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Top Trending News The off-season move of power-hitting outfielder Bryce Harper from the Washington Nationals to the Philadelphia Phillies set the stage for the National League East to be...

Top Trending News

The off-season move of power-hitting outfielder Bryce Harper from the Washington Nationals to the Philadelphia Phillies set the stage for the National League East to be a focal point when the Major League Baseball season opens on Thursday (notwithstanding the two games already played by the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics in Tokyo).

The Atlanta Braves, after years of rebuilding, won the NL East last year. The Nationals, missing Harper most of the early part of the season, barely topped .500 (82-80). And the Phillies, under micro-managing manager Gabe Kaper, fell apart in September to finish third at 80-82.

The Braves seem to have less quality pitching going forward and don’t appear in many of the experts’ picks as a likely repeater. The attention is being paid to the Phillies and Nationals.

The Phillies have missed the playoffs for seven straight years and loaded up their roster so as not to make it eight. Harper, outfielder Andrew McCutchen, catcher J.T. Realmuto, shortstop Jean Segura and reliever David Robertson give the team a new look and a much better chance to win consistently.

The Nationals can fill out their outfield with youngsters Victor Robles and Juan Soto, but their strength will likely be pitching – Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg will again anchor the starters.

The Braves can contend and the pitching-rich New York Mets should improve as well. The Miami Marlins, who redefine hopelessness with every move, had a very good spring but will find themselves in their familiar last-place home before long.

Rivalries are good for the sport and Phillies-Nationals should be a boost. The teams are a short drive or train ride away, meaning visiting fans can easily travel to see their team (and in Philly be abused horribly by the locals).

Play ball!

 
 
Post By: Larry Weisman, a longtime sportswriter for USA TODAY, blogs for Twistity.com. Follow him on Twitter @MrLarryWeisman

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