MLB: Contenders and Pretenders at the Season's 1st Checkpoint

Tom MechinAnalyst IMay 30, 2011

MLB: Contenders and Pretenders at the Season's 1st Checkpoint

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    ATLANTA - MAY 31:  The Atlanta Braves honor Memorial Day before facing the Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field on May 31, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Happy Memorial Day everyone!  On the baseball calendar, today marks one of the important milestones in the long season. 

    Once pitchers and catchers report, baseball fans look forward to Opening Day, the games of April and early May and then, finally Memorial Day.  It is today that we truly examine where our teams stand, who is jelling together and which teams should make a run at their division or the Wild Card. 

    And as some fans will know, today marks the beginning of the end: For the rest of the summer, they will root for a team that has no chance to make the playoffs and continue the season beyond Game 162.

    Here is a look at every team, what the start of the season has brought them and where we can expect them to go considering their issues.  A verdict of “Contenders” or “Pretenders” will be assigned to each team, and I’m sure I’ll get more wrong than I do right.  But I hope you enjoy the read.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 18:  Manager Kirk Gibson of the Arizona Diamondbacks watches from the dugout during the Major League Baseball game against the Atlanta Braves at Chase Field on May 18, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks defeated the Braves 5-4 in
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Diamondbacks have gotten off to a good start this year and are in second place in the NL West.  Ian Kennedy and JJ Putz have been better than advertised, and the young nucleus on offense has been performing well. 

    However, the NL West is a tough division with battle-tested teams.  The Diamondbacks are at least a year away from fully contending.

    Verdict:  Pretenders

Atlanta Braves

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    ATLANTA, GA - MAY 27:  Chipper Jones #10 of the Atlanta Braves reacts after being called out at second base in the fourth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Turner Field on May 27, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    In the offseason, the Braves' priority was revamping their offense and they landed premier slugging second baseman Dan Uggla, who has been a failure thus far.  With Jayson Heyward hurting and the inevitable Chipper Jones DL-stint coming at some point, they could be in trouble. 

    However, their starting staff is deep, the bullpen is lights-out and Dan Uggla will hit sooner or later.  The Braves will be a team to be reckoned with all year long. 

    Verdict:  Contenders

Chicago Cubs

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    CHICAGO, IL - MAY 29: Manager Mike Quade #8 of the Chicago Cubs watches from the dugout as his team takes on the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field on May 29, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Pirates 3-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty I
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The lovable losers are in a transition stage with new ownership and an old/young team with a lot of players caught in the middle.  Alfonso Soriano’s shown he’s still got some pop left in his tank, but it’s running empty on most everything else.  Carlos Pena’s hitting above .200—and I guess that’s an improvement.  Starlin Castro looks like a star in the making and will be a fixture at Wrigley for years to come. 

    The pitching staff is decent, Zambrano is controlling himself for now and their bullpen is solid.  In a competitive NL Central, the Cubs look to be behind the eight ball, but with a strong effort by their pitching staff they could make a play for division.

    Verdict:  Pretenders

Cincinnati Reds

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    ATLANTA, GA - MAY 29:  Jay Bruce #32 of the Cincinnati Reds celebrates in the dugout after hitting a solo homer in the second inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on May 29, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Reds have a dynamic offense led by MVP Joey Votto and youngster Jay Bruce.  They can score runs with anybody.  Their defense is not too shabby either, but it’s pitching that wins championships and so far this year, the Reds are lacking that big-time stopper in the rotation. 

    The back end of the bullpen is electric, but how much can Francisco Cordero be trusted down the stretch?  They need another starter to be fully counted on as contenders.

    Verdict:  Contenders

Colorado Rockies

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    PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 05:  Todd Helton #17 of the Colorado Rockies high fives teammates Carney Lansford, Jason Giambi #23 and Troy Tulowitzki #2 after Helton scored a fourth inning run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the Major League Baseball game at
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Wasn’t this the year the Rockies were supposed to start with a bang and not need a big late-season push to make the postseason?

    MVP candidate Troy Tulowitzki got off to a hot start, Todd Helton is hitting as well as he has in years (albeit, not for power—at least not as much as before the humidor was installed at Coors Field) and most of the team is healthy. 

    But Ubaldo Jimenez is struggling—he hasn’t won a game yet and the Rockies have got to be very thankful they re-signed Jorge de la Rosa.  However, we can’t write off Colorado just yet.  They’re a deep, resourceful and proven team. 

