No division was overhauled more than the NL East this winter, resulting in a five-team battle royal without a clear favorite. Here's a look back at an offseason that shaped baseball's best division.
After the last chip fell into place when the Florida Marlins signed first baseman Carlos Delgado, I polled readers on my former space, Berks Phillies Fans, on which move would have the greatest impact in the division.
Here’s how readers voted, finalized March 1:
1. Mets sign Carlos Beltran: 44
2. Marlins sign Carlos Delgado: 13
3. Braves trade for Tim Hudson: 12
4. Mets sign Pedro Martinez: 9
5: Phillies hire Charlie Manuel: 3
6: Atlanta moves John Smoltz to starting rotation, get Danny Kolb: 3*
7: Nationals move to Washington: 1
8-10: The signings of Jon Lieber, Al Lieter, Esteban Loazia: No votes
(* 2 votes for negative impact)
Here was my ranking:
1. Tim Hudson
2. Carlos Delgado
3. (Tie) Charlie Manuel & Pedro Martinez
5: Nationals to Washington
6: (Tie) Carlos Beltran & Jon Lieber
8: Danny Kolb/John Smoltz
9: Al Leiter
10: Esteban Loazia
The year is still young, but so far it’s hard to argue any one of these players has moved to the head of the class. If I had to pick one right now, I’d go with Pedro, who’s carrying the weight of a bad Mets pitching staff on his shoulders. In addition, Delgado has fit in nicely in Florida’s right-hand heavy lineup.
I’m not surprised that Carlos Beltran, who received the most votes, has been somewhat of a bust in New York, with a dozen or more NL outfielders having better seasons, including teammate Cliff Floyd. I did pretty well with that one, putting Beltran in a tie for No. 6 with Jon Lieber.
Two keen observers said the Danny Kolb signing would impact the Braves in a negative way. On top of some untimely health issues with Mike Hampton and Chipper Jones, Kolb has been the Braves biggest problem.
But at this point, there’s only one clear choice for No. 1: the Nationals moving to Washington, D.C.
With the win last night, the first-place Nats improved to a lusty 23-9 at RFK Stadium, the best home record in the majors. Their success can be credited to the comfort of playing in front of fans that care, in addition to the quiet acquisitions of Vinny Castilla, Esteban Loaiza and Jose Guillen. Nick Johnson is also having the breakout season we've read about for two years.
I was surprised more people didn’t vote for this one and commented about it in the connected thread back in February.
“Here’s a team that finally gets a regulation amount of home games in a place that isn't Montreal, Canada or San Juan, PR,” I said. “If you think Wilkerson, Vidro and company won't benefit positively from playing 50 percent of their games in Washington, D.C. - in front of press and fans - you're wrong. Montreal was a horrid situation, and everyone involved in baseball is glad it's over.”
I also wondered why more readers didn’t vote for Charlie Manuel.
“Larry Bowa and pitching coach Joe Kerrigan were reportedly like oil and water with players in Philadelphia, and new skipper Charlie Manuel is beloved by all,” I said. “The Phillies will not be the favorites to win the NL East, and that's a good thing. From everything Phillies fans have read in the papers, Manuel is the type of manager who will let it up to the players to push each other.”
So if you had to vote right now, which move would you say has made the greatest impact within the division, and do you believe things will change by the end of the season?
A word about blogging
I've been at this for almost a year, and one aspect I love about blogging, perhaps more than anything else, is writing canned Sunday posts, like the one you just read.
60 travels down highway 61
Bob Dylan makes a rare TV appearance tonight on "60 Minutes." He talks with Ed Bradley in his first television interview in over 19 years.