Halfway through the major league baseball season, I believe that three teams outshine the rest with respect to making a World Series appearance. So here they are!
3) Tampa Bay Rays
Sure, these young Rays have not even made the playoffs in their ten year existence, but does that mean that they can't this year? With no individual hitting over .300, it is a miracle that this team has the best record in baseball. That said, when a reader takes a look at their pitching staff, it's easy to realize why they are in first place in the bigs. Led by ace Scott Kazmir, alongside James Shields, and Andy Sonnanstine, this rotation and bullpen have been lights out against some of the game's best opponents. Rookie sensation third baseman Evan Longoria has really picked up some of the slack at the plate for the Rays this season, hitting over 15 home runs, with 20 doubles and 50 RBIs before the All-Star Break. Longoria is on the fast track to the AL Rookie of the Year award, as no rookie has put up this kind of offensive power in more than fifty years. Can this makeshift lineup hold up? It's pretty certain that Kazmir can keep the Rays in his starting ballgames, but can the other starters hold up their end of the bargain? The reason I have this team at number three rather than two or one is that they are young and inexperienced, so the chances of them choking in the playoffs may rise by the series.
2) Boston Red Sox
You've obviously heard this name before, because they are the defending world champions. With some of the best arms in baseball in Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Red Sox can really wreak havoc on opponents. The batting lineup is even more daunting. With DH David Ortiz healthy, he and Manny Ramirez bolster one of the best lineups in the majors. Further down the lineup there are no sure-outs, as Dustin Pedroia, J.D. Drew, and Mike Lowell step into the batter's box. This team needs to stay healthy if they are going to have a chance to win the crown again, but all the pieces seem to be falling in place, as they have won the first two games against the New York Yankees in the Big Apple.
1) Chicago Cubs
As much as I hate the Cubs, from a journalist's standpoint, I think they are the best team in the majors right now. They certainly have what it takes with a solid core of pitching in ace Carlos Zambrano, and perhaps the best second starter in the NL in Ryan Dempster. The bullpen is solid as well with Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood both having spectacular seasons. The hitting has never troubled the Northsiders either, as Derrek Lee leads a tough bunch. Not to mention big bats Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, and Kosuke Fukudome and rookie Geovanny Soto joining the fray. I know it's been 100 years since the Cubbies tasted glory, but they are sitting pretty 16 games over .500 and 2.5 clear of the St. Louis Cardinals in the tough NL Central.
Los Angeles of Anaheim- It's been quite the year for the Angels, one that has rested on the shoulders of Joe Saunders. He has been lights out, and the bats are coming around in Anaheim as well, to the tune of 17 games over .500.
St. Louis Cardinals- Say all you want about this rag-tag bunch of guys, but they are just 2.5 games behind the Cubs, and the management and solid veteran leadership might just take them back to 2006 glory.
Chicago White Sox- Armed with some of the best bats and starting pitching in the bigs, the White Sox are a real force to be reckoned with in the AL Central. Carlos Quentin has been one of the biggest surprises in all of the major leagues this year, and is tied for the AL lead in home runs.
Please leave feedback and comments! Feel free to check out my blog: http://www.cardinaltwist.com/