While the start of NBA’s free agency has been an absolute whirlwind so far, players can’t officially sign until the day this issue comes out. So before I ramble about who’s going where and what this all means, I’m going to wait until next week when the deals become etched in stone before diving into that madness. For now, it’s still baseball season, and after the brief All-Star break, the second half of the season is about to begin. We’ve already had some high points (like the 49-year-old Jamie Moyer becoming the oldest pitcher to ever win a game) and some low ones (like him being released by three teams since). In any case, the first half has rapidly gone by and it feels like only yesterday that Derek Jeter was hitting .355 instead of the paltry .303 average he currently has. But we’re now in July, it’s roughly 130 degrees daily, and half the season is over. Here’s what’s been happening:
Coming as a shock to absolutely no one, the Yankees have the best record in the American League. While they’re mashing home runs left and right (and to center), it’s been their pitching staff that has carried them. Sure, they’ve scored the fifth most runs in the AL, but they’ve also given up the second-fewest. The Bronx Bombers have dealt with injuries to Mariano Rivera, Michael Pineda, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain and now, C.C. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte. Sabathia’s DL stint appears to be short-lived while Pettitte’s is more serious. Regardless, the team has been resilient and like I said in the March 7 issue, a 105-win season is certainly plausible.
In addition to the Yankees romping, the Texas Rangers are leading the charge in the AL West. They’ve been on a bit of a slide lately but with Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus having stellar campaigns, it’s no surprise that they’re in first. When Neftali Feliz comes off the DL later this month, their rotation is going to feature four pitchers with ERA’s under 4.00 to go along with the newly-signed Roy Oswalt. Their team is scary any way you look at it and I wouldn’t be surprised if they advanced to their third consecutive World Series.
The Chicago White Sox are handling their business in the AL Central at the moment but I just can’t see them winning the division. Detroit will get it together, I think, and make a push as the second half goes on. And yes, I’m aware that the Indians are only two games out, but if you think that team is going to even come close to sniffing playoff baseball, you’ll be greatly disappointed.
While the Boston Red Sox have been plagued by more injuries than Yao Ming and Greg Oden combined, it wouldn’t be crazy to think they can salvage a nice run. They’re 30-21 since starting out 12-19 and after recently getting back Josh Beckett, the team is going see Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury return to the field shortly. The Red Sox, as well as the Angels, are my AL comeback candidates when play resumes.
As I wrote a couple weeks ago, the Washington Nationals have been absolutely destroying. Led by Stephen Strasburg and their dynamic young pitching, their offense seems to be coming around as well. The promotion of 19-year-old phenom Bryce Harper was a great decision and the kid is quickly becoming a humble superstar. The way he’s handling his business for such a young dude is just so remarkable. (By the way, did you see that he’s going to train to become a firefighter in the offseason just so he’ll “have something to fall back on?” He’s going to make nine figures when it’s all said and done yet he still wants to achieve his goal. Amazing.)
I, like so many other folks, thought the Mets were going to look as inept as this year’s Charlotte Bobcats. But alas, they’re seven games over .500, and I’ve got to tip my hat to them. Still, I wouldn’t get too carried away. It’s a nice story and all, but do you really think they’re going to be one of the five best teams to come out of the NL? I just don’t see that and feel like the Marlins and/or Braves will pass them eventually.
The NL Central continues to be a slugfest between the Cardinals, Reds and…Pirates? Seriously? They haven’t had a winning season since ’92 but it appears that after a 20-year drought, we could be witnessing history! A potential MVP candidate, Andrew McCutchen has really blossomed into a remarkable five-tool player. But I wonder when their 10-2 starter, A.J. Burnett, will turn back into A.J. Burnett. Here’s to hoping that they finish better than third for the first time since ’97.
And finally, the NL West appears like it’s going to be a battle between the Dodgers and my Giants. L.A. is 5-12 over their last 17 games while San Fran is dealing with Tim Lincecum going through the worst stretch in his career, as he’s currently sitting at 3-10 with an ERA over 6.00. If the Giants can get the same production out of Lincecum as they have from Barry Zito (I can’t believe I’m actually typing that), they’ll be fine. If not, last year’s MVP runner-up, Matt Kemp, who is set to come off the disabled list shortly, might bring the Dodgers over the top. What are you looking forward to seeing in the second half? The Phillies blowing up their team? The Yankees sliding? The Mets making a move? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)