It's been the general feeling that the Philadelphia Phillies have had the best team in the National League for about the last four seasons.
Philly won back-to-back pennants a couple years ago, but they've lost in the NL playoffs the last two seasons. This year the Phillies are again the favorites to win the NL, but as we've seen that guarantees nothing.
Here's a preview of the upcoming National League pennant race, and futures prices courtesy of Sportsbook.com.
Philadelphia tops the NL championship board at Sportsbook at +205. The Phillies won a ML-high 102 games last year, before bowing to St. Louis in the NLDS. And the last out of that series is still haunting them, because slugger Ryan Howard is not yet recovered from that Achilles injury he suffered grounding out to end their season.
The Phillies will also begin this season without Chase Utley, who's dealing with a bad knee. Philly still fields one of the best starting rotations in the Majors, though, and they've brought in Jonathan Papelbon to close games.
The San Francisco Giants are the second choice at Sportsbook to win the National League this season at +750. San Fran won the pennant two years ago, but missed the playoffs last year. This year the Giants still are led by that great pitching staff, and they're hoping to get a full season from catcher Buster Posey.
They also brought in Melky Cabrera to spark their pedestrian offensive attack from the lead-off spot.
The Miami Marlins are the third favorite on Sportsbook at +900. Miami has a slew of new faces, including SS Jose Reyes and closer Heath Bell, and they get No. 1 starter Josh Johnson back from injury. Throw in new manager Ozzie Guillen and the Marlins are a team to watch this year.
The Atlanta Braves, looking to bounce back after their late-season collapse of last season, come next at +1,050. The Cincinnati Reds follow at +1,100. The defending NL West champion Arizona Diamondbacks are getting +1,150. The defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals, now without both Albert Pujols and manager Tony LaRussa, are lined at +1,200.
The Washington Nationals, who might field one of the better starting rotations in the league now, are getting +1,600. And the defending NL Central champion Milwaukee Brewers and the Colorado Rockies are both getting +1,700 at Sportsbook to win the National League pennant this year.
Rounding out the field the Los Angeles are listed +2,200 to win the NL this year; the Chicago Cubs are getting +3,500; the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates are being offered at +5,000; the San Diego Padres are getting +9,000; and the Houston Astros are listed at +10,000 to win the NL pennant this year at Sportsbook.