- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2008

POINT-COUNTERPOINT

Each week, Nationals beat writers Mark Zuckerman and Ben Goessling debate a baseball issue. This week: Who’s going to win the NL East?

MARK ZUCKERMAN: Way back in March, I picked the Phillies, and I’m still sticking with them. I know they’re in a little rut right now and have ceded ground to the Mets, but they still have one of the best lineups in baseball. The rotation was bolstered with the addition of Joe Blanton, and Brett Myers has to be better than this. When it’s all said and done, I believe Philadelphia will repeat as the NL East champ.

BEN GOESSLING: This thing is still so wide open, and the only thing we can say with much certainty is the one team that won’t win it (anybody need a hint?). But I took the Mets in the preseason, and like you, I’m going to stick with my prediction, especially if they can come up with a fifth starter. This is about the time of year Johan Santana reaches unhittable territory, and the bullpen has been fairly strong. There’s a possibility the Mets have peaked already, but I’ll take my chances with them.

MZ: I just think the Mets have too many issues that are unlikely to be worked out. I do find it interesting that no one’s giving the Marlins a chance. I understand why that’s the case - they’re probably not going to be able to outlast both Philadelphia and New York. But that lineup is stacked with young talent, and these guys are going to be a factor in the NL East for several years. This year, I’ll still take the Phillies.

BG: I kicked around whether the Marlins could steal this thing, and ultimately decided against it for the same reason I’m skeptical of Philadelphia’s pitching depth. The front of the rotation is impressive with Blanton and Cole Hamels, but I don’t know how much I trust the rest of it — or the bullpen, for that matter. A lot of those relievers are having career years right now, but J.C. Romero, Brad Lidge and even Chad Durbin can go very bad, very quickly. Chase Utley has cooled, and something about Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins just seems off right now. Could it all work out? Sure. But I think the longer the Mets stay in this thing, the more last year’s collapse becomes a rallying force. That, combined with the addition of Santana, makes them my pick.

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