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Go to Your Happy Place: 2010 NL West

If you haven’t had the fortune of re-watching Happy Gilmore recently, you really should make it a priority to do so. In fact, if you are a Netflix subscriber, they’ve made it incredibly convenient for you by putting the movie on their Instant Queue. If you have never watched it before? Put this column down and go read this guy instead.

Or, go watch Happy Gilmore. That would also work.

Filling up a column with Gilmore quotes would be the easiest one I could ever write. It would write itself. Happy Gilmore isn’t the greatest sports flick of all time, but it certainly is the most quotable and thus, the most re-watchable. More so than even Bull Durham, The Sandlot and The Big Lebowski. Though the Dude’s the only one who gives Happy a legitimate run for his bull-dancing, flow-feeling money.

“Talk about a hole-in-ONE!”

And thus we’ve discovered our running theme for my 2010 NL West preview.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that someone won’t end up pulling landscaping duty. It HAS to happen.

(I’m getting giddy here. These warm-up references are making me hungry.)

Six steps to determine our winners and losers, gratuitous Gilmore quotes the whole way…

STEP 1: WHO IS HAPPY GILMORE?

Happy Gilmore: Looks like a slight hill. Whaddaya think?

Otto (caddy): And a slant to the left.

Happy Gilmore: Nah, it looks that way cause you’ve only got one shoe on.

Let’s review what we know of the recent history for our NL West Teams…

San Diego Padres: Can’t hang onto their players. Lied to their fans when Petco Park was constructed. Putting together a team of contenders? Hardly. They are typically young, unknown and frankly, not very good.

You don't really have to leave us next year Vin, do you?

Los Angeles Dodgers: Winners. Heroes. Americans. Beautiful human beings. Charitable. Manny-riffic. Loves orphan children. Crime fighters. Best play-by-play guy EVER. (We’ll miss you next year Vin Scully.)

But also, REALLY REALLY cheap. Overcharges fans for anything and everything. Questionable GM decisions. Andruw Jones and Jason Schmidt? WHOOPS!

Colorado Rockies: Great offense, well, at least at home. Questionable starting pitching, at best. Home to Huston “Picaboo” Street. Usually sells off expensive talent not named Todd Helton.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Puts a lot of stock into potential. More so than any other NL West club. Not afraid to deal from strength.

San Francisco Giants: Own the greatest right-arm in the game (Tim Lincecum). Love to overspend on players unlikely to help them (Trying not to look at Aaron Rowand… trying… SOOOO INCREDIBLY, HARD.)

STEP 2: NEW ADDITION TO THE TOUR

Grandma: Sir, can I trouble you for a glass of warm milk? It helps put me to sleep.

Nursing Home Orderly (Ben Stiller): You can trouble me for a warm glass of shut-the-hell-up! Now, you will go to sleep! Or I will PUT you to sleep. Check out the name tag. You’re in MY world now, grandma!

Grandma: Oh dear.

New additions can either make all the difference in the world or not change a thing for a club. Not changing your core is great, if you had a great team to begin with. More often than not, tinkering with the structure here and there will either keep you on top or be a huge step in the direction that gets you there.

So which NL West teams added the most influential pieces?

Glad you asked…

Padres: It HAS to be a little disconcerting when you look at San Diego’s depth chart and recognize only about a third of the names. Without looking – seriously, no cheating by going to their mlb.com page either – try to name as many Padres as you can…

Ok, you got Adrian Gonzalez, Heath Bell, probably Chris Young, possibly Chase Headley and if you’re a Padres fan, you nailed Tony Gwynn Jr. as well.

But that’s about it.

New to the club are a plethora of guys including friend of Not in HD, Dusty Ryan, who is a young catcher they acquired from Detroit.

The Pads also wrapped up veteran pitcher Jon Garland.

You tell me if those moves will propel them any closer to the playoffs.

If you think so, go grab a carne asada burrito and head back to Mission Beach for some surf. You’ve got more homer in you than the entire Padres offense.

