1. Chicago Cubs (Wilco) – Obvious clear favorites in what is the worst division in baseball. They have a Cy Young candidate, two other okay starters, and a line-up with three legitimate power threats. The Cubs will be limited in the division only by occasional flashes of incompetence.
2. Milwaukee Brewers (Violent Femmes) – The lack of another regular left-handed bat in the line-up outside of Prince Fielder is kind of problematic. You’d like to keep pitchers off guard. They should do all right when Mike Cameron plays CF regularly, but I’m not interested in pretending that they’re going to make a Wild Card, especially when they make a dumb call like moving Ryan Braun to left field to mask defensive inadequacy. Adding Bill Hall to the batting order is not the best move. Leave Braun at third to improve and get Tony Gwynn Jr. in there as a solid regular guy until Cameron comes back who can move to left.
3. Cincinnati Reds (The Greenhornes) – On the rise by default, really: they’re not as horrific as their competition below and really could be better based on how well the pitching goes in their small, hitter-friendly stadium. Odds improve the longer Ken Griffey makes it through without an injury, of course.
4. Houston Astros (Scratch Acid) – Essentially, this is a one-note team that has a solid starter up front in Roy Oswalt and not much else. Adding Miguel Tejada to a line-up with Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee means they’ll hit well in that bandbox of a home stadium of theirs, but they’re not going to sniff the playoffs because they have nothing in the pitching department.
5. St. Louis Cardinals (Son Volt) – I repeat the Son Volt use to the Cardinals because the band, like the team, is now a shell of what it was when it won the World Series two years ago. Most of its best pitchers are hurt or gone, and the sole reliable power presence is Albert Pujols. Rick Ankiel, the former Golden Boy, will be expected to provide pop in center field.
6. Pittsburgh Pirates (PovertyNeck Hillbillies) – I really only use this bad country band because they’re associated with Ben Roethlisberger, and I know it has nothing to do with baseball. Seriously, if the Pirates disappeared right now, would anyone notice aside from its die-hards? There’s a decent couple of starters there like Ian Snell, and a hitter or two, but nothing close to what resembles a team with aspirations of competing.