NL more wide open than you think

Last week, we looked at the post-trading deadline landscape of the American League. This week, theNational:

NL EAST

Mets: No longer a Big Apple afterthought, the Mets have such a huge lead that they can focus on staying fresh and healthy for the postseason. Don’t buy this World Series lock business, though. This team has plenty of youngsters who have no idea what the big stage looks and feels like.

Phillies: Trading Bobby Abreu was the white flag, and while Cory Lidle isn’t a world-beater, he was one of the most reliable pitchers on the team. Forget the wild card, Philly fans, and bust out the jackhammers. You’re officially in rebuilding mode.

Braves: Tim Hudson must have tortured kittens as a child. How else do you explain the bad bullpen karma that’s followed him throughout his career? Getting traded to his hometown Braves was supposed to ensure that he’d pitch for a contender for the next several years. Oops.

Nationals: If you have any idea what this team was doing in keeping Alfonso Soriano, send it along to you-do-not@perennial-also-ran.com. Only if Fonzi re-signs does it look like Jim Bowden has the slightest clue.

Marlins: Fun, young team to watch with absolutely the right manager to oversee its growth. Someone needs to tell Jeffrey Loria that Mark Cuban called and wants his meddlesome-owner act back.

NL CENTRAL

Cardinals: Without a healthy and effective Mark Mulder, the rotation might not be strong enough to hold off the carefree Reds. But general manager Walt Jocketty has been known to pull off August waiver deals, and you should never underestimate any offense that has Albert Pujols as its centerpiece.

Reds: Scott Hatteberg? Really? Who knew? And how can you not be pulling for this team to make the postseason? Junior Griffey deserves another turn in the

spotlight.

Astros: Amazing how this team continues to waste the brilliance of Roger Clemens, but the presence of Clemens and the fair assumption that the underachieving offense will pick it up at some point makes the ’Stros — unlike the Phillies, who have virtually the same record — look like legitimate wild-card contenders

Brewers: Fun while it lasted,

wasn’t it? They’re the Marlins of the Central. Give ’em a few years and some veteran pitching and they’ll be dangerous.

Cubs: Not much to love about this summer at Wrigleyville, but getting Cesar Izturis in the Greg Maddux deal will lead to good times down the road.

Pirates: At least they threw a nice little All-Star bash. No hope on the horizon here.

NL WEST

Dodgers: Izturis was a steep price to pay for Maddux, but everything GM Ned Colletti has touched this year has turned to gold. This is the team to beat in a very beatable

division.

Diamondbacks: Any team counting on Juan Cruz at crunch time is doomed to stumble like a drunk down the stretch.

Padres: Some faces have changed, but this team feels no different than the one that snuck in and out of the playoffs without making an ounce of an impression last year. If Jake Peavy doesn’t dominate from here on out, the Pads have no shot.

Rockies: Quick, name five players on the Rockies not named Todd Helton. … Didn’t think so.

Giants: If you had a dollar for every “if” that needs to go their way for the playoffs to be possible, you’d have been able to sign Vladimir Guerrero a couple of years ago and still had enough left to grab local favorite Eric Byrnes. Is there hope? Yes, but it’s blind, barely breathing and sharing a locker with Armando Benitez. Not good.

Mychael Urban is the author of “Aces: The Last Season On The Mound With The Oakland A’s Big Three — Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito” and a writer for MLB.com.

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