Crack open your six-pack and break out the lighter for these six teams:
1. Son Volt (St. Louis Cardinals) - again, a team that puts out work that's always good enough to win (or dominate your playlist), although very few people realize it at the time or expect it. Despite the Cardinals' taking chances with moving bullpen guys into the rotation, I think it will work, and I drafted Adam Wainwright for one of my fantasy teams, I believe it that much. (Yes, I know half of Son Volt was based in the Twin Cities; Jay Farrar was in St. Louis during the time, and that works for me.)
2. Local H (Chicago Cubs) - been banging their heads against the wall to make it big and grab that championship for what seems like forever, and most years or albums, you'd think they'd have what it takes, but they always come up short, no matter how much they spend (whether free agent contracts or major-label budget). Still, you root for guys like this, whether out of appreciation for their failure to give up or out of sheer loyalty.
3. The Promise Ring (Milwaukee Brewers) - pop-punk upstarts with youth and talent getting a lot of talk about making the division theirs. Let's see if they can follow through and not cringe with the spotlight on them.
4. Geto Boys (Houston Astros) - there was a point where this team could do no wrong, even when they couldn't get an offense around Biggio, Bagwell, and Berkman, they had pitching come in and save them. Now, the team may be just a good memory like the rise of the Boys, although if Jason Jennings pitches well (and He Who Shall Not Be Named returns), they could have a Scarface-style renaissance.
5. Afghan Whigs (Cincinnati Reds) - something always works against this team, whether it's injuries (the constant case of Ken Griffey, Jr.), offense slowing down, or pitching (where are they going to get it beyond Harang and Arroyo?), much like the great band from their city that melded alt-rock and R&B.
6. Rusted Root (Pittsburgh Pirates) - I've forgotten what this band even sounds like; I just needed a band from the Pittsburgh area. The name suggests the rot in the Pitt front office, though. Another last place finish (creative stagnation) and it doesn't matter, so long as they save money.
Previously: NL West.