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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Braves New World in National League

NEW YORK -- The last time we saw the Atlanta Braves, owner Ted Turner was walking around with the World Series trophy on his head, a smile on his face and a bounce in his step.


So how did the Braves celebrate in the following months? By sitting at home and watching other clubs scramble to get better.


As baseball prepares to kick off a new season Sunday, here's a team-by-team look at the National League, in predicted order of finish:


East


Atlanta Braves. Despite not adding a single major player in the offseason, this Atlanta team might be stronger than the one that won the World Series.


The pitching staff, already the best in baseball, welcomes rookie Jason Schmidt as the No. 5 starter, taking the place of Kent Mercker.


New York Mets. There has not been this much excitement at Shea Stadium since New York strutted to the 1986 title, and for good reason. Because in Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher and Paul Wilson, the Mets boast the best young pitching in baseball.


Philadelphia Phillies. Injuries have hurt Philadelphia ever since it reached the World Series in 1993. Lenny Dykstra (.264), Darren Daulton (.249) and Curt Schilling (7-5) must stay healthy.


Florida Marlins. Marlins management seemed to speed up its timetable for success, signing free agents Kevin Brown (10-9), Al Leiter (11-11) and Devon White (seven Gold Gloves).


Montreal Expos. For the second straight season, 1994 manager of the year Felipe Alou must deal with a club stripped down by cost-cutting moves.


Wil Cordero and Sean Berry combined for 24 home runs and 104 RBIs, and were traded away from a team that has trouble hitting.


Central


St. Louis Cardinals. Manager Tony La Russa was lured from Oakland, along with pitching coach Dave Duncan and several former A's players, including Dennis Eckersley, Todd Stottlemyre, Mike Gallego and Rick Honeycutt. La Russa is doing his best to learn how to manage in a new league -- he had his pitchers hit in exhibitions, rather than using the DH.


Cincinnati Reds. Manager Ray Knight was hand-picked by owner Marge Schott, who never completely liked Davey Johnson and his laid-back approach, despite the Reds' Central title last season.


Houston Astros. Owner Drayton McLane has given Houston fans an ultimatum: If the Astros do not reach 2.5 million in attendance -- more than they've ever drawn -- he's selling the team to someone who might move the franchise.


Chicago Cubs. Second baseman Ryne Sandberg's return is causing excitement in Chicago. The Cubs lost Randy Myers, Shawon Dunston and Todd Zeile in the winter without adding any major stars.


Pittsburgh Pirates. Perhaps no team in baseball has gone through as many changes in the last decade as the Pirates. They had the worst record in the NL in 1986, the best record in 1990 and the worst record again in 1995.


West


Los Angeles Dodgers. Tommy Lasorda is more enthusiastic than ever, as if that's possible, and who can blame him?


New third baseman Mike Blowers (23 HR, 96 RBIs for Seattle) will help a team that was last in the league in fielding, particularly on a club with a lot of groundball pitchers.


Colorado Rockies. Dante Bichette (.340, 40 HR, 128 RBIs), Larry Walker (.306, 36 HR, 101 RBIs), Andres Galarraga (31 HR, 106 RBIs) and Vinny Castilla (.309, 32 HR) made Colorado the only team other than the 1977 Dodgers with four players hitting 30 home runs.


San Diego Padres. The Padres could pull a surprise, depending on how well Rickey Henderson, Wally Joyner and Bob Tewksbury do in their new settings.


San Francisco Giants. Barry Bonds and Matt Williams form the best 1-2 punch in baseball, although that's not enough to carry bad pitching.