MLB Half-Time: Who's Hot and Who's Not in the AL
The All-Star break is upon us, which means half the Major League Baseball season is over.
Still, there is a lot of baseball to play and the second half looks to be even more drama-filled than ever.
Division races are no longer an AL East only feature, as each division is still up for grabs. It looks to be a second half for the books, and baseball fans should be elated.
Let’s see how each division looks at the halfway point, starting with the American League.
The New York Yankees have the best record in baseball at the break for the first time since 2004.
The Yankees know that means nothing when you share the division with the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox. The Bronx Bombers are not just getting by anymore, they are playing really well, just earlier than normal. Mark Texeira and Alex Rod are on fire, which is lethal for opponents.
The young and talented Rays are only two games behind the Yankees. The Rays will visit the Bronx immediately following the All-Star break. It doesn’t get easier after that with series against the Twins, Tigers, and Yankees again, and the Orioles and Indians somewhere in between. This will be a big test for the Rays.
The Red Sox are hurting, literally, hanging just five games off New York’s pace. Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Victor Martinez, Clay Bucholtz, and Josh Beckett to name just five of the 11 active players on the team's disabled list—a team’s worst nightmare. However, no pity party is needed for the Red Sox as this team’s experience will keep it in the running, so don’t ever think it’s over in Boston.
Do I even need to mention the Baltimore Orioles? Camden Yards is a sad place and the O’s are on pace to post the worst record in franchise history. The O’s are improving as they ended the half with a sweep, so as usual, the O’s will cause a headache in the division.
This is the hottest division in baseball right now, with a three-team race that could not be tighter, or more exciting.
Who would have guessed that Ozzie’s White Sox would be leading this division at the All-Star break, after by going 9-1 in their last 10 games. This resurgence has brought back life to a ballclub that seemed dead on June 9.
Losing starting ace Jake Peavy will hurt more as the season goes on, but these guys can hit too. You can be sure that Ozzie and President Obama are smiling ear-to-ear.
Just a half-game back are the hot Detroit Tigers, who looked to be in first until Sunday. Miguel Cabrera is easily leading the MVP race in the AL with 22 home runs, 77 RBIs, a .346 batting average, and a league-leading .423 on-base percentage. The Tigers need a veteran presence in the bullpen which is filled with youngsters, as Joel Zumaya is out for the season.
The Minnesota Twins are getting a reality check, finishing in third place at the break. The Twins are three-and-a-half games back, so they are very much still alive.
The team’s future is hanging on whether All-Star and former MVP Justin Morneau can play after the break, as he suffered a mild concussion last Wednesday. Morneau has missed the last four games and dropped out of the All-Star game to get further testing done. MVP catcher Joe Mauer also has a banged up right shoulder, but claims it is nothing serious.
Just days ago, the first-place Texas Rangers stole one of baseball’s best pitchers, Cliff Lee, from the drooling Yankees, but did have to give up a lot to get him from the Mariners.
Lee’s first start for the Rangers was his worst in five years, but I doubt that was anything to fret about considering he still completed the game. The bigger issue is that his start was against the awful Orioles who managed to sweep the Rangers over four games. The Rangers have a one-man show with the way Josh Hamilton is hitting. He might be Superman.
The Angels are four-and-a-half games behind Texas and that is not the way the Angels usually do things. Losing the power-bat of Kendry Morales for the season has left the team flat. The Halos have proved they can win without Morales, but whether or not they are able to get back into first place again remains to be seen. The team’s ace, Jared Weaver, has stated that the squad is up for the fight. This will definitely be a big battle, as this is the Angels' worst finish at the half since 2001.
Oakland A’s are seven-and-a-half back, but this team would need a lot more to go right to get back into contention. Their best bet is to start running over other team’s pitching mounds so they can make more t-shirts to sell.
Most preseason rankings had the Seattle Mariners as AL West favorites. Turns out that was dead wrong, and dealing Cliff Lee to the Mariners closed the coffin for this season in Seattle.
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