Dodgers: The biggest addition to this club? Second baseman Ronnie Belliard. Pretty much everyone else, minus a few long and middle relievers, are carry-overs from last year. And none of them are pushing the age envelope other than Manny Ramirez.

Considering this is a club which won the division crown last year, keeping the core in tact might not be such a bad call.

Then again, Manny’s like 56 years old.

(Long sigh…)

Rockies: The Rocks brought in former (former in this case meaning YEARS AGO) Baltimore Orioles standout third baseman, Melvin Mora to back up Ian Stewart. Middle reliever Rafael Betancourt came over from Cleveland and back-up catcher Miguel Olivo finally fled Kansas City. But nothing to get too amped over.

Diamondbacks: FINALLY! A team which made significant additions!

Enter electrifying (and sometimes terrifying) starter Edwin Jackson, stage-left from Detroit via trade. Once top prospect, starter Ian Kennedy came over in the same deal. Difference makers? DEAR LORD HOLD ON TIGHT… maybe… so.

They also add second baseman Kelly Johnson and first baseman Adam LaRoche from Atlanta (his second stint with the Braves). Arizona added other yawn inducing players such as relievers Aaron Hielman (Mets) and Bob Howry (Giants) as well as infielder Tony Abreu from the Dodgers.

Giants: Lets just shoot straight here. None of us care who San Francisco added this winter. We only care about the Panda. The one of kung fu may not be your prototypical baseball player, but who the heck cares. He’s like a shorter, fatter, young Vladamir Guererro. And young Vlad was a BLAST to watch. Free swinging and can rake any pitch – from toes-to-nose – anywhere in the vicinity of the zone.

The Kung Fu Panda is one cool customer. We would totally hang out with him.

But the Giants did add a few players. Super utility player Mark DeRosa, first baseman Aubry Huff and high-profile rookies Madison Bumgarner (starting pitcher, yeah just what the Giants need, ANOTHER potential ace) and of course, the NEXT BIG THING Buster Posey.

Tim Lincecum is unimpressed.

But he does eagerly await Posey. Another potential World of Warcraft partner.

STEP 3: GET OUT OF SHOOTER’S WAY

Shooter McGavin: Just stay out of my way… or you’ll pay! LISTEN to what I say!

Happy Gilmore: Hey, why don’t I just go eat some hay, make things out of clay, lay by the bay? I just may! What’daya say?

Sometimes guys just can’t seem to get out of the way. They block the task at hand.

Or maybe you just don’t want to pay them.

Either way… HE GONE!!!

Padres: SD dealt franchise star Jake Peavy to the White Sox last spring, but since he was hurt, the loss stings more now that he’s healthy than it did then. The Pads didn’t lose any major free agents, because, well, they didn’t have any.

You’re wanting me to mention Adrian Gonzalez’s unavoidable departure, aren’t you?

Well I refuse to sink to the depths of speculation in this particular preview.

Stop waiting, I’m not going to say it.

I won’t tell you that the Padres are definitely losing their best player this year.

Not happening.

Get over it. I won’t say it.

(But I do love that it’s going to happen.)

Dodgers: Juan Pierre. Jason Schmidt (THANK. YOU. JESUS.). Jon Garland. Orlando Hudson.

None of which were all that reliable last year.

Rockies: Other than losing Matt Holliday at the trade deadline – which doesn’t really count towards this section – Colorado didn’t really lose anyone who might actually help them win this year.

Diamondbacks: Young, erratic,  fireballer Max Scherzer. That would be the only loss that matters. But since it enabled the D-Backs to net Jackson and Kennedy… they’ll take it.

Giants: Instead of just repeating myself, let’s send it down to Steve Zissou and Ned Plimpton, from one of my favorite films of the 2000’s (Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou)…

Ned: (Opening something.)

Steve: What’s that?

Ned: A letter from Jane.

Steve: What does she say?

Ned: Nothing to speak of.

SETP 4: NEXT BIG THING

Chubbs: Back in 1965, Sports Illustrated said I was going to be the next Arnold Palmer.

Happy Gilmore: Yeah? What happened?

Chubbs: They wouldn’t let me play on the Pro Tour anymore.

