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Every MLB Contender's Biggest Distraction Down the Stretch

Ray TannockSenior Analyst IAugust 16, 2011

Every MLB Contender's Biggest Distraction Down the Stretch

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    With the close of the regular MLB season fast approaching, each contending team is not just ramping up for that final push, but they are also dealing with some distractions—some minor and some major—that could act as an annoying interference to their overall focus.

    This is not to say that these distractions will prevent each team's hopeful appearance in the postseason, only that they could be like the proverbial thorn in each team's side.

    Let's take a look at what the contenders are contending with.

John Lackey; Boston RedSox

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    Lackey is the black sheep in an otherwise effective rotation, and it has already solidified itself as a major distraction.

    The RedSox are going to need every available arm they have at the top of their game if they are to make it to the World Series AND win it all.

    Lackey's 6.13 ERA and subpar play just won't cut it.

Alex Rodriguez; New York Yankees

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    Between the poker allegations and the ongoing saga with his knee, A-Rod goes from limelight darling to team distraction.

    Yes, injuries are unavoidable, but coupled with the investigation, it just doesn't make for a very good stew, especially when you're clinging to the division.

Keeping Those Pesky Indians at Bay

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    I don't think there is any other way to cut it. This is going to be an all out dogfight for the division.

    In my opinion, the Tigers are the better team, but these Indians refuse to go away, and if the Tigers let their guard down just ONCE, the Indians are sure to take full advantage.

    Knowing that a team is just a stone's throw away from catching you when you're chasing the postseason is a huge distraction, simply because it eventually affects everything you do.

    Detroit will have to maintain their composure.

Cleveland Indians Starting Rotation

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    Aside from Fausto Carmona, this rotation is young and full of talent, the kind of talent that can elevate a team to the postseason.

    But this rotation is also very full of inconsistent play, the type of inconsistency that can prevent a divisional crown and wild-card berth.

    The Indians have to get things under wraps now, and it SHOULD begin with veteran pitcher Fausto Carmona, if they are to keep up for the division, let alone make a push for the postseason.

Nelson Cruz; Texas Rangers

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    Nelson Cruz and injury are two words that have a lot in common but are NOT the two words Rangers fans want to be hearing right now.

    In an already tight race for the division, the Rangers learned that Cruz has tightness in his left quad and will hit the DL.

    Cruz has already dealt with an injury to his right quad earlier this season, but the main power bat on the DL, in a dead heat race for the division is a huge distraction.

Catching Up With Texas

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    The Rangers currently hold a five-game lead over the Angels, and as August continues, that lead will become a huge distraction for this Angels team if they can't close the gap.

    The Angels were a competitive team all year long being far more closer—at times—to the divisional crown than they are right now.

    If the Rangers extend the gap any further, the Angels can forget about catching them.

Cole Hamels; Philadelphia Phillies

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    Right now, there couldn't be more of a distraction than the worry of Cole Hamels health, specifically his shoulder.

    Hamels himself said it was dead-arm, but Charlie Manuel says there was some stiffness, and barring a final MRI, Hamels could even miss his next start.

    Not the kind of news you want on your mind heading into September.

The Brewers Road Woes

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    The Brewers are a better team at home than on the road, and while there home success will come in handy in the playoffs, their road woes will be a huge roadblock.

    Right now, this has got to be seeping into the minds of the players and coaches, making for one big distraction.

    Currently, the Brewers are 26-36 on the road, 45-15 at home.

Just Keep Running Forest!

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    The biggest distraction for Arizona hasn't yet happened but at any moment can quickly materialize into a monster: Fear!

    The D-Backs would be wise to just keep running with eyes forward, and don't look back until you get to the postseason.

    The race between the D-Backs and Giants is sure to heat up—after all, they are currently fending off the current champs—so rather than let the nervousness seep in and the fear of losing the divisional lead, just keep doing what your doing and disallow yourselves to become a distraction.

"More Power Captain!"

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    They have the pitching and they have the fielding, but it has been power that the Giants have lacked all season long.

    Carlos Beltran was supposed to fix that.

    But the deal hasn't gone quite as planned, and the Giants are still seemingly devoid of that one bat they  need to keep pace in the Conference.

    At this point in the season, if that's not a distraction, I don't know what is.

Consistent Play for Braves

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    The Braves must begin thinking Wild Card if they are to make it to the postseason because they aren't going to catch the Phillies.

    But before entertaining that notion, they need to get some consistent play from just about everyone on that team.

    Consistency has been a problem all year long for the Braves from the hitting, to the pitching, to the fielding, and with an already tight wild-card race, it's now or never.

Just Play Ball St. Louis

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    This has been a tail-spin of a season for the redbirds.

    Injuries, streaky players and spotty play have all helped knock St. Louis out of the first place, and if they are to make it to the playoffs, they will have to reverse everything.

    This team has been distracted by there manager, their own play, the fact that they are fighting for their playoff lives—you name it.

    At this point, all of these distractions have seemingly melted into one, and if the Cardinals don't right their ship now, they'll be out of contention by mid-September.

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