NL Central: Buy, Sell, Stand Pat Or Look In The Mirror And Lie To Yourself About How Good You Look?


What a mess!

I mean, who picked Milwaukee to lead the National League Central for a big chunk of the first half? Not this guy, though respect was given here (83-win projection) that accompanied kind words in the Bleacher Report and CBS Sports’ preseason picks. Really, this was supposed to be a decent year for the Brew Crew and a walk in the park for the Chicago Cubs.

But not everyone got the message, including the Cubs for most of the year, which gave St. Louis false hope that it had a shot. Somehow, the Cardinals were of the idea that 2018 was the year for them to do something, despite nobody outside of Missouri projecting them to finish higher than second.

The handling of the Dexter Fowler situation in St. Louis hasn’t helped. Fowler is lost as lost can be, hitting .176 for the year. That’s 90 points below his career average. He’s doing a fine Dale Murphy and Mike Schmidt impersonation as someone’s who’s just done. To help, President of Baseball Ops John Mozeliak has doubled down on his public criticism of Fowler by, drum roll, please, firing manager Mike Matheny.

Hmmm. This doesn’t smack of an upper-cruster kicking the poor skipper out in desperation does it? Could be. That’s what some are saying. But it’s also possible he’s on to something. Matheny hasn’t ever overwhelmed me with his game-management or personality, and reports of his encouragement of player-on-player bullying doesn’t scream leadership. But I do have to give credit to him for his clubs winning more than 55 percent of his games during six-plus years. Maybe it’s a time to take a job in TV, rethink some leadership ideas, and come back better somewhere else.

Obviously, with the firing, upper management isn’t giving up, so expect some buying…and some mortgaging of the future. I think it’s the wrong play short term and long term. I’d sell and rebuild.

In Cincinatti, they also were of the opinion they were better than they were and axed their manager three weeks into the season. They been two games over .500 since, but even if they hadn’t started so atrociously, they’d still be…right where the Cardinals are. I still think 74 games is realistic. Why not lose the dead weight and pick up some attractive call-ups for spring training next year? Who knows? They could duplicate the A’s performance several years back when they traded half the team and responded by making the playoffs.

And then there’s Pittsburgh. This is a good young team that should resist the urge to do anything rash. Trevor Williams and Nick Kingham are in their first year facing big league hitters, Chad Kuhl, Joe Musgrove and Jameson Taillon are in their third. Taillon has the stuff to be a number one if he can get more batters to hit balls at the fielders behind him…too many hits.

We picked the Bucs to finish a game under .500. Right now, they’re a game under .500 and not making a peep. Nicely done.

As for the Cubs, they went 13-4 before the All-Star game and moved into first because eight players are hitting better than .290 in the last month.

But they haven’t had performances from their regular starting pitching. Jon Lester’s been solid. Kyle Hendricks has been okay and Brendan Morrow and Carl Edwards have been good out of the bullpen, but they’ll need more. Maybe Yu Darvish comes back. Maybe he doesn’t. Starters: That’s where this team will buy if some of the young blood, like Luke Farrell, doesn’t make a statement.

In Milwaukee Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich have performed as well as hoped. It’s been the likes of Tyler Saladino who’s 60 points over his career batting average and Jesus Aguilar who is basically a rookie and has shined after finally being given a chance to show what he can do. Hey Cleveland! How’s 24 HRs and 70 RBIs before the All-Star Game sound?

Look, Milwaukee wasn’t supposed to be here, but here they are. So, buy.

A right fielder would be nice. If Brett Phillips can’t show he can do some damage this year, I’d start there. Kudos for already calling up RHP Freddy Peralta. He’s been just as good in the big leagues (4-1, 2.65 ERA) as he was in the minors. They should also call up Zack Brown from AA. They could use a 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio in 17 starts this year.

Whoever makes the fifth playoff spot without sacrificing the next five years of their future wins!



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