Happy Gilmore: Ah, I’m sorry. Because you’re black?

Chubbs: Hell no! Damned alligator BIT my hand off!

The children are our future. Some western teams are depending on their kids a little more than others. Here are a handful of youngsters these clubs will be leaning on this year…

Padres: Mat Latos. He’s 22 years old, 6’6″ and throws around 97 mph. NOT. SHABBY.

He’s going to have to be a lot better than not shabby though to put a sizable dent into San Diego’s 2010 win total.

Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw really shouldn’t count, seeing as ’10 will be the third season the young lefty has spent with the big club. He also shouldn’t count because he’s already a star.

But Kershaw is the youngest player L.A. is REALLY counting on this year.

Rockies: Left fielder Carlos Gonzalez and center fielder Dexter Fowler. Those are the two guys not named Troy Tulowitzki who will determine how good this offense ends up being.

Diamondbacks: Chris Young, Edwin Jackson, Stephen Drew and even Mark Reynolds all play crucial roles for this team. But ultimately it will live or die with 22-year-old freak-of-nature, Justin Upton.

Can the younger Upton take the next step? Can he avoid the Upton stink? Will his number of strikeouts be lower than his games played?

The D-Backs can only go as far as Justin Upton can carry them.

So many questions.

Giants: Kung. Fu. PANDA. That and the reason (other than his weight) Pablo Sandoval was moved out from behind the plate; Buster Posey. Oh, and Bumgartner. Let’s not forget him.

STEP 5: GETTING READY TO TAKE ON SHOOTER

Virginia: HEY! What’s going on here?

Happy Gilmore: Oh, uh, I was just looking for the other half of this bottle and there’s some of it and there’s some of it right there, too.

Virginia: Why don’t you just put it down?

Happy Gilmore: Yeah, I know.

Time to pick up the pieces and see where these teams stand…

Padres: There is nothing San Diego can do to compete this year. You know, other than becoming another team, in a different city, with better players.

In my Twenty Truths column, I predicted the Lakers would win more games this year than the Padres.

Last. PLACE.

Dodgers: It’s all about the pitching in L.A. If Kershaw pitches at least as well as last year, Chad Billingsley remembers that he’s supposed to be good and Hiroki Kuroda makes a small comeback, the team should be fine. No small task.

Rockies: I’d like to believe they can compete. I really would. But Colorado is young, inexperienced and I just don’t believe in their pitching. The upside is limited and the downside is likely.

It’s not happening this time.

Diamondbacks: An interesting bunch. Chris Young REALLY needs to figure something out soon. Thirty/thirty guys shouldn’t play like he did last year. Dan Haren is a wonderful starter, an out-and-out quality No. 1 guy. You know what kind of stuff he’s made of. GOOD STUFF.

But despite the youthful position players, ultimately the success of Arizona is likely going to depend on the arms of Brandon Webb (Can he come back strong?) and Edwin Jackson (Can he duplicate recent success?).

Time will tell with this club.

Giants: When you have a rotation of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito, Jonathon Sanchez and Madison Bumgartner… you definitely can make some noise.

The offense is sketchy though, depending a little too much on the bats of Sandoval, “Name that” Molina and soon to be rookie Buster Posey.

Worst case scenario for the club is probably third place. Best case? FIRST.

STEP 6: PLAYING THE TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP

Shooter McGavin: You’re in big trouble though pal. I eat pieces of **** like you for breakfast.

Happy Gilmore: (laughing)… You eat pieces of **** for breakfast?

Shooter McGavin: (awkward pause)… NO!

Will the NL West unfold as it has in recent years, with Southern California at the bottom and on top?

Here’s how the race will play out.

5.) San Diego Padres

4.) Colorado Rockies

3.) Arizona Diamondbacks

2.) San Francisco Giants

1.) Los Angeles Dodgers

Predictable that I would choose the Dodgers to finish first? Yeah, probably.

But if it helps you any, until I dissected the division I really didn’t think they’d win it this year. But once I weighed the pros and cons of each team, the choice was clear.

To win the West, you’re going to have to, BEAT L.A.!!!

And I doubt you will.

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