2013 Preview: The National League West

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For the past few days we’ve been previewing the 2013 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the National League West.

The National League West will be portrayed by many as two alpha teams (the Giants and Dodgers), a beta team (the Diamondbacks) and a couple of pretenders (the Padres and the Rockies).  This is, we feel, an unfair characterization.

The Giants are an alpha team as all defending World Series champions should be. Their pitching is great, their offensive leaders are young and in their prime and they are managed by one of the steadier hands in the game in Bruce Bochy. The Dodgers, due to all of their payroll expansion and star power, may very well be too, but there is a lot of uncertainty with that team in terms of injuries and in terms of how all of those disparate parts can come together. After all, much of that star power didn’t gel in Boston, so it’s not a given it will gel in L.A.

The Diamondbacks are a talented bunch, but they too are suffering from injuries and it remains to be seen if their focus on hard-nosed, gritty character guys like Martin Prado and the like will work as well as having insanely talented young sluggers in the fold like Justin Upton.

The Padres are being undersold, we believe. They lack star power but they have youth on their side and many players who can be expected to improve. Maybe not a playoff team, but not an also-ran either. We believe they may surprise.

The Rockies, well, OK. They’re the Rockies and probably don’t have the pitching to compete. It’s the same old story in Colorado now as it has always been.

Below are our team-by-team previews for the NL West as well as our HBT Extra feature on the division. Enjoy.

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Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.