Eighty-eighty games played and seventy-four more to go. The Major League Baseball Season is at the All-Star break. What have we learned? Let's start with the American League.
Four of the fourteen teams are already done. They are so far behind the leaders that contending for a pennant win is a dream deferred until next year. I call them the Dead Ducks.
Cleveland, Kansas City, Seattle and Baltimore are these dead ducks. They will spend the rest of the season looking at new players, trading good ones to teams in the race and firing and hiring people. Cleveland and Kansas City are in a division, AL Central, that looks like it could be close fight but these two will not be involved. Baltimore continues its downward plunge from a once proud franchise to a perennial also ran. They were able to win only 29 games and are currently a peek, 27 games, behind the leaders in their division. They were predicted to be lousy but have exceeded all expectations.
But the biggest bust of the year has been the Seattle Mariners who were actually picked by many to win the AL West because they had won 85 games last year. With the addition of ace lefty, Cliff Lee, to go along with Felix Hernandez, the signing of ex-Angel star Chone Figgins, a good bullpen from last year and potentially a top defense, the Mariners looked to be contenders. But they went with two young catchers who are leading the league in passed balls and the pitching staff has thrown a league leading bunch of wild pitches. The defense has not lived up to expectations and the bullpen has been an out and out disaster. Their record is 10-28 with thirteen blown saves. The offense has been a miserable flameout.
Ichiro has been the only consistent hitter. Everyone else on the entire team is 35-50 points below their average. Nobody can hit. It was recently announced that Stevie Wonder had been hired as the hitting coach for the second half. Can't hurt. The bullpen cannot get anyone out, have 13 blown saves and for some reason they keep starting Ryan Rowland-Smith with his stellar 1-9 record with a stingy 5.89 ERA. He has only allowed 17 HR's in 84 innings. Watching this team is like watching someone self-mutilate themselves with a dull knife. You may have guessed that this is or was my favorite team. This franchise is famous for developing players who go on to be stars on other teams. The Cub fans have nothing on us. The Mariners play ball like old people make love.
Next are the two teams that I call Barely Above Water. They are not totally out of it but would need a hot streak to contend. Toronto is 44-45 and Oakland 43-46 at the break and would need to play at a .650 winning percentage in the second half to have any chance. The odds are against these two.
The High Flyers are the eight teams near the top of their divisions. In the weak AL West, it would appear the Mariners gifted the pennant to Texas by giving up Cliff Lee last week but the L.A. Angels have been hot recently and are only 4.5 games back at the break. In the Central, Chicago after a miserable start got hot, stayed hot, finished the last ten 9-1 and took over the lead of the division by a half game at the break after being behind by 9 games in early June. Detroit and Minnesota are playing good ball. It should be a fight to the finish between these three.
The real High Flyers are all in the AL East where the Yankees are leading the surprising Tampa Bay squad who finished 8-2 the last ten games to remain only two back. Boston has somehow stayed in the race despite a rash of injuries to key players. One of these three will be heading home without making the playoffs. The wildcard winner will probably come out of this division. Here are the standings at the break.
New York 56 32 .636 -
Tampa Bay 54 34 .614 2.0
Boston 51 37 .580 5.0
Toronto 44 45 .494 12.5
Baltimore 29 59 .330 27.0
Chicago 49 38 .563 -
Detroit 48 38 .558 .5
Minnesota 46 42 .523 3.5
Kansas City 39 49 .443 10.5
Cleveland 34 54 .386 15.5
Texas 50 38 .568 -
Los Angeles 47 44 .516 4.5
Oakland 43 46 .483 7.5
Seattle 35 53 .398 15.0