Friday, July 13, 2007

Second Half Questions: MLB-Style

With the second-half of the Major League Baseball season kicking off Thursday night, each league, and its respective teams, has plenty of stories to offer. Surprisingly, Barry’s chase for the record will take a definitive backseat in this article. Instead, it’s time to ask one major question for each of the thirty teams. One that isn’t related to Hank Aaron, steroids, or Bud Selig’s incompetence.

Interestingly enough, you could almost make a case for as many as twenty-one or twenty-two teams still lingering around, at least somewhat realistically, in the playoffs chase. While the seasons already seem long lost in places like Tampa Bay, Washington, and Cincinnati (no surprises in that group either), there’s also plenty of teams that have a lot of important questions lingering into the final stretch of the season.

While it’s more than a little unrealistic to ask what it’ll take for Colorado or the Chi Sox to make a push for the Series, they still matter down the stretch.

One question per team. Let’s get it goin…

we’ll start with the AL today and the senior-circuit tomorrow

American League East
Boston Red Sox
[53-34] 10 game division lead
-Sporting the best winning percentage in all of baseball, the Sox have to wonder: how good can they be if and when David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez turn on the afterburners? With the Yanks 10 back and the pitching staff relatively intact, the Sox appear a safe bet to break the recent
New York stranglehold on AL East division championships.

Toronto Blue Jays [43-44] trail 10 for division & 8.5 for wild-card
-Mere percentage points ahead of the Yanks, the Blue Jays have been as up-and-down as any team in baseball this season. Sporting it’s fair share of veterans, and trade-bait, the Blue Jays fans have to be thinking one thing: is it possible to remain consistent, behind healthy starting pitching, and make a legit late run at a postseason birth? Despite progress in recent weeks, the likely answer is no. (Although major noise could be made with an opening series out of the break with the 1st place Red Sox.)

New York Yankees [42-43] trail for division & 8.5 for wild-card
-The biggest quandary in baseball this season, the Yankees seemed to have righted the ship before a disastrous road-trip beginning with a weekend sweep from the
Rockies. While Clemens and Wang have been stable in recent weeks, the bats have gone cold far too often. Can Joe Torre rally his team of aging veterans just in time to make a dangerous run, or is this the season the Yankees are sellers and not buyers?

Baltimore Orioles [38-49] banished from playoff contention
-Sorry O’s fans, but this year will likely get worse before it gets better. With a rather unique roster, including an overpriced/underperforming bullpen, are the Orioles looking to spend (ala Mark Texiera) or shop (perhaps Miguel Tejada) in the coming weeks?

Tampa Bay Devil Rays [34-53] banished from playoff contention
-With the worst record in baseball, this hopeless situation doesn’t seem to have an answer. While it’s cruel: isn’t contraction a serious option for this “organization”?

American League Central
Detroit Tigers
[52-34] 1 game division lead
-The weekend home sweep of
Boston really boosted this team. Combine that with the unreal play of MVP front-runner Maglio Ordonez, stud pitching, and Gary Sheffield re-born and the Tigers are clearly one of the favorites to represent the AL. But it isn’t a foregone conclusion. In fact, far from it. Can Gary Sheffield remain both healthy and the potent bat in the middle of the lineup that enhances the Detroit lineup to a near lethal factor?

Cleveland Indians [52-36] trail 1 game for division lead & lead wild-card by 1.5 games
-They’ve teased us before. However, they haven’t looked this good at the break in nearly a decade. Despite Hafner performing under his amazing expectations, Sabathia has looked as good as ever. Can the Indians remain in the race despite a scary back-end of the bullpen or is a move necessary to remain an
AL contender?

Minnesota Twins [45-43] trail 8 games for division lead & by 7 for wild-card
-This is often the time they kick it into high octane. Yet,
Cleveland and Detroit haven’t both been this strong before. While Santana is a second-half pitcher and Morneau is creeping back towards MVP numbers again, which team ahead of the Twins, if either of them is most likely to freefall while the Twin City kids rise up?

Chicago White Sox [39-47] banished from playoff contention
-Despite winning the World Series only two season ago, the team seems just too far out of contention (13 in division/12 wild-card) to believe in. While the wisely locked up Burlehe, there have been some rumors that Contreras is on the block. While the team can’t hit any worse, will the White Sox begin reloading for next season by dumping some rather large names, and salaries, in the next month?

Kansas City Royals [38-50] banished from playoff contention
-The season hasn’t been as bloody as it could’ve been…yet. There’s one question the dozens of Royals fans have been asking all season: when’s Alex Gordon going to start showing his amazing potential week after week?

American League West
Los Angeles Angels [53-35] 2.5 game division lead
-One of the more popular media picks to return to the Series, the Angels can ride that Vlad-guy and the major’s best bullpen deep into the playoff race. However,
Boston has always been their toughest out and Angels fans, much like last season, must be wondering: when are we going to trade some of our young prospects for a consistent power hitter?

Seattle Mariners [49-36] trail 2.5 games for division & 1.5 back for wild-card
-If the sub .500 Yankees are the biggest surprise of the season, the Mariners are 1b to that 1a. Even with Mike Hargrove’s sudden departure, the Mariners are 13 games over .500 and stand to benefit the most from any sort of falter from one of the two AL Central juggernauts. Yet, even Mariners fans have to be pinching themselves a little. Can they maintain the incredibly momentum, still ridiculously under the radar, and continue to shine into the bright lights of September?

Oakland Athletics [44-44] trail 9 games for division lead & 8 games back for the wild-card
-This is where they decide to just turn it on this season and snake their way into the wild-card race, right? Nope. They’re lacking any sort of major bat and it even appears as if Piazza may return to catch