Cubs, Giants top the bigs while Texas is big dog in AL
The first half of the 2016 Major League Baseball season is now officially behind us — and if you root for the Braves, Reds, Diamondbacks, Rays, Twins, or Angels, you can now look forward to 2017.
Arizona, Tampa Bay and Minnesota (based on preseason projections) have to be considered disappointments. Many had the Diamondbacks and Twins competing for divisional titles, and none are even close. Los Angeles was also picked to be a factor in the American League West. But all the Angels appear to be in the midst of is an identity crisis. Their pitching has been suspect at best, and their hitting has been inconsistent. You have to wonder if Mike Scioscia will return in 2017. He took the Angels to new heights, but his act has grown old and tired.
Los Angeles has to decide whether to rebuild or compete, and they’re stuck in the middle, and cruising backwards.
The same can be said for Cincinnati. The Reds are definitely in rebuilding mode. But their vision remains unclear, and for that reason, it may be time to part ways with Bryan Price and his staff.
Atlanta has already canned Fredi Gonzalez and the Braves appear to be going nowhere fast. They have, however, had success against Miami, the White Sox, the Dodgers and the Cubs.
If not for playing those teams, Atlanta may not have posted double digits in the win column. At least the Braves appear to be headed in the right direction. But time will tell if they can recapture the glory they enjoyed in the 1990s and earlier this century.
In the National League, the Cubs are 58-35 and lead the Majors in wins. They are the darlings of the season thus far, but they have lost eight of their last 10 games. They have plenty of young and versatile talent, and Joe Maddon and Theo Epstein, it seems, will end the team’s curse eventually. If this comes to pass, Epstein will be a sure bet for Cooperstown, having ended the misery for Cubs and Red Sox fans.
But don’t sleep on San Francisco. It’s an even year. The Giants are in first place and 6 ½ games ahead of the again underachieving Dodgers. It’s an even year and San Francisco has won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014. That trend is likely to continue because San Fran is one of the hottest teams in the game.
The Dodgers (51-40 at the All-Star break) appear to be the Giants only competition in the West. They’re inconsistent. But Colorado, Arizona and San Diego aren’t ready to compete with anybody.
The Cubs have run away with the NL Central. The Cardinals and Pirates are their only true competition within the division. But both St Louis and Pittsburgh are hovering just above .500 and the Pirates are looking at becoming sellers at the trade deadline at the end of the month.
In the National League East, the Washington Nationals are in first place, thanks largely to the arrival of a new second baseman, Daniel Murphy (who Washington stole away from the Mets, who just didn’t think he was good enough despite his contributions in the 2015 playoffs). Murphy is a spark plug for the Nats and he’s absolutely destroyed his former team. Dusty Baker has taken over as manager, and he appears to be pushing the right buttons from the dugout.
In Miami, the Marlins are perched in third place and have their eyes on a wild card berth. They have a great young arm in Jose Fernandez and some other good youngsters. They probably lack the depth to truly compete. But Don Mattingly has done a great job as Miami’s manager, and veteran Ichiro Suzuki is 10 hits away from 3,000.
In the American League, the East is the most competitive division in the game with Baltimore, Boston, Toronto and the Yankees all at .500 or better. It may come down to pitching because all four of those teams have proven that they can get hot at the plate.
The Central is also tough and the Cleveland Indians have emerged as the surprise leaders. Cleveland has quietly gone 52-36 and hold a sizeable 6 ½ game lead over the Tigers. Defending World Champion Kansas City and Chicago are tied for third, with identical 45-43 records. The Royals have been plagued by injuries, but could make a second-half run and get back to the playoffs.
In the West, Texas has the top record in the league at 54-36. But like the Cubs, the Rangers were cold heading to the break. Texas is 3-7 in its last 10 games. The Rangers dominated the division early but the Astros have heated up after a slow start. And Houston may make things tough for its in-state rivals. Seattle is in third and has 45 wins.
But the Mariners are mired in mediocrity thanks largely to suspect pitching, and Felix Hernandez, their ace, is on the disabled list.