FriarBall: Did the NL West just get tougher?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Did the NL West just get tougher?

It's finally official, Joe Torre is now in charge of the underachieving Dodgers. And naturally all sorts of Padres followers are asking how this hire affects the NL West as a whole.

Like I have said before, Torre is a good manager but I question how well he fits with LA. But I am not going to get into that discussion again. What I want to talk about is how hard the NL West could be in 2008 if this move pays off for the Dodgers.

SD ended 2007 by falling 1 game short of the playoffs, losing out to eventual NL champ Colorado in a wild card playoff. Arizona played well above expectations and a streaking Colorado bumped us out of the mix. If things were to remain the same for AZ and Colorado, along with an LA team helmed by Torre playing well, more than one team in the division will be guaranteed an early start on the offseason again.

If Torre gets the Dodgers to live up to their potential, the NL West should clearly become the toughest division in baseball, despite the fact that SF will most likely be terrible again.

While I am not a proponent of throwing money around hoping a championship can be bought (I have watched my Washington Redskins try that approach year after year with no success), I do think this hire requires some smart moves this offseason, something Kevin Towers always seems to be ready for. The obvious areas are the backend of the rotation and the outfield, but even a strong middle reliever could be good enough.

Again, I am not proposing wholesale changes and a shopping spree, but some noise needs to be made. A lot is being made about getting a top name center fielder but even re-signing left fielder Milton Bradley is a great start. But with a thin - and overpriced - market for the other outfield positions, this could be the Padres biggest challenge. Somehow I think Towers pulls this off given what happened at the end of the year and don't be surprised if help once again comes in the form of a trade.

As the stove warms up there will be plenty more rumors to discuss and available players to drool over but for now the consensus is this - no one in the NL West is safe after last year and something obvious has to be done to improve. If it doesn't happen, the Pads will once again be on the outside of the playoffs.

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