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By Anthony Lafratta
Tragedy doesn't begin to describe what has occurred in the great city of New York, but this year's Mets may help alleviate this grief.
The answer is out there and The Gazette's very own 'Neo' has decoded the National League baseball matrix.
NL East Winner:
New York Mets
Dynasties will be toppled and homerun champs humbled as the NL digs-in for another gruelling 162-game schedule.
Atlanta edged Philadelphia in the NL East last year, but managed only 88 wins. The success of the Braves hinges on aging pitchers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and converted closer John Smoltz.
The Mets were the most active NL club this off-season. The acquisitions of Roberto Alomar, Jeromy Burnitz, Roger Cedeno and Mo Vaughn give the Mets an ideal balance of power and speed. Building around Mike Piazza, the Mets now boast the NL's most potent offense.
The Phillies have retained a solid core of players from last year, however, star third baseman Scott Rolen has expressed discontent and could be out of Philadelphia by the trade deadline.
The Marlins superb crop of young talent includes highly coveted 21-year-old starter Josh Beckett look for him to claim the Rookie of the Year.
The Mets will tomahawk chop the Braves to take the NL East, ending Atlanta's stretch of 10 consecutive division titles.
NL Central Winner:
St. Louis Cardinals
The NL Central will be a two-horse race. St. Louis have depth in their starting staff and bullpen and now feature closer Jason Isringhausen. Expect big seasons from 2001 Rookie of the Year Albert Pujols and Tino Martinez who will replace the retiring Mark McGuire.
The Cubs perennial shortcomings may be rectified this season. Moises Alou landed in the Windy City much to the delight of Sammy Sosa. If Kerry Wood can stay healthy, he and 20-game winner Jon Lieber will anchor a starting staff that will allow this club to contend for a playoff spot.
The homerun-friendly confines of Enron Field will wound the Astros pitching staff. Houston's history of post-season futility continued last fall when they were swept by Atlanta. No worries the departure of several key players will assure the Astros an early off-season.
The Cardinals will take the Central and deny the Cubs of their first division title since 1989.
NL West Winner:
Age and health will be the only restraints on Arizona, the defending NL West and World Series Champions. The D-backs will ride the arms of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling who combined to post a 43-12 record last season, finishing one-two respectively in Cy Young voting and sharing World Series Most Valuable Player honours. Look for Johnson to pick up on his brilliant post-season performance and earn his fourth straight Cy Young Award.
Barry Bonds, the unfriendly Giant, will see a dramatic drop-off from the 73 home-runs he hit last year this will be reflected in the Giants win total. A strong offense but lack of pitching support will result in another missed playoff for San Francisco.
The Dodgers will feature three imposing righties in their rotation this year Kevin Brown, Andy Ashby and Hideo Nomo. L.A.'s line-up will be centered on Shawn Green who will take NL MVP honours and lead his team to the post-season.
The D-backs will have a chance to defend their championship with a division title, while the Dodgers will claim the wild card.