and a new city for the Expos and now that they have one part of the equation, there is no new owner to generate enthusiasm for the franchise. Crying shame - what about you, you don't fancy switching from the Yanks to the Nats?
NYN: I fancy it as much as watching Southampton win the Champions League. Going out and giving big contracts to Guzman and Castilla amongst others, how excited can you get?
RSN: It does stretch things - I thought people in areas of the Amazon jungle who have yet to meet Western civilization know that you can take the man out of Coor's Field, but.... you take away any value he has in the process. So in summing up who is your Divisional MVP / Cy Young and surprise player?
NYN: I am going to go with a Marlin 1, 2 punch with Miggy C and AJ Burnett taking honors and as for the surprise player, if Mondesi goes 10-10 I'll be stunned but I doubt you'll allow me to have him so I'll go for...Randy Wolf for a nice comeback year, where do you stand?
RSN: Nice choices - I will take Mets 1, 2, 3 - Beltran will live up to the hype, and the hype will be aided by the East Coast coverage that he will get, for the Cy Young I will go with Pedro - the combination of a nice pitcher's park, a pitcher to face in the #9 spot and his own pride will see him as the NL Cy Young, not just the divisions. As for the surprise player - I am going with Mike Piazza he will bounce back with no pressure to perform at 1b, and far less pressure to be the main producer in the lineup
NYN: I have to admit I love the Piazza pick, he could see some very nice pitches to hit this season and may well return to some real form. AL East tomorrow...should be quite a debate.