The 2013 Major League Baseball season has just one week to go before the sport ascends on Citi Field for the All-Star Game. With more than half of the schedule in the books, every moment, game and acquisition counts on the path to October.
As the season blazed past the July 4 pole, fans naturally took notice of the teams, players and narratives dominating the headlines.
In case you missed it while enjoying the holiday, here are the biggest winners and losers from last week around the majors.
Yankees Path to October
The Yankees went from the edge of last place to revitalized in the span of a week. As they departed Camden Yards on June 30, the team had seemingly hit rock bottom. With a bruised and battered lineup, inconsistent pitching staff and close losses to Baltimore, New York sat closer to last place than first.
A week later, the outlook has changed in New York, thanks in part to a gift from the schedule makers.
Traveling to Minnesota to take on the lowly Twins may have become a jumping-off point for the relaunch of the 2013 Yankees. After sweeping Minnesota, New York returned home to take two of three from Baltimore. The Bronx Bombers welcome in Kansas City and Minnesota before the upcoming All-Star break.
With Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter due back by the end of the month, the Yankees may be heard from all summer.
Los Angeles-Based Skippers
Just a month ago, two managers were planted firmly on the hot seat: Mike Scioscia and Don Mattingly. The respective leaders of Los Angeles' baseball squads were leading underachieving teams to the most collectively disappointing season in recent memory.
Of course, the season isn't over yet.
In Orange County, Calif., the Angels are hot, winners of eight of 10 and within striking distance in the AL West, just eight games out of the loss column in one of baseball's most top-heavy divisions.
If the heroics of Josh Hamilton's walk-off home run were a symbol of things to come, the Angels may soon be heard from in the AL postseason chase.
In Chavez Ravine, the Dodgers have taken advantage of the rise of #Puigmania to vault themselves back into a very mediocre NL West race.
Considering the state of the division (five teams separated by 7.5 games), it's hard to bet against the Dodgers posting the best record of the group from this moment on.
AL Final Vote Ballot
On the surface, there's nothing wrong with the candidacy of the players listed on the American League's final vote tally.
Joaquin Benoit, Steve Delabar, David Robertson, Tanner Scheppers and Koji Uehara have all helped their teams in the first half, displayed All-Star ability at times and can help the American League team secure a victory at Citi Field.
Yet, it just feels, well, lame.
Without much effort, a different Final Five could have been surmised, using the resource of FanGraphs's WAR. Here are five of the most valuable players not named to the AL-All Star team or on the Final Vote ballot: Evan Longoria, Josh Donaldson, Brett Gardner, James Shields and Hiroki Kuroda.
Ruben Amaro's Philosophy of Results Over Process
Little has changed in Philadelphia since April regarding the 2013 Phillies and their chances to contend for a playoff spot. In other words, the odds of Citizens Bank Park hosting October baseball is as slim as it was on opening day.
Yet, don't tell that to Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro. Last week, during an interview with Comcast SportsNet's Jim Salisbury, Amaro cited Philadelphia's 10-game homestand heading into the All-Star break as the make or break point for his decision-making process around the trade deadline.
The fact that an accomplished general manager would let the long-term future of the franchise be clouded by the work of a flawed team over a short span is comical, but also routine in Philadelphia.
Regardless of how Philadelphia finishes the stretch after starting with two victories and loss to the Atlanta Braves, the results shouldn't change the long-term outlook.
In Philadelphia, results matter over process. That's how the team got to the point of early July baseball games deciding the future of the franchise.