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NL West

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the San Francisco baseball dream.

I have a dream that one day this team will rise up and finally win a championship: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that the Yankees are a bunch of grabby championship hogs."

I have a dream that one day on the fog-kissed hills of San Francisco, the sons of former Jamey Wright supporters and the sons of former Brad Hennessey supporters will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the East Bay, a region sweltering with a special kind of insanity that can only be created by following the Warriors, will be transformed into an oasis of Giants fandom.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the chemically-enhanced star they root for, but by how many cars they tip over when the chemically-enhanced star wins a championship for them.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Southern California, with its vicious Dodger partisans, with its general manager having his moustache dripping with the words of "my friend, Tommy Lasorda" and "loaded farm system" -- one day right there in Southern California, little Dodger heathen boys and heathen girls will be made fun of for letting the Giants win the World Series.

I have a dream today!

Unfortunately, that dream would need to start with the Giants winning the division. And I can't predict that in good conscience.

NL West

Dodgers 88-74
Giants 85-77
Padres 81-81
Diamondbacks 76-86
Rockies 71-91

Both the Giants and Dodgers have injury concerns. Both teams have defensive concerns. Jeff Kent starts his steep Brett Tomko's art requires a level of pathos only continued losing can provide. J.D. Drew and Nomar Garciaparra will injure each other by hugging in that manly way, where you quickly pull the other guy close and kind of whomp on his back. Yet, one can easily rebut each of these perceived faults with similar problems for the Giants.

Where some of the pessimism comes from: when choosing between a very old and brittle team, and a sorta old and brittle team, it makes sense to choose the latter. Where the rest of the pessimism comes from: I can't see Barry Bonds making it through the season intact. If Bonds plays 125 games, I see no reason why the Giants can't win 90 games, but that's not something to count on. Hope for, absolutely, but not count on.

I like the Giants rotation; I really do. Jason Schmidt has looked great this spring, and Noah Lowry is still underrated. I've made my positive outlook on Matt Morris, at least in the short-term, known. Matt Cain might not be Tom Seaver yet, but he should be better than Kirk Rueter. Jamey Wright's family loves him very, very much.

I like the Giants bullpen, too. If Armando Benitez can't find what he has lost, I'm confident a young arm will be able to take his place. The Fresno bullpen will provide some fine emergency help, as it did last season.

There's a bad feeling floating around, though, and I can't shake it. The fanboy in me wants to override it, and throw daisy petals around while predicting 95 wins. It could happen. In a just universe, it should happen. Maybe we can make it happen if we concentrate real hard like the freaks in Dark City. I just can't sugarcoat my doubts.

The good news is I'm often terribly wrong. I kind of pride myself on it.