News is on the light side, so we turn outward this afternoon, where the components are in place to visualize how the division could unfold.
The period after pitchers and catchers report continues to be Sahara Desert of worthwhile subject matter. If you're like me, you've been enjoying the images coming out of Clearwater; Comcast handed a camera to Jimmy Rollins yesterday and the Phillies shortstop managed to capture the lively spirit of the preseason. Unfortunately, playtime doesn't translate into kind of copy Beerleaguer craves. Don't get me wrong, the Inquirer has been generating quality content as usual. But the stories in spring training lean toward the human interest side. When it comes to the Phils, I need notebook items. Give it to me short and sweet, baby. And I'm still conditioned to operate under championship drought conditions. Give me a good losing streak, slump or questionable signing and I'm on that like white on rice.
But what do I care? It's a great time for nothing to happen. Personally, between World Series burnout and the book, my offseason was reduced to this brief window of spring training. It's nice to pay attention to the little things again. Like family and friends.
Speaking of the book, one of the highlights is Scott Lauber's preview of the National League East. We managed to get everything in except the Adam Dunn signing (and Miguel Cairo signing), but the beauty part is that the Nationals' rotation is so dreadful, he's completely neutered.
Unfortunately, the rest of the division is quite formidable. Discounting the Nats, one could argue that the biggest hole among the remaining four teams is the fifth starter spot in Philadelphia. In Port St. Luice, the battle is between Tim Redding, Freddy Garcia and rookie Jon Niese, a very comparable situation to the one happening in Clearwater. For Atlanta, Tom Glavine and Jorge Campillo are considered the front-runners, with usual suspects Jo-Jo Reyes, Charlie Morton, and Buddy Carlyle getting a look again. And in Florida, health will determine whether the projected rotation of Ricky Nolasco, Josh Johnson, Chris Volstad, Anibal Sanchez and Andrew Miller holds up, representing the highest-ceiling and most unheralded starting five in the league. If you consider park-adjusted ERA, Florida has the best big three of any team in the league in Nolasco (121 ERA+) Johnson (118) and Volstad (141).
It's in the middle of these rotations - with guys like Volstad, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton, Brett Myers, Kenshin Kawakami, Oliver Perez, John Maine, Mike Pelfrey and Jair Jurrgens - where the division will be won. And these springtime battles for the fifth spots shouldn't be taken lightly, either.