Two months left of the regular season. That means it's time for a rundown on how each team is faring this season before the Elite Eight carry on in the post season. Am I allowed to use Elite Eight or has that been copyrighted by the NCAA? I'll focus on the American League today.
Boston Red Sox - 65-42: The team to beat in the east, despite their tendency to drift and lose focus for games at a time. One of the best - if not the best - rotation in all of baseball. They've weathered injuries to Schilling and Timlin by plugging in youngsters like Lester, Gabbard and Delcarmen. Okajima has been THE discovery of the year, Gagne gives them a sixth or seventh inning plug in and Papelbon is still Papelbon, regardless of what happened last Saturday in Tampa Bay. Still, there is something about this team that nags at me. Could it be their lack of 'killer instinct'? They tend to let lesser teams hang around games instead of burying them when they have the chance. Same could be said for the AL East. They could have had this division wrapped up by now and instead played .500 ball for a solid two months. Let's hope that doesn't come back to haunt them. Random question: I was wondering who would fill in for Gabbard until Schilling gets back (last night was Tavarez, aka, Mr. Do Everything) and briefly thought of Papelbon. Now that they have Gagne, will they move Paps to the rotation? Just a thought.
New York Yankees (58-49): The one thing you could always count on from the Yankees is their attempting to fill in any weaknesses via trades. I think everyone can agree that their biggest weakness this year has been their bullpen. What do they do? They trade one of their bullpen workhorses for a utility infielder. Say what? Does this make as little sense to everyone else as it does to me? Regardless, they are still an offensive jauggernaut, although they seem to have difficulty with above average starters. They put up huge numbers against weak pitching teams, then lose 4 out of 5 when they face tougher teams. Just seems like the mystique is dimming a bit. They will still make a run, but I can't see them getting far with the pitching being the way it is.
Toronto Blue Jays (53-54): I have to give this team credit. After all the early season injuries nobody would have blamed them for calling in for the year and spend this season seeing how some of the young guns looked. And to an extent they have, but they are hanging in with a tough crowd. They're only 12 games behind the Sox and 7 games behind for the wild card, have one of the best bullpens in the majors and if they can get one more starter (either from within or waiver trade) a winning streak isn't out of the question. Imagine them winning 8-10 games in a row and suddenly they're right back in it. It could happen.
Baltimore Orioles (50-56): I had this club written off a month ago. They were plummeting in the division, looked horrible on the field and were sniping at each other through the newspapers. Then out goes one manager, in comes another and they start really playing ball. Still have some impressive youngsters in the rotation that, if they ever do put everything together, will be a force. They need some major improvements over the winter if they expect to compete next year.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays (41-66): Offensively this team is just where they need to be. They have speed, average, and power. I don't enjoy when the Sox face this team anymore. That said, the starting pitching is bad with the bullpen even historically atrocious. Just take a look at the 12th inning of last Saturday's game as an example. They still suck, but not nearly as bad as they used to. Small praise indeed.
Detroit Tigers (61-46): When they swept the Sox in their last series before the All Star break, everyone started referring to them as the best team in the AL. This despite they only beat the Sox by one run in one game and had to go extras in another. Don't get me wrong, this team is formidable, but they don't scare me. They just seem beatable every night and don't seem to have much personality. If it weren't for Leyland managing, I might write them off altogether.
Cleveland Indians (60-47): Now this is a team that still scares me. They're slumping right now, but you just know that Hafner and the rest of the crew are going to get it together at some point. The only issue I see with this team is the bullpen. I thought for sure they would trade for someone...anyone...to help out with that cause. I heard they were in the hunt for Gagne, but we all saw what happened there. Looks like the Sox screwed over more than the Yankees getting him. Nice work, Theo!
Minnesota Twins (55-52): Seem to be less than a sum of their parts. Defensively one of the best in the league. Offensively they're dangerous. Pitching....yeah....well, they have Santana and let's be honest, if this team makes the playoffs would you want to face him twice in a five game series? Was very surprised they didn't trade Hunter for some pitching help. They've just won 4 games in a row and could be heading towards a second half run.
Chicago White Sox (48-59): Besides the Cardinals, the biggest mystery in the majors. What the hell is going on here? Offensively they've shit the bed all at once. Average and power both down and, except for Burhle, the pitching staff hasn't fared much better. Who saw them as trade sellers at the beginning of this year?
Kansas City Royals (48-59): One of the surprises of the season is how...uh...not terrible the Royals have been. Tied with the White Sox and only 12.5 games behind the Tigers. 12.5!!!????? No really. Go look at the standings. Before the All Star break they took 2 out of 3 from the Red Sox at Fenway, then took 2 out of 3 from the Tigers immediately following the All Star break. No longer a punch line, which is disappointing for lazy writers like myself.
LA Angels (62-44): They've been the hottest team in the league for the last two months and now Bartolo Colon is getting ready to come back from the DL. Lackey is still a work horse, Guerrero is still scary at the plate and they have a great combination of veterans and young 'uns. Plus Gary Matthews Jr seems to have started taking HGH again, which is paying dividends on the field. Good for him. Unfortunately for the Angels, the second hottest team in the league has been....
Seattle Mariners (59-47): Between Sexton deciding to hit again this year, Ichiro being Ichiro (only $90 million richer) and Beltre showing signs of life, this lineup is kick ass. No major trades at the deadline for pitching help means they won't hang in the race for too much longer. They really needed another starter to go along with King Felix. Sorry, but Weaver, Washburn and Batista aren't going to cut it. Unless they pull a starter out of either their asses or their farm system, they'll be fading down the stretch.
Oakland A's (51-57): Without a healthy Harden I can't see them making their annual second half run. They've usually started it by now anyway and they only have two months (well, less than that now) to make up twelve and a half games. With both Seattle and LA ahead of them, I can't see it happening.
Texas Rangers (48-59): I actually liked the trades they made. They get Gabbard, Murphy and the third guy named Elvis I've ever heard of for a relief pitcher past his prime and known for injuries. They trade Teixeira, who wasn't happy and didn't want to be there anyway for Saltamsakdfhdoeknofhidonfaia, who killed the Red Sox when he came to Fenway. They even got Kenny Lofton out of Arlington. The only person in Texas not pleased is Sammy Sosa, who was told his playing time will be reduced, so the young ones can play more. Get ready to see some David Murphy highlights if they let him loose.
Think of me when he hits a game winning home run against Seattle later in the year.
Think of me, also, screaming into my morning bowl of cereal when news breaks of yet another Gagne injury that will shelve him for the next two years.
I'm hoping that by putting it in writing, it won't actually happen.
Today's distraction: Play some solo ping pong. No, that isn't a euphamism for masturbating. Get your minds out of the gutter, will ya?