N.L.SoM: The race, the race, the race is on fire!


I’d like to start this recap with a quote from possibly the greatest television series, The Wire, I have ever witnessed in my short 23 years of life on this big blue marble:

“Fuckin’ Burrell’s asshole must be so tight you couldn’t pull a pin from it with a John Deere tractor.” – Stan Valchek. Vulgar? You bet. Unnecessary? Possibly. Relevant? Absolutely. Because that’s how close the N.L. Central is these days.

Let’s look a the N.L. Central standings, and reveal them in a pagently fashion. 

“The third runner up, finishing the evening at four games behind … Miss Milwaukee Brewers!”

(Polite golf claps, uncomfortable smiles and insincere hugs are doled out.)

“The second runner up, finishing the evening at three games behind … Miss Houston Astros!”

(Polite golf claps, uncomfortable smiles and insincere hugs are doled out.)

“The first runner up, finished the evening at only one-half game behind … Miss St. Louis Cardinals which means Miss Chicago Cubs have won the “Miss N.L. Central Leader for the Time Being” competition!

(“Thhhhhhheeeerrrree she is, the most beautiful giiiirrrrrlllll…..”)

It would be imprudent not to point out that the Houston Astros incredibly consistent late season push for the playoffs is, well, incredible. When you look at the make up of the Astros, you wonder if they are actually a competitive MLB franchise or a summer beer league for wash outs and has beens. But there they are, like the Black Knight of Monty Python’s Holy Grail trying to bite the legs off of Milwaukee, St. Louis and Chicago. And they always do it.

In 2004, the finished out the season going 48-26 (.649). 2005: 45-30 (.600) and made it to the ‘ship. 2008: 42-24 (.636), but the Cubs were well clear of their surge. This year? They’ve gone 31-20 (.608) since the calendar turned June.  

Fig 1.1 - Hammer, Hebrew

Fig 1.1 - Hammer, Hebrew

For Milwaukee, times are looking troubling. Prince Fielder is still boss hog, Ryan Braun continues his best Matt Berstein impression as the “Hebrew Hammer” and a host of other players continue to make Milwaukee’s line up a pain in opposing pitchers’ asses. (Even really fat ones, like if David Wells were still around.) But their pitching is just horrible. Disgusting. If Milwaukee’s pitchers were a woman, they would look like Bea Arthur (RIP Bea!). If Milwaukee’s pitchers were a song, they would be “Hollerback Girl,” by Gewn Stefani’s corpse (1994 — remember the year you peaked, Gwen). Gross. Seriously. Sick. And not the X-Games, stoner version of “sick” either. This isn’t, “Dude that McTwisty was totally sick,” territory. This is,”Dude, I ate a spicy burritto stuffed with Indian food,” territory.

Fig. 2.1 - A strange looking cranium.

St. Louis poses an interesting team at an equally interesting time. They just acquired a man with an oddly shaped head who has a history of raking as much as a Hispanic landscaping business. I’m looking at you Matt Holliday. But their team is surprisingly average in terms of raw talent when you look at them on paper. Obviously, Tony LaRussa has some magical way of loosening them up to play better (it probably involves alcohol) but they are annual overachievers and never suck like I wish they would. The most important question I can think of for the Redbirds is this: Can the pitching hold up?

Can Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse, Joel Piniero and Todd Wellemeyer hold up as the pressure continues to build? Carpenter, Wainwright and Piniero have sub-3.00 ERAs — a feat in itself — but can Carpenter stay healthy and Wainwright and Piniero stay consistent? Wellemeyer and his 5.79 ERA is obviously the red-headed stepchild of the bunch, but is there a replacement waiting in the wings via trade or call-up?

Though I firmly believe the Brewers, Cubs (if the resurgence continues) and possibly Astros have better line-ups, the addition of Holliday make their line up good enough to stand alone on top of the N.L. Central when it’s all said and done. 

Then we get to the Baby Bears. Things seem to be clicking, the gears a fitting into place quite nicely since the All-Star Game. And the spark is finally coming from the players you expect them to come from, especially in the last seven games: Alfonso Soriano (.323, 3 HR, 11 RBI), Aramis Ramirez (.468, 2 HR, 7 RBI) and Derrek Lee (.434, 3 HR, 6 RBI). But that doesn’t mean the Cubs aren’t also rife with questions.

Is B.J. Ryan a viable option as a lefty reliever? He’s currently rehabbing in AAA Iowa, but God knows if he will contribute to a surprisingly solid bullpen. When will Ted Lilly return? How effective will he be? How effective will Ryan Dempster be when he returns tonight against the ‘Stros? Is the offense finally back?

All-in-all, it looks like the race is in fact as tight as Burrell’s ass. I hate to count anybody out, but it’s clear that Cincy and Pittsburgh won’t be in the conversation for who makes the second season. And, paintball gun to my head (those things hurt!) if I were to predict the final standings come October, I’d have to give the nod to the resurgent Cubs or the recently improved Cardinals.


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Filed under Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals

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