    Come September, they’ll be very much in the thick of things.

    Verdict:  Contenders

Florida Marlins

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    MIAMI GARDENS, FL - MAY 21: Hanley Ramirez #2 of the Florida Marlins fields a ground ball during a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Sun Life Stadium on May 21, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The Marlins are a good young team with exciting players and potentially dominant pitchers.  Gabby Sanchez is looking good and Mike Stanton’s on his way to being a superstar. 

    Josh Johnson might be the best pitcher in the National League not named Roy Halladay, but if his shoulder inflammation is worse than they hope, it could spell trouble in Florida.  This team could go either way but for now I'll pass the buck and declare them...

    Verdict:  Contenders

Houston Astros

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    ATLANTA, GA - MAY 17:  Carlos Lee #45 of the Houston Astros against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on May 17, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Astros were swept to start the season and lost seven of their first eight games.  Their offense doesn’t scare anyone, the pitching staff has a lot of question marks and the biggest news stories surrounding the Astros are about who they’ll trade and who they’ll keep while expunging the roster of veteran players. 

    Oh yeah, and as soon as it’s approved by MLB and the other owners, the Astros will have a new owner who likely will clean house—both in the front office and in the field.  See you in a few years, Houston.

    Verdict:  Pretenders

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 14:  Manager Don Mattingly of the Los Angeles Dodgers watches play from the dugout against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium on May 14, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    With everything going on in LA, it’s a testament to Don Mattingly and the players on the Dodgers that they haven’t completely fallen off the map.  Some players are struggling—free-agent signee Juan Uribe, James Loney and some youngsters—but Matt Kemp is having a bounce-back year and showing his talent and Clayton Kershaw is showing his maturity and is truly becoming an ace.  

    Jonathan Broxton, after a miserable second half to 2010, is showing some flashes—of what, I don’t know. 

    With everything going on with the Dodgers—the ownership and MLB’s involvement—it’s difficult to imagine much success this season.  But LA has the talent to turn things around quickly.  Maybe 2012 will be better.

    Verdict:  Pretenders

Milwaukee Brewers

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    ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 13:  National League All-Star Ryan Bruan #8 of the Milwaukee Brewers dives to catch the ball during the 81st MLB All-Star Game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 13, 2010 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    The Brewers did not get off to the start they expected—especially when Zack Greinke went down with an injury before the season even started.  However, Shaun Marcum and Yovani Gallardo have been holding down the fort and pitching as well as could be expected. 

    Their offense has All-Stars up and down the lineup and will be a force to be reckoned with.  The only question is whether or not they hold onto Prince Fielder—my gut says they do, but if they get the right offer they could move him, regardless of whether they’re in contention.  (And I don’t necessarily believe moving Fielder would end their season.) 

    The Brewers have the talent and should win their division and make things difficult for the competition in October.

    Verdict:  Contenders

New York Mets

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    PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - FEBRUARY 17:  Owner Fred Wilpon of the New York Mets addresses the media during spring training at Tradition Field on February 17, 2011 in Port St. Lucie, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    The Mets have shown flashes of being able to contend with the group they have and they just might, but it’s a long shot.  Even if they’re in contention come July 31st, it’s doubtful ownership can or will hold onto the veteran players with expiring contracts. 

    With David Wright ailing—a stress fracture in the back sounds awfully painful—and Jason Bay hitting like a backup shortstop, the team is in trouble.  Carlos Beltran is performing well, Ike Davis continues to improve and Jose Reyes is showing he just might be the best shortstop in the game.  But even when (if) Johan Santana returns to the rotation, the Mets do not have enough pitching or hitting to truly contend. 

    Perhaps the change at the top—the injection of Wall Street guru David Einhorn to ownership—will guide the Mets in the right direction.  It’s just not this season.

    Verdict:  Pretenders

Philadelphia Phillies

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 23: Carlos Ruiz #51 of the Philadelphia Phillies jumps into the backstop to catch a foul ball during the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Citizens Bank Park on May 23, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies won 10-3. (P
    Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

    The Phillies offense has been inconsistent at best, horrible at worst this year.  And the injuries just keep coming.  However, they have the best starting rotation in baseball, a core that knows what it takes to win over the course of a long season and a front office willing to get whatever piece the team needs come July. 

