Time for the National League rundown. I really shouldn't do these in the middle of the week. By the time I get done writing it, games are done and I have to go down the list and change the records and games behind and all that crap. Next year I'm doing it at the All Star break when nobody plays. Live and learn.
New York Mets (61-47): Still think they'll be the NL rep for the World Series for two reasons. First, out of all the NL teams, they have the lineup that most closely resembles anything in the AL. They're patient, they're fast, and they can hit it out of the park at any moment. Too bad number nine in the lineup usually is hitting .150. Seriously, isn't it time to do away with the pitcher hitting? Are there still people under 50 out there opposed to the DH rule? Secondly, one Mr. Pedro Martinez will be joining the rotation soon and if he's healthy and effective it will be like picking up someone else's number 2 or 3 pitcher in a trade.
Philadelphia Phillies (57-51): Back in April I predicted they would fire Manuel, then go on a second half tear, ala the Oakland A's. I was dead on except for the firing of Manuel and the fact that they would wait for the second half. Right, so I'm 0 for 2, sue me. Anyway, the offense and the surprise resurrection of Jon Leiber (now hurt) has kept them in the race, but injuries are starting to pile up. Hamels is a stud, but they'll need solid starts from Moyer (yeah, he's still pitching), Eaton and Freddie Garcia the rest of the way if they're going to stay close. That cry of terror you heard came from all the Philly fans that just read that previous sentence.
Atlanta Braves (57-52): They went through one of their worst stretches of play last month and still managed to stay within 4.5 games of the Mets. Just picked up Teixeira, who proceeds to launch a home run his first game in Atlanta and Dotel from KC to solidify things. Chipper, Andruw and Kelly are picking up the pace. Andruw is even hitting over .210 now. Good for him. With Smoltz, Hudson and James (that would be Chuck James and no, I never heard of him either) in the rotation, they will give the Mets a run for their money.
Florida Marlins (50-59): Injuries put this team in a hole before the season even began. Now there are reports that Sanchez (of the no hitter fame) has filed a grievance against the team for how much he's being paid while on the DL. Dontrelle Willis seems to have fallen apart the second half and their best starter looks to be Byung-Hyun Kim. No shit! Offensively, they're right where they should be with Ramirez and Cabrera, but I keep hearing negative things about Cabrera's work ethic and diet. Things like 'Holy crap, he's huge!' and 'Time to shut down the buffet'. A step back this year, but still have loads of young talent and if Sanchez can bounce back next year, they should be in the hunt.
Washington Nationals (48-60): Considering this was going to be a wasted year while they waited for the new ballpark to be built, they aren't nearly as bad as they should be. If I had a vote, I might actually vote their manager for 'Manager of the Year'. Of course, I would have to actually know who their manager was to vote for him. Seem to be doing a decent job considering the highest paid player on their payroll is Nick Johnson at $5.5 million and he's been on the DL most of the year. Dmitri Young got his shit together and Zimmerman looks to be an All Star regular. Even the pitching staff has been treading water. Cordero (who I can't believe wasn't traded) has 22 saves and the only pitcher over 100 innings so far is Matt Chico. Exactly...who? Until they start spending money, we'll be putting them in the 'Wow, they really don't suck as much as they should' category for years to come.
Chicago Cubs (57-50): Behind an explosive offense, an explosive dugout - where fist fights could break out at any moment, and an explosive manager - where brain aneurysms could break out at any moment, the Cubs have been scorching hot. They just took over first place from the fading and injured Brewers and behind Zambrano, Hill, the impostor who's playing Ted Lilly, and even (gasp) Jason Marquis, they should put some distance between themselves and the rest of the division.
Milwaukee Brewers (58-51): Ben Sheets going on the DL (again!) is hurting them right now. He is the true ace and helped prop up the rest of the rotation, which is just decent. I wouldn't even go as far as calling them good. Prince is continuing his MVP season, but the rest of the lineup is slacking a bit and some frustration was showing in the dugout last night. If Sheets comes back healthy and they get the lineup straightened out a bit, they should be in this until the end. Those are both big 'ifs', by the way.
St. Louis Cardinals (50-55): As horrendous as the first two months of the season has been for this team, they're still only six games back. I can't see them catching anyone unless Chris Carpenter gets back and is fully, unquestionably healthy. The offense appears to be getting back on track, mainly because Pujols appears to be getting back on track. I watched them a few times recently and the one thing that struck me was the lack of passion they showed. Seemed like they going through the motions. World Series hangover still?
