People around baseball often look at Memorial Day as the first major checkpoint of the season.Â Â As we approach the 50 game mark, it’s a good time to take a look at the standings to see where the teams are sitting.Â Is a team poised to run away with the division?Â Is there a solid two-team race developing that looks looks like it may go down to the wire?Â Is there a team that is already so far out of first place that they are starting to make plans for next season?
Take a look at the NL East standings.Â Coming into Friday night’s action, 3 games separated first place from last place, and each team had a record of .500 or better.Â Â The division is clearly up for grabs, which got me thinking of one of my favorite TV shows, Survivor.Â Before a challenge, host Jeff Probst declares “immunity up for grabs.”Â Â Â Instead of immunity, a division crown is at stake inÂ theÂ latestÂ reality seriesÂ - Survivor: NL East.Â Let’s take a look at the competitors:
After back-to-back World Series appearances, the Phillies came into this season as the clear favorites.Â Their everyday lineup remained mostly intact, and they added arguably the best pitcher in the majors to their rotation with the acquisition of Roy Halladay.Â However, the Phils have been hurt by injuries, most notably to shortstop Jimmy Rollins and closer Brad Lidge.Â They also are not clicking on all cylinders offensively, as evident by being shut out four times over the past week.Â Despite all of the injuries and struggles, the Phillies still find themselves on top of the division.Â They have the ability to run away with the East if they get healthy and play to form, but it hasn’t happened yet.
The Braves ended April five games under .500, but have played much better baseball in May.Â A few win streaks have them four games over .500 in Bobby Cox‘s last season at the helm.Â Â The Braves have the pitching to hang around for the long haul, with a solid starting rotationÂ led by Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson, and a healthy Billy Wagner closing games.Â Will the Braves offense be enough?Â Â Rookie phenom Jason Heyward has certainly showed all of the hype was warranted.Â Can he keep it up?Â Will the Chipper Jones of old return?Â Â
The Mets?Â Who knows what to make of the team from Flushing.Â Part roller coaster and part circus act at times, the Mets have already jumped from last place to first place, and back to last place.Â After their most recent hot streak, they now find themselves in the middle of the pack.Â Â Can they hang aroundÂ and find themselves playing meaningfulÂ September baseball?Â Â It’s possible, but they have several huge question marks.Â When will Carlos Beltran come back, or will he be back at all?Â Will the MetsÂ findÂ three reliable starters to stick behind Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey?Â
Then there are the Nationals.Â Those pesky Nats.Â All of the talk coming into the season was about Stephen Strasburg, and in major media outlets, Strasburg is still all you hear about when it comes to the teamÂ from DC.Â News flash: the man with the 100 mph fastball has yet to throw a pitch in the majors, but the Nationals are showingÂ that they are no longer the doormat of the NLÂ East.Â The Nats have received solid pitching in the early going, “capped” off by closer Matt Capps, who converted his first 16 save chances.Â Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn provide a dangerous 3-4 combination to the Nats lineup.Â Â They may not be able to hang around until the end, but their early season success is no mirage.Â The Nats are a good ballclub, and their future looks bright.
Over the past twoÂ decades, what team owns the most World Series titles in the divison?Â That would be the Florida Marlins.Â The Marlins may have the deepest rotation in the division, led by ace Josh Johnson.Â Â Each of the Marlins’ starters is fully capable of shutting down an opposing team.Â Hanley Ramirez and company can also score enough runs to remain competitive throughout.Â But will their bullpen eventually do them in?Â With a new stadium on the horizon, will they be able to add payroll to try and makeÂ a run?
Who will Outhit, Outplay, Outlast to become the winner of Survivor: NL East?Â Â Stay tuned to see whose torches get snuffed out.Â Â There are likely to be some twists and surprises as this marathon of a season plays out.Â You don’t want to miss it.