I hope you are enjoying the worst day on the sports calendar; the day right after the MLB All-Star Game. No games on, football games are weeks away from starting, and NBA free agency is lagging (even though this year, the NBA offseason has been fantastic!) So to entertain you on this dreadful day, and catch you up on what you may have missed watching the NBA, here is the good, bad, and ugly of baseball’s first half.
The Good – Let’s talk about some surprise teams. The Pirates, led by easily the 1st half NL MVP Andrew McCutchen, has seemingly put it together with great pitching from James McDonald and former castaway A.J. Burnett. Even better than the Pirates, the Nationals are the best team in the NL with 3 starting pitchers who could start for most teams, along with spark plug Bryce Harper. In the AL, it’s the usual suspects at the top with the Yankees and Rangers. But the Orioles have turned their fortunes around behind Adam Jones hot bat, and Cleveland is in first, if only because the AL Central is suspect.
The Bad – Well good thing we have surprise team to excite us, because these other teams have been god awful. The Red Sox and Tigers have struggled staying at the .500 level, but it’s the Phillies and Marlins that have really been woeful. It’s really hard to believe, since their offense is statistically better than last year with a healthy Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. All these teams have proven that baseball is not just stockpiling the best arms and bats to overpower everyone. The Tigers have no pitching outside Verlander and bad defense; the Marlins are more streaky than Will Ferrell in Old School; the Phillies have no bullpen, no depth and are too old; and the Red Sox just hate each and everyone hates the manager. Can’t win that way, can’t do it.
The Ugly – This is actually a beautiful thing for a Nationals fan like myself, but the National League is easily the NFC West of the two leagues. There is no way that the Nats should be the favorites in the league, but top to bottom, there really isn’t a team that you could see upending them. The Dodgers don’t have the offense or pitching depth. The Nats just swept the Giants and their ace Tim Lincecum is struggling this year. The Cardinals don’t have their ace Chris Carpenter either. The Reds could come close but their starting pitching isn’t intimidating. You can’t count on the Braves, especially after last year, and the Mets have been overachieving all year. Could we see a Nats-Pirates NLCS? The baseball gods wouldn’t allow that right?
As for the AL, I would love to see Yankees-Rangers again but the Angels, not led by grisled veteran Albert Pujols, but by the young gun, Mike Trout, could overtake the Rangers. As for the Yankees, they clearly are the class of the MLB, and that’s with them cutting payroll. So for the ALCS, I have Angels-Yankees. It should be an interesting next two months for baseball as these races heat up. If you don’t care about that, at least it will entertain you until football returns.