With the All-Star break next week and teams at or just past the halfway mark of their season, the dog days of summer are upon MLB fans. This year has been a little different though, as there are a number of storylines that will keep fan's attention.
The World Series champions continue to struggle, Detroit has a pitcher chasing history not named Justin Verlander and the Yankees get the Captain back. These are just some of the storylines heading into the All-Star break.
Derek Jeter made his 2013 season debut on Thursday, and the New York Yankees hope he can make an impact down the stretch. The Yankees are six back of the AL East lead and only 2.5 back of the second Wild Card spot.
The fact they are as close as they are to a playoff spot should be viewed as an accomplishment with how many key players have been injured this season, including Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez along with Jeter.
The question is how much can a 39-year-old shortstop coming off an ankle injury that forced him to miss half a season produce down the stretch? This is a question that won't be answered until the end of the season, but it will be interesting to watch how he plays over the next few months.
Max Scherzer is still looking for one more win to tie Roger Clemens at 14-0 to start a season. He had a chance to do it Monday night against the Indians but finished with a no-decision after giving up two runs over seven innings.
Scherzer will have another chance to tie on Saturday when he faces the Rangers in Detroit. With Justin Verlander pitching well below a level that has become expected of him, Scherzer has stepped up in a huge way. He has been far and away the team's best pitcher this season.
If you were to shake a Magic 8-Ball and ask that question, the logical response would be "All signs point to yes." They have won seven straight with series sweeps over the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins. They should be able to extend it to double digits with a three-game series against the cellar-dwelling Houston Astros coming to town.
The first game should be a win with ace David Price going up against recently called up Jarred Cosart, who is making his first major league appearance. The second game is where it could get tougher for the Rays.
Roberto Hernandez is the starting pitcher for Tampa who currently has a 4-10 record and an ERA of 4.93. The Astros, on the other hand, will send out Dallas Keuchel, who has pitched pretty well on the road with an ERA of 3.12.
The final game of the series will pit Chris Archer against veteran Erik Bedard, which would favor the Rays. At only 3.5 back of Boston and the Red Sox playing a three-game series in Oakland, it is a strong possibility the Rays could end up only a half game back of first in the AL East.
The chances of back to back World Series titles are looking less and less likely as the season continues to progress. The Giants are currently sitting 6.5 games back of the division lead with a record of 40-50.
They have the same number of wins as the Chicago Cubs, Seattle Mariners and New York Mets, who have been in their respective divisional basements for close to a decade. The Giants can't find their championship mojo, as they are in the bottom third among MLB teams in runs scored and team ERA.
With all that said, they still are only 6.5 games back of the division lead in the NL West, and with the talent on their team could easily get back in the race. They will need to come out of the break firing on all cylinders though, as time is not their friend right now.
There may finally be a plan for the dark cloud that has been hanging over MLB and what suspensions will be handed out after the All-Star break. It is being reported by T.J. Quinn and Mike Fish of ESPN.com that MLB met with Ryan Braun on June 29th, where he refused to answer any questions.
Alex Rodriguez is next up and is expected to meet with Major League Baseball Friday in Tampa, according to the New York Daily News. Even though neither has been suspended for PED use prior to this, Major League Baseball could look to suspend them 100 games.
It would not make sense for Bud Selig to suspend high-profile players like Braun and A-Rod right before their marquee event of the season, the All-Star Game, so any type of penalties will most likely be handed down towards the second half of next week.
Chris Davis is having a MVP-caliber season and crushing home runs at a pace that hasn't been seen since Barry Bonds. However, he has started to slow down a bit and is currently in a 4-for-34 slide with 16 strikeouts.
All four hits have been extra-base hits, a double and three home runs, so it doesn't seem to be a matter of him losing strength.
These are not good signs, as Davis is also participating in the Home Run Derby, which has affected some player's second-half performances. The door could be slowly opening for a back-to-back Triple Crown for Miguel Cabrera if Davis continues to slide.
Matt Harvey will be skipping his next start on Saturday to give the young pitcher some rest, but more importantly, give him a chance to start the All-Star Game. Even though he has not been the best pitcher in the National League, that would have to go to Clayton Kershaw, it makes too much sense not to give the nod to Harvey.
The Midsummer Classic is taking place at Citi Field this year and would be the first time since 2004 that the host team had one of their pitchers start the All-Star Game. The Mets as an organization have not had a pitcher start the All-Star Game since Dwight Gooden did it in 1988.
The most heated discussion after the All-Star rosters were announced centered around rookie phenom Yasiel Puig. Supporters of the outfielder would say he has put up historic numbers to start his major league career, with the counterargument being that he has not played enough games to warrant an All-Star bid.
Puig, and his supporters, had one last chance to get him into the game, as he was one of the finalists for the final roster spot on the National League team. Puig's last chance ended Thursday afternoon though, with the polls closing and Freddie Freeman receiving more votes.
This disappointment shouldn't affect Puig too much, and it will be interesting to see his stat line at the end of the season to see if he really did deserve that All-Star roster spot.