    With Chase Utley back—struggling to find his own offensive way—the Phillies seem to have their swagger back.  With Ryan Madson stepping into the closer's role with efficiency and their starting rotation in tact, the Phillies will hit enough to reach October without a problem.

    Verdict:  Contenders

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    CHICAGO, IL - MAY 27: (L-R) Jose Tabata #31, Andrew McCutchen #22, Ronny Cedeno #5, Xavier Paul #38 and Neil Walker #18 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrate a win over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on May 27, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Pirates defe
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The Pirates are currently in year 19 of their everlasting rebuilding of the franchise since losing Game 7 of the NLCS to the Atlanta Braves and then watching Barry Bonds and Doug Drabek exit the Steel City for greener pastures in 1992.  Ownership has changed hands a few times, the front office has been shaken up and hundreds of players have come and gone at PNC Park (and previously at Three Rivers Stadium). 

    However, are we finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel?  Pittsburgh has spent a lot and drafted well the last few years.  Pedro Alvarez should be the real deal and Andrew McCutchen is the most exciting player they’ve had since Bonds.  The question is: Will they be able to keep him until other pieces arrive from the lower levels? 

    Hovering around .500 later than any season in recent memory, the Pirates are improving—but have a long way to go before they’re contenders.

    Verdict:  Pretenders

San Diego Padres

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 30:  Nick Hundley and Heath Bell #21 of the San Diego Padres celebrate a 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers after the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium on April 30, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    The biggest noise the Padres have made since just missing the playoffs last year was dealing away their best player in Adrian Gonzales to the Boston Red Sox.  It was basically ownership throwing in the towel on the 2011 season despite what they almost accomplished last year.  It was the wrong move for this season but the right one for the future of the franchise. 

    The players San Diego received will do more for the club in the long term than Gonzales would have for one season.  Heath Bell will be moved next, and probably followed by other veterans as well as the trade deadline nears.  The Padres will more than likely lose 100-plus games this year but they’re looking to the future anyhow.

    Verdict:  Pretenders

San Francisco Giants

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    SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 22:  Coco Crisp #4 of the Oakland A's scores a go-ahead run from second base ahead of the throw to catcher Buster Posey #28 of the San Francisco Giants on a single by Daric Barton in the seventh inning at AT&T Park on May 22, 2011
    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Losing Buster Posey—most likely for the season, and perhaps forever as their catcher—is a huge blow.  His offense has been down slightly this year but they’re a different team when he plays.  They were a much better team in 2010 after he was brought up and look where it got him. 

    The Giants need another bat, and maybe two, to get where they were last year.  Madison Bumgarner hasn’t struggled as much as his 1-6 record will indicate and with a staff led by Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez—none of whom seem to have residual effects from their extra-long 2010 campaign—they should be fine and easily win the NL West.

    Verdict:  Contenders

St. Louis Cardinals

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    ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 21: Matt Holliday #7 of the St. Louis Cardinals rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run against the Washington Nationals at Busch Stadium on April 21, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    The Cardinals are in first place and it doesn’t make any sense.  It seems Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman should have the other's statistics, and one of the Kyle’s—either Lohse or McClellan—has morphed into Chris Carpenter, who has struggled. 

    With Adam Wainwright gone for the year, their closing situation questionable at best and players you wouldn’t think would struggle fighting for every ounce of production, it seems impossible the Cardinals keep it up—especially with the dynamic teams behind them in the division.

    Verdict:  Pretenders

Washington Nationals

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    WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 28:  Ryan Zimmerman #11 of the Washington Nationals watches the game against the New York Mets at Nationals Park on April 28, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    The Nationals have made a lot of splashes in recent years—Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth—but they haven’t produced much winning on the field, nor should it be expected just yet.  They’ve had some injuries to players—most notably Ryan Zimmerman, who never seems to make it through the season—and watched others struggle. 

    Neither their pitching staff nor offense is deep enough to contend in a competitive NL East—and that’s with or without Strasburg pitching.  In a few years, the team in the nation’s capital will be much more exciting, but for 2011 it’s a battle for the basement with the Mets.

    Verdict:  Pretenders

Baltimore Orioles

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    BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 12: Manager Buck Showalter #26 of the Baltimore Orioles in the dugout against the Seattle Mariners at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 12, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    The Orioles tried rebuilding into a formidable offense over the winter and Buck Showalter has gotten them to believe they can win.  They have some dynamic players in Baltimore, but even pitching and hitting to their best capabilities, the Orioles just do not have enough firepower to match the rest of the division.

