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NL Central - really bad or just too even?

Did the NL Central suck as badly this year as its record would indicate, or could it be that there was a more level playing field that made it more even?

I'm thinking about next year and how I don't see any team running away with it, like we're going to see a repeat.  The Cardinals, despite their WS champ status, sucked for most of the year, and their ancient stars - Edmonds and Rolen - have shown that they are in a freefall decline.  The Cubs keep resigning the same players they had in their almost 100 loss season.  Houston will probably lose Pettitte to retirement and Lidge isn't the lights out closer he once was, plus Biggio is ancient.  The Pirates and the Brewers have bulging wallets that won't allow them to upgrade their teams much, as the upgrade happened last season, and we all know how that turned out.

Anyway, my question is - was the NL Central really bad last year, or was it just a more level playing field?  And how do you measure something like this?

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