Every single ESPN.com baseball contributor picked the Braves to either win the NL East or get the NL Wild Card. To me, this indicates two things:
1. The Braves now have an aura of complete invulnerability after winning the 14th straight divisional title with the Kiddie Corps last year. (Actually, as we noted this weekend, the team actually won in large part of Mssrs. Jones, Smoltz, Hudson, Giles, and Furcal, but those are just details.)
2. There are low expectations for most of the NL, likely as the result of the NL West being utter crap last year, combined with the fact that there is no obvious challenger to the Cardinals in the NL Central. The Braves-Mets-Cards trio are the consensus top of the League this year, with whatever detritus emerges from the West joining them. Now watch the Dodgers punk the Braves today after that last hubristic statement.
By the way, the award for "pick from the deepest recesses of the left field corner, under the chair in the bullpen where Lonnie Smith can't find them" goes to Buster Olney for taking the geriatric Giants and their Neikro-Durham-Vizquel-Feliz infield to win the NL. Honorable mention goes to John Shea, who is going to ride the scar tissue in A.J. Burnett's elbow by taking the Blue Jays to win the AL.
And just to be fair, give me the Yankees, Indians, A's, Braves, Cards, and Dodgers winning the divisions, the Mets and White Sox as the wild cards, and the Indians over the Cardinals in the World Series. It's beyond useless to pick playoff winners at this stage in the game, but since it's time for the long suffering franchises of the AL to break their ducks, I'll go with the Tribe.