    Verdict:  Pretenders

Boston Red Sox

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    NEW YORK, NY - MAY 14:  Josh Beckett #19 of the Boston Red Sox delivers a pitch against the New York Yankees on May 14, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The Red Sox got off to a dreadful start and were written off by a lot of people.  But they’ve shown the talent they acquired is good enough to crawl off the mat.  Carl Crawford has struggled massively but is starting to show signs of breaking out, and other newcomer Adrian Gonzales has been playing like an MVP. 

    There are still question marks at catcher, in the rotation and in the bullpen, but with Josh Beckett and Jon Lester pitching lights-out, now that the Red Sox have finally wrestled away the division lead, it’s unlikely they’ll surrender it again.

    Verdict:  Contenders

Chicago White Sox

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    CHICAGO, IL - MAY 22:  Manager Ozzie Guillen #13 of the Chicago White Sox (L) talks with pitcher Edwin Jackson #33 as (L-R) A.J. Pierzynski #12, Adam Dunn #32, Gordon Beckham #15 and Alexei Ramirez #10 listen during a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    What is going on in the South Side?  GM Kenny Williams and owner Jerry Reinsdorf declared this season was “all-in” and anything but a championship would be a failure.  Now, simply reaching .500 might be an accomplishment. 

    The veteran talent they brought in—i.e., Adam Dunn—has failed miserably.  Their offense and pitching staff have been atrocious and Williams might be forced to start cleaning house before they have the chance to turn it around.

    Verdict:  Pretenders

Cleveland Indians

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    CHICAGO, IL - MAY 19: Starting pitcher Fausto Carmona #55 of the Cleveland Indians gets his neck chain caught in his mouth as the throws against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on May 19, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/G
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Anyone see this coming?  The lowly Cleveland Indians leading their division and with one of the best records in MLB?  I still don’t see how they're doing it, as no one on their roster immediately jumps out at me as  wow-type player, at least not yet in their careers. 

    It just seems like the Indians are having a lot of fun playing together and winning, and sometimes that can be more important than the dominating offense or pitching.  Typically, I’d argue that a team like the Indians could not keep this up all year and will fall back to the pack.  But with the rest of the division struggling and the overall makeup of the club, I’d say they have a real chance to make this surge stick and will be playing meaningful games in September.

    Verdict:  Contenders

Detroit Tigers

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 11: Manager Jim Leyland #10 of the Detroit Tigers gets between umpire Vic Carapazza #85 and Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Detroit Tigers after Cabrera was ejected by Carapazza during in the sixth inning of their game against the Minnesot
    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Will Jim Leyland’s managerial career end after the 2011 season?  Will Dave Dombrowski’s tenure in Detroit end as well?  Perhaps yes to both, but they’d each like to end with a bang. 

    Detroit has the talent to take the division.  Miguel Cabrera is one of the game’s best offensive forces and Justin Verlander is as dominant a right-hander as the AL has.  Their pitching staff is not too deep behind him, however, and the bullpen is questionable.  They need to add another piece or two to the puzzle but they should be able to get whatever they need.

    Verdict:  Contenders

Kansas City Royals

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    BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 26: Jeff Francoeur #21 of the Kansas City Royals is congratulated teammate Chris Getz #17 after scoring against the Baltimore Orioles during the second inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 26, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Pho
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    The Royals have surprised a number of people so far this year.  Their young talent is slowly starting to trickle in and in a couple of years, they’ll be a very good team.  The window might be short—just like Tampa Bay’s was with their young talent—but it’s there for the taking. 

    Kansas City would be wise to hold onto their young players rather than grasp at straws and try to contend in 2011.

    Verdict:  Pretenders

Los Angeles Angels

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    ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 09:  Vernon Wells #10 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim is helped off the field by manager Mike Scioscia after Wells strained his groin while at bat against the Chicago White Sox in the fourth inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    The Angels do not look like the team we’ve all come to know over the previous few years.  Their offensive numbers aren’t what was expected, they’re missing Kendry Morales and the deal for Vernon Wells looks like a huge mistake. 

    The Halos struck out in the offseason on several players and have a number of holes to fill.  The starting pitching is good enough to contend but they could use some help in the lineup and back end of the bullpen.  Arte Moreno’s an aggressive, driven owner and wants to compete.  Come September, they’ll be around.