Houston Astros (46-61): Forget the overall record and focus on this one instead: 19-36. That is their record away from...well whatever they call their field now. Besides being worst in the NL, the only other team with a worse record is Tampa Bay and they've won a whopping 16 games away from home. What's amazing is the Astros are 3 games over .500 at home. Talk about your Jekyll and Hyde team. Which one was the bad guy again? Jekyll or Hyde? I can never remember.
Pittsburgh Pirates (44-62): It says a lot that the most entertaining moment of the season for the Pirates was when 3,000 fans got up and walked out in the third inning as a protest to the lack of ownership 'moxie' in putting together a decent team. What killed me is how all the protesting fans came back the next inning. What the hell was the point of that? And what did 3,000 people do for an inning? Did they all just mingle in the concession area drinking beer and bitching about what a sucky team they have?
Cincinnati Reds (45-64): So much for the warm and fuzzies generated from last season. Despite Ken Griffey Jr coming back from the dead (can we nickname him 'Zombie'?) and my bold prediction of them being around the .500 mark for the year, they have regressed to the hapless bunch of two years ago. Arroyo, the surprise of last season, is 4-12 despite his ERA being not much higher than last year. Go figure. Surprised they didn't have a fire sale at the trading deadline as it looks like they're going nowhere and need to shed some aging and expensive weight from the roster.
Arizona Diamondbacks (60-50): I did a double take when I saw this team at the top of the division. We're all aware the Padres and Dodgers are in this same division right? Just checking. Has anyone had a quieter MVP type season than Eric Byrnes? He leads the team in average, RBIs, OPS, runs and stolen bases and is one of the best defensive outfielders in either league. Is this a contract year for him or something? Keep in mind most of this has been done without their big off season acquisition, Randy Johnson, who may be done for life. Pitching, the sole reason they are here, has been exceptional even without him. Oh, I should mention they've won 9 of their last 10 games, too.
LA Dodgers (58-50): I had them pegged as the runaway winners of this division. With Penny, Schmidt, Lowe in the same rotation they looked tough. Of course, Schmidt is done for the year, Penny has been phenomenal and Lowe has been Lowe, meaning up and down and all around. They have one of the most effective closers in the league with Saito, but pitching isn't the problem with this team. They can't score runs. And that, my friends, is a major problem. Even in the National League, if you can't score you're not going very far. Just ask....
San Diego Padres (57-50): Another team that has great pitching, no hitting and seems to be fading fast. Peavy will probably win the Cy Young unless Penny comes on strong or his own teammate, Chris Young, steals his votes. The problem here is patience. As in they have none. Their most feared hitters - Adrian Gonzalez, Mike Cameron, Khalid Greene - have struck out 275 times and only walked 98. The fact that I put Khalid Greene on their list of most feared hitters should tell you all you need to know about this lineup.
Colorado Rockies (55-52): Between Byrnes and Matt Holliday (.335, 20 HR, 84 RBI, 70 runs as of Thursday) if the MVP doesn't come out of this division I'll be shocked. Well, not shocked. I can see Fielder winning it. But, Holliday should be in the top 3, the guy has single handedly kept this team in the race. However, like most Rockie teams they kick ass at home and run into problems on the road. Plus, like most Rockie teams, the pitching needs assistance. Can't see them hanging in much longer, but they'll be playing spoilers for the rest of the division.
San Francisco Giants (47-59): Judging from the local reaction to Bonds it seems most of the Giant fans are okay with the owner ditching this season so Barry could over take the home run record. Speaking as a baseball fan, I would be boycotting the Sox if they did something like this. Imagine them giving Papi or Manny $18 million at the expense of actually putting a good team on the field so they could hit their 600th home run. You think Boston fans would take that graciously? Me neither. Whatever, it's not my team and those fans are selling a bit of their baseball soul every time they give Bonds a standing ovation. As long as they can sleep at night, more power to them.
That's it. I know I missed Wednesday, so I might throw something together for tomorrow if you behave yourselves and I'm feeling generous. That means you shouldn't hold your breath.
Today's distraction: Play one of the crappiest online baseball games ever. It takes the pitcher about 3 minutes between pitches before he throws it. Fucking staller is what he is. He's scared of my awesome virtual power at the virtual plate. I know it and he knows it.