Today is the first day that a majority of teams play a game after the All-Star break. So with July ending and August creeping up, I thought I'd weigh in on the division races and say who's going to be there come October.
AL EAST: Arguably the most heated race in baseball, the Rays have taken everyone by surprise. The Red Sox are a half game in first place and have David Ortiz coming back. They can pitch, hit and the vets haven't broken down yet. So even though the Rays have got young arms, quick bats and a spunky new manager I don't see them winning the East. I see Evan Longoria winning AL Rookie of the Year and maybe even a wild card birth. The Yankees are coming up with too much too late to catch these two teams that are making the Bronx Bombers feel a little out of things.
AL Central: I like the White Sox, but who doesn't like the White Sox right now? Ozzie Guillen is just two going on three years removed from winning the Series, Carlos Quentin is really gelling well with the likes of Jermaine Dye and that pitching is looking really good....October good! Seven of their pitchers have and ERA of 3.00 or lower, and no one has an ERA Over 4.60.
The Twins are right in there, but the Twins are always right in there until they either lose in the first round of the playoffs, or come up just short at the end. I don't see the pitching going the distance while they keep Livan Hernandez in the majors and leave phenom Francisco Liriano in AAA. Not saying that Liriano is the savior here, but if the Twins want to win they need to get younger and fresher...not older!
Lastly, the Tigers are the team that has the potential to gain momentum and take over this division. This team of veterans has a lot left to prove after that obismal start.
AL West: This is the Angels division to lose. The Angels are six games over the A's who have lost two in a row, and the Angels can claim the best W-L record when they face other teams in the AL West.
We all know how good the Angels were, how good they CAN be and now we need to see them continue this pace for another title run. Lest we deem the 2002 team a fluke.
NL East: Mets/Philles/Marlins
This is the most dramatic race in the National League. The Mets are red hot right now, but this is July, not September. I'm not trying to say that the Mets will fall apart again, but the Phillies have been the most consistent in this first half then I have seen them in years.
I feel that the media wants the Mets to come back and win the division back for New York City, but the Phillies aren't going away.
With the addition of Joe Blanton the Phillies have promised one thing and one thing only, they will not be short of pitching in the second half. General Manager Pat Gillick didn't want this young team of players blossoming into their prime to fall short in the end because of an injury and that's what has essentially happened. The Phillies can hit better than the Mets, but the Mets can pitch better than the Phillies. The Phillies have a better bull-pen and the city on their side for a change. The Mets are in the circus that is New York and with the Yankees under performing all eyes are on them to make things happen...NOW!
Then there's the Marlins quietly sitting their a game and a half back of the whole mess.
The fan inside me wants to say that the Phillies will repeat, but the Mets CAN be better and the Marlins just might be the sleeper here. We've seen more obscure things happen.
NL Central: The Cubs are the favorite to finish the job in the end and then go on to win the World Series and if they hadn't failed for the last 100 years I would agree. Unfortunately for the Cubs I need to see it to believe it. They will get Alfonso Soriano back and he can kill the ball, but he strikes out so much and can come across as being too selfish for a team that's really getting things done as a team.
The Cardinals however are making an impact and getting things done with the bat. Ryan Ludwick is the team leader in HRs, RBIs and Runs scored. This team still has Albert Pujols hitting .348 and Rick Ankiel is in the middle of his Comeback player of the Year campaign. If Kyle Lohse can keep it up and the Cardinals can get a few more dependable arms in the bullpen then we will see them in October.
I like the Brewers and think that C.C. Sabathia is just the kind of player they need to go to the next step, but this is again not going to be their year unless the Cubs get hurt and the Cardinals start to play like they were supposed to.
NL West: Someone has to win this division and if anyone is going to it's going to be Joe Torre. I like the DBacks, and I like Randy Johnson, but this team is still depending on Johnson and Micah Owings who are 12-15 with an ERA over 5.00! Yes they have Webb and Harden, but scoring runs is not what they do best.
The Dodgers (Oh the Dodgers...sigh)
The Dodgers need to get contributions from everybody to win and they've been doing that. They have 5 players on pace to drive in 80 runs this season. Kemp, Martin, Ethier and Pierre have all been contributing, but no one is batting over .300.
The Dodgers just lost their closer and just in general have not been getting things done. Plain and simple. This division is their's to run away with and they are not making that happen.
SO after it's all said and done I see:
AL East:Red Sox
AL Central: White Sox
NL East: Phillies
NL Central: Cubs