By Drew Markol, TSN Contributor - Archive - Email
Nobody asked me, but...
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Isn't it fun to think about the coming baseball season while snow is falling?

You're darn right it is and for those of you who don't get snow, and don't have to shovel it, well, I envy you today. And every winter, for that matter.

Earlier this week, we took a look at the American League and what questions need to be answered in spring training over the next four weeks before it gets real.

Today, the focus shifts to the National League and where the Senior Circuit might be headed in 2013.

Here goes:

(Oh, one more thing before we get to the now. For years, all we've heard is how much stronger the AL is than the NL. That's probably true, top to bottom, but the NL has won the last three World Series titles, and if the Senior Circuit does it again, well, it will kill the AL supremacy argument until the big trophy switches leagues. Just wanted to get that off my chest.)

Let's start where we started with our look at the AL by first mentioning the woebegone Houston Astros.

The 'Stros are now part of the AL after stinking up the NL for a long time. Houston was in the NL for 51 years and with apologies to Terry Puhl, take away Nolan Ryan, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and my all-time favorite, Jimmy Wynn, the "Toy Cannon," and, well, it was fun.

And the AL's gain is also the NL's loss because no longer can NL teams fatten up on Houston. The Astros were a Triple-A franchise at best and losing those wins hurts. It especially will hurt teams in the NL Central who will miss those frequent trips to Texas. But the division still has the Chicago Cubs, so wins can be found on a consistent basis.

And while on the subject of bad, the NL still has the Pittsburgh Pirates, who begin yet another quest to win more games than they lose.

That hasn't been the case since 1992. Twenty years of under .500. Yikes.

Of course, this year, like we've heard over the past few springs, the Pirates are supposed to be better. And they won't have that late-season collapse that sinks them every September. Most years, June and July don't help the Bucs, either.

Well, the proof is in the pudding, and 20 years of pudding is pretty thick.

Until they finally do it, you have to say they won't. For the good of the game, I hope they do, but ...

On to brighter things.

The most fun in the NL, like in the AL, should come from the West.

The San Francisco Giants have won two of the last three World Series crowns, and nothing irritates the Los Angeles Dodgers more than hearing that fact. It bothered them so much that they spent a zillion dollars on baseball's largest payroll and are trying to fit all the pieces together in the spring.

So, we'll get to see those two arch-enemies pound away at each other for six months, and that never gets old.

On the other side of the country, we're finding out this spring there is nary a hole in the Washington Nationals' lineup. And that the New York Mets, and especially the Miami Marlins, will be wretched. So maybe we won't miss the Astros as much as we thought.

While the Atlanta Braves hold their spring training at Disney World, there's nothing make believe about them. They're legit. Chipper Jones is no longer around, and that's a strange site even Mickey Mouse couldn't change, but they have the look, at least right now in early March, of a contender.

As mentioned earlier this week, we'll take a closer look at both leagues at the end of the month when spring training is wrapping up and we have a better idea of where everybody stands.

And we'll even include our guess at the biggest winners and losers plus pick the World Series winner (which is sure to be wrong).

Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several newspapers in the Philadelphia area for more than 25 years.

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