2012 National League outlook
Ken Davidoff's quick-take preview of the National League. Teams are listed in predicted order of finish in the East, Central and West divisions.
2. FLORIDA MARLINS
MANAGER: Ozzie Guillen, first season (overall 678-617, .524 )
GM: Michael Hill
STADIUM: Marlins Park (37,442)
OUTLOOK: The most drastically changed team from over the winter, the Marlins open their new ballpark with high expectations and arguably the talent to live up to them.
CONCERN: There’s much combustibility here, from Guillen to owner Jeffrey Loria to SS Jose Reyes’ health to 3B Hanley Ramirez’s happiness.
BOTTOM LINE: They’re too big to fail. They made too many helpful moves over the winter for things to completely blow up like they did last year.
MANAGER: Terry Collins, second season, 77-85, .475 (overall 521-519, .501).
GM: Sandy Alderson
STADIUM: Citi Field (41,800)
OUTLOOK: Good news off the field, with the Wilpons and Saul Katz settling the lawsuit by Madoff trustee Irving Picard, has been tempered by a slew of injuries on the field. But LHP Johan Santana has looked good.
CONCERN: The lack of roster depth makes the whole operation a house of cards.
BOTTOM LINE: Like last year, they’ll probably get the most of what they have. They don’t have much, though.
National League Central
1. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
MANAGER: Mike Matheny, first season
GM: John Mozeliak>br> STADIUM: Busch Stadium (43,975)
OUTLOOK: The defending champions bid farewell to their iconic manager Tony La Russa, who retired, and to their iconic first baseman Albert Pujols, who joined the Angels. But OF Carlos Beltran joins the mix, and RHP Adam Wainwright is back after missing all of last year with Tommy John surgery.
CONCERN: RHP Chris Carpenter has been plagued in spring training by neck and shoulder problems.
BOTTOM LINE: Can’t see anyone better in this division.
2. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
MANAGER: Bruce Bochy, sixth season, 409-401, .505 (overall 1,360-1,376, .497)
GM: Brian Sabean
STADIUM: AT&T Park (41,915)
OUTLOOK: A great pitching staff is a terrible thing to waste, and that’s what happened last year, not for the first time, out at AT&T Park. Can the Giants score a few more runs this year?
CONCERN: They’re putting their chips on erratic New York veterans OF Angel Pagan and OF Miguel Cabrera to lead their lineup.
BOTTOM LINE: In a weak division and overall weak league, they might just have enough to reach October.
3. LOS ANGELES DODGERS
MANAGER: Don Mattingly, second season, 82-79, .509
GM: Ned Colletti
STADIUM: Dodger Stadium (56,000)
OUTLOOK: Their long coastal nightmare is over. With owner Frank McCourt set to depart, they can focus on operating like a normal baseball team again. Their signing of OF Matt Kemp to an eight-year extension offered optimism.
CONCERN: They lost RHP Hiroki Kuroda to the Yankees, and their replacements—former Mets LHP Chris Capuano and RHP Aaron Harang—aren’t good.
BOTTOM LINE: The big picture is encouraging. This year? Eh.
4. SAN DIEGO PADRES
MANAGER: Bud Black, sixth season, 388-423, .478
GM: Josh Byrnes
STADIUM: PETCO Park (42,691)
OUTLOOK: You want hope? The Pads have one of the best farm systems in the game. OF Cameron Maybin and C Nick Hundley have been signed to long-term deals. This could work.
CONCERN: In trading RHP Mat Latos to Cincinnati, San Diego stocked its organization with talent but also surrendered its ace.
BOTTOM LINE: They probably can’t expect much this year, yet teams like this occasionally blossom earlier than scheduled.