    Verdict:  Contenders

Minnesota Twins

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 29: Justin Morneau #33 (L), Jason Kubel #16, Drew Butera #41, pitching coach Rick Anderson #40 and Jim Thome #25 of the Minnesota Twins during the ninth inning of their game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on May 29, 2011 a
    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    What the heck is going on at Target Field?  The Twins have the highest payroll in their history, been contenders nearly every year for the last decade and have stars up and down the lineup. 

    The problem?  Franchise player Joe Mauer is on the DL, Delmon Young and Justin Morneau are not playing up to their capabilities and the pitching staff—especially the bullpen, which was gutted in free agency—has been atrocious. 

    The Twins have great management and scouting in place.  They’ve shown they can compete with restricted budgets in the past, and maybe the bloated payroll is giving someone hives.  Either way, the Twins are struggling and someone’s going to pay.  It’s probably just a one-year hiatus in any event.

    Verdict:  Pretenders

New York Yankees

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    NEW YORK, NY - MAY 13:  Bartolo Colon #40 of the New York Yankees in action against the Boston Red Sox during their game on May 13, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    While the Red Sox and Rays got off to horrendous starts, the Yankees played well early on and led the division most of the way.  They’ve since fallen behind Boston in the standings—and probably will fall farther. 

    Their offense is holding the fort and the pitching staff is doing just enough but there are cracks in the armor.  The Jorge Posada saga is painful to watch and Derek Jeter just isn’t playing like Derek Jeter anymore.  (It’s been a year and a half—it’s not fluke.) 

    If Bartolo Colon is their No. 3 starter, they’re in trouble, regardless of how well he’s pitched at times.  They would love to get their hands on Felix Hernandez—who wouldn’t?—but without breaking the bank in prospects (at least FOUR), Seattle has no reason to give him to the Yankees.  Rarely is this heard of on Memorial Day but...

    Verdict:  Pretenders

Oakland Athletics

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    OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 08:  Gio Gonzalez #47 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Seattle Mariners during a Major League Baseball game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 8, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Ge
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    The AL West is probably the only division in baseball where a legitimate case can be made for any team winning the division, even the Seattle Mariners.  Oakland can use another hitter or two and a more reliable ninth-inning guy, but their rotation is one of the best in baseball. 

    And while Billy Beane gets way too much credit in my opinion, he often seems to pull a rabbit out of his hat when needed.

    Verdict:  Contenders

Seattle Mariners

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 23: Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Seattle Mariners bats as catcher Drew Butera #41 of the Minnesota Twins defends home plate during their game on May 23, 2011 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Rockies won 6-5. (Photo by Hanna
    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    The Mariners may have baseball’s best one-two punch in the rotation in Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda, but following them are question marks and the offense isn’t good enough.  Justin Smoak is the real deal and will be a tremendous player for the Mariners but behind him and Ichiro, there isn’t much there to contend with. 

    Even playing around .500 ball right now and being in the thick of things, the Mariners aren’t ready yet.

    Verdict:  Pretenders

Texas Rangers

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    OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 30:  Adrian Beltre #29 and Mike Napoli #25 of the Texas Rangers are congratulated by teammates after they scored on a double by Yorvit Torrealba #8 of the Texas Rangers in the eighth inning of their game against the Oakland Athletics a
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The Rangers may have lost Cliff Lee and had their issues with Michael Young, but this is a talented, deep team that will contend for the division title this year.  There are questions surrounding Neftali Feliz as the closer—the Rangers reportedly have been shopping for a replacement—and they could use another starter. 

    However, the offense can be dynamic and ownership has shown a willingness to be aggressive in the past.  

    Verdict:  Contenders

Toronto Blue Jays

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    TORONTO, ON - APRIL 19:  Jose Bautista #19 (L) of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates with his teammates after his first inning home run during their game against the New York Yankees at Rogers Centre on April 19, 2011 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Scott Ha
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Where on Earth did Jose Bautista come from?  He’s showing his 50-plus home run season of a year ago was no fluke and has become baseball’s best power hitter. 

    Adam Lind is having a decent season and it seems anybody they put behind the plate at SkyDome (I know it’s the Rogers Center these days but I like SkyDome better) becomes a run producer.  Rickey Romero and Kyle Drabek are good young starters but neither is an ace—yet. 

    Like most teams, they could use another starter and the bullpen needs help.  The Blue Jays could be contenders, but they play in the wrong division.

    Verdict:  Pretenders