(Editor's Note: This brilliant post is crafted by the elegant and insatiable Camp Tiger Claw, a co-author at the brilliant Walk Off Walk.)
Outsourcing is bad for the American working class but it's one of hell of a deal for bloggers, aint it? Case in point: this post. Trying to figure out what's going to happen this year in the NL Central is about as easy as trying to figure out why people watch CBS sitcoms. So if you're one of the squirrelly bastards that runs this website and you can't figure out the division, you just outsource it. You end up looking generous, giving up space on your site, AND you don't have to do the dirty work of trying to figure out which of these teams isn't entirely awful. Luckily I've seen enough of the USA's expansive midsection to know a thing or two about the teams in question. So here I am, here's my story, and here's your 2008 Central. What a country.
The team with the best young talent, and the closest proximity to The Life Source (where they make High Life) is always going to get the nod from me. You know about Braun, Hall, Hardy and Fielder, but let me tell you a little something about Manny Parra. Manny Parra secured the fifth starter spot on this team, and I've witnessed his magic.
Early last year I was delivering a bunch of discarded VCRs to a home electronics chop shop in Round Rock, Texas. The entire time I was worried about Smokey getting a whiff of my phony plates (I'd made them on a pirated copy of PrisonShop™). When I pulled into Round Rock I was ready for mucho cerveza and a woman that didn't ask many questions. What I found instead was a fiesta of epic proportions. You see, Young Mr. Parra had just pitched a perfect game for the hometown team, and according to local tradition was carried into the square on the Sherrif's personal donkey. There on the abandoned gallows (that dated back to the last War of Mexican Aggression), over an adoring crowd stood Parra singing the most beautiful version of Hungry Eyes I'd ever heard. Is this kid ready for the big time? I think I just answered that question. Expect big things.
The bullpen could be shaky if Gagne doesn't turn things around (unless you trust Turnbow), and Davy Lopes is a questionable helmsmen. All that being said this is a weak division and youthful mashing and persistence will take the day. Record: 88-74, Out in the NLDS.
You know what's funny about the Cubs? Absolutely nothing. Not sure if you've heard yet, but this is the 100th anniversary of their last World Series title. It will only be mentioned about 70,000 more times this year regarding a 2008 Chicago team that's pretty unexceptional. Kosuke Fukudome had a great first week and may be the brightest spot of the season. I wasn't so sure that would be the case when I picked him up at the airport upon his arrival from Japan.
I was fast asleep on my friend Domingo's kitchen floor after another late night at Marie's Riptide Lounge. Domingo peeked his head into the kitchen disturbing my 100 proof slumber. "Psst. It's the Mayor, he wants to talk to you." With eyes still closed I reached for the cordless phone. Mayor Daley was bellowing on the other end. He seemed out of breath and I could tell he was calling me during his predawn jog. "The chauffeur flaked out on us. I need you to get your ass over to O'Hare and pick up this new Jap outfielder." He hung up without waiting for a response. Pulling on a sweatshirt and a pair of whiskey soaked jeans, I took the keys to Domingo's Camry and sped to pick up Fukudome. He stood outside the American Airlines terminal with his translator, Mr. Satuko. A wordless nod out the windshield indicated that I was their ride. Fukudome sat in the front seat holding a half eaten Cinnabon. The entire way to his hotel he wept and repeated the same Japanese phrase, while over my shoulder Mr. Satuko translated each utterance of "I'm so far from home."
Anyway, there's still too much riding on the arms of Lilly, Hill and Wood for my liking, and their sluggers haven't gotten any younger. Record 84-78
Let's forget the pretense. Put away your party gown because I'm not dancing. I've got a big problem with the Astros heavy hitting, future All-Star catching prospect, J. R. Towles, and I don't care who knows it.
Listen, Towles. I know you snuck into my uncle's yard and dug into his secret piston box and stole a bunch of pistons for that car you were rebuilding. Those were his pistons. If you want pistons you need to work for them like my great-grandpa did when he came here from Greece. YOU ARE A PISTON STEALING SON OF A FUCK, YOU FUCK.
The Astros finish third because they hit but can't really pitch, while the teams below them can barely hit and barely pitch. Record 80-82
Toothpicks ready! Gladiators ready! It's year one of Reds fans Quantum Leaping into the bodies of 2003 Cubs Fans. Whee! This reminds me of that time I ran into Reds prospect Jay Bruce with nothing but a tiring literary premise and a nasty headache.
It's 2006 and I'm in an airplane hanger holding a cold steak against a black eye. I never got a clear look at my chicano assailant but to this day I could mark him by the clickity clack of his spurs. The blood from the steak mixed with the pomade in my hair to create an intoxicating gauze clouding my sight. I couldn't summon the guts to stand up, and decided that if i was going to die next to this gasless, 2 seater bush plane, then so be it. I was tired of the road and the government agents. Just then a piercing whistle rained down from above. It was an old lady with steely grey hair and piercing blue eyes. Without a word she lowered a handmade rope constructed out of old purses. The purses were tied together and wound around an elaborate pulley system. They led out a window, but that was as far as I could follow. As soon as I grabbed on she turned and hollered "Verplaats waardeloos mannen" (which I later learned was Dutch for "move you worthless bums"). I was lifted into the rafters and out through the window. Lowered into the bed of a pickup truck i was handed a bowl of chili by a man named Bay Juice. The old woman, looking back from the cab of the truck nodded and said, "You will soon know his given name." I felt safe.
Lots of young upside on this team, but they got the wrong guy runnin' the show. Fourth place in this division is like fifth in any other. Record 79-83
St. Louis Cardinals
All the feel good, first week on a tear, Rick Ankiel mojo aint gonna salvage a team that can't pitch. Just ask my mother:
Remember that time when you were twelve and you made that fake mustache, borrowed your fathers sheepskin coat, and held that taxi driver at knifepoint? You got all the way to the border before the pigs put those spikes in the road. When they maced you and pulled you out you kept screaming "Take me to St. Louis, you God denying cocksuckers! I wanna see the Arch! Take me to St. Loooooooouis!!!" I gotta tell you baby, that was really fucking weird and we almost gave you up for adoption. The social workers said at your age it would do more harm then good. They said it would be like putting a ballplayer with a history of mental problems on a team with a recent history of tragedy and no chance of finishing higher than fourth in division. So, we kept you and everything has turned out okay!
Your father left,
This team has the worst rotation I've ever seen in my entire life as a baseball fan. Record: 71-91
One time I had to stay at a hotel in Pittsburgh.