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A 2012 Preview, 2 Weeks In

by: Brian F. Logush

The quest for #12in12 is underway in the Gateway to the West, as the St. Louis Cardinals season is off to a solid start. The team has yet to lose a series, posting victories over the Brewers, Cubs, and Reds, as well as beginning the season in that gigantic LSD-trip , known as Marlins Park.

Currently sitting in first place, it is far too early to say with any certainty that they will be in the post-season. And some early injuries to players like Berkman and Freese have given fans a glimpse of where the talent lies waiting in the wings. But as we scout the other division teams, it isn't too difficult to see which teams have the best shot at winning the National League Central. However, being the thorough, investigative journalist I am, I present my findings to you.

Chicago Cubs (71-91 in 2011)
-Season Outlook: It's going on 0 for 104 in the North Side, and things don't look all that great. Fist off, the team will have to find a new identity, since their old identity "Former Members of the Pittsburgh Pirates Farm System" is no more. Alfonso Soriano is still on the team for the sole reason that years ago he gathered dirt on former GM Jim Hendry that led to his current, insanely large contract. Kerry Wood is pitching fairly well, which would be great news, except for the fact that this isn't 2003. And new GM Theo Epstein won't have to worry about his club losing interest down the stretch, since most Cubs players start planning their offseason vacations around Memorial Day.
-Player to Watch: Jeff Samardziga. For some reason, the former Notre Dame wide receiver has chosen to compete as a pitcher, which is surprising. After all, he had to try and catch balls thrown by Brady Quinn, so with that pitching staff, he should have gone out for catcher, and would probably be an All-Star. You know, since technically every team has to have one.
-Prediction: The happiest Cubs fans will look all year will be in that video game commercial where they won the World Series, but then we all see they really didn't, and it was just some poor, crying, sap as the L-Train rolls by, taking his hopes and wishes with it. That seems about right.
-Predicted finish: 5th.

Cincinnati Reds (79-83 in 2011)
-Season Outlook: 2011 had to be a let down for Reds fans, especially coming off winning the division in 2010. But a repeat just wasn't in the cards, as they finished third. While injuries and a lack of solid starting pitching certainly played a role, the Reds learned that you can't just win a division by continuously starting brawls and kicking opposing players in the face and back. They bolstered their bullpen for about four weeks after signing the presently-recovering-from-season-ending-surgery-after-signing-a-contract closer Ryan Madsen. But they signed Ryan Ludwick, who aside from giving the club some depth in the outfield, is on a personal mission to become the NL Central bicycle. Halfway there, Luddy. You can do it.
-Player to Watch: Joey Votto. Before the season, the 2010 NL MVP signed a ten-year, $225-million contract to stay with the team. It remains to be seen if he will follow the path of signing a massive deal and then mailing it in for the next several seasons, right Adrain Beltre? Corey Crawford?
-Prediction: It will be a good year for the Reds. Until Dusty Baker has Aroldis Chapman pitch 11 innings and destroy his arm in a meaningless game against the Astros in late August.
-Predicted finish: 3rd.

Houston Astros (56-106 in 2011)
-Season Outlook: The Astros finished dead last not only in the NL Central last year, but in the entire league. The only team to reach the heralded 100-loss mark, this year marks the team's last in this division, moving to the AL West in 2013. Which makes them the second saddest team to learn that Albert Pujols went to the Angels for the next decade. Realistically, they should just fold operations and save everyone the time.
-Player to Watch: Bud Norris. Can he continue to master the Cardinals, yet be dominated by every other team? No seriously, this is ridiculous. Bud Norris made me cry last year he was so good. The last time I cried before that I got a little tipsy and watched the last half-hour of E.T. I admit it.
-Prediction: I hate to give credit to the NBA, but they summed it up pretty well with one of their teams.
-Predicted finish: 6th. 30th. Whatever.

Milwaukee Brewers: (96-66 in 2011)
-Season Outlook: 2012 didn't appear to start off to well to the Brewer faithful. Prince Fielder followed his dad's legacy (and gravitational pull) to Detroit. And then there was the whole matter of Ryan Braun's failed drug test, which led to a 50-game suspension, because those things never get overturned. But he gets to play because of a technicality, the smallest of which is that Bud -Selig certainly wouldn't stand to have his former club at a disadvantage. Allegedly. I have to say that so MLB's lawyers don't come after me. Which wouldn't bother me because I would simply call Ryan Braun's lawyer. Anyway... No he gets to play, which makes them immediate favorites to repeat. Provided the constant cat-calls of "cheater" "steroids" and "M-V-Tainted Pee" don't get to him.
-Player to Watch: Whoever is in charge of taking incriminating evidence regarding Brewer players, which were known of before the playoffs, and putting them into Bud Selig's shredder. Allegedly.
-Prediction: Jose Canseco goes on "60 Minutes" and admits injecting Braun last year and then disappears forever, which is a shame, says Bud Selig in a press conference where he holds a shovel and a huge bag of lye.
-Predicted finish: 1st. Begrudgingly.

Pittsburgh Pirates (72-90)
-Season Outlook: 2011 was a glorious year for the Pirates, as they led the division at one point late in the year. Which lasted until they remembered they were the Pirates and promptly fell back to finish fourth. This year, Andrew McCutchen returns as their rightful star, and the face of the franchise, until he is inevitably traded away because that's what the Pirates do. But they know one thing for certain: they won't finish last again.
-Player to Watch: Their official website lists only 4 outfielders, and if the league allows them to play all four at one time, watch out for Pittsburgh!
-Prediction: Pittsburgh is a solid team, and the future looks bright, but are not at the next level yet. Which is good, because the city of Pittsburgh probably couldn't survive yet another black and yellow team choking in the playoffs.
-Predicted finish: 4th.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @Brian_Logush, where I make snide comments about whatever I feel like. I also occasionally tweet at famous-ish people, and they never respond. Woot.

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