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March 11, 2014 at 6:02 am ET
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Could the Nationals Win the NL East by Default?

In a span of 48 hours, the race for the 2014 NL East crown went from “pretty close” to potential “snooze-fest.” On Sunday, Atlanta Braves ace Kris Medlen clutched his elbow in the middle of the fourth inning against the Mets and headed directly into the Braves dugout. Medlen was scheduled for additional evaluation yesterday, but the initial prognosis was the dreaded “elbow strain,” AKA “your season is effed.” ¬†About 24 hours later, Brandon Beachy, no stranger to his own elbow ailments, left an exhibition game against the Phillies with “elbow tightness.” Combine these two injuries with Mike Minor’s balky shoulder and you have all the makings of a potential disaster for the Barves. ¬†

In Nats camp, players may mutter a polite “that sucks,” but visions of cruising to the playoffs with little fanfare might be the second thought that comes to mind. While the Nats have their own elbow issues to tend to, Matty’s pitching is probably deep enough to make the playoffs with Taylor Jordan, Tanner Roark, and Ross Detwiler filling in where Doug Fister cannot. Factor in a (pretty) young and (finally) healthy lineup (for now) that under performed in 2013, and you have the makings of a pretty good team in a very mediocre division. In fact, let me handicap the rest of the division’s odds in 60 seconds or less:

New York Mets: After David Wright, the best hitter on this team is probably Daniel Murphy.  Also: Bartolo.  Pass.

Philadelphia Phillies: Ruben Amaro’s attempt to copy the player personnel moves of the mid-2000’s Yankees will not end well for him.

Montreal Expos: According to this website, apparently Montreal has a team again? ¬†I’m not sure who plays for them, but I bet they’re not very good.

Miami Marlins:¬†Hahahahahaha. A reunion of the ’94 Expos probably would beat these guys head-to-head at least 3 out of 10 times.

Perhaps the Braves were never meant to contend in 2014. Slumping Dan Uggla turns 34 today and B.J. Upton hasn’t been a three-win player since 2008. Questions abound over the long-term durability of Jason Heyward, Alex Wood, and Evan Gattis. Julio Teheran has the makings of an All-Star, but is only 23. Much like the 2013 Nationals, maybe we expected too much of this year’s Braves. However, unless Medlen and Beachy recover quickly, we’ll probably find out we were wrong much, much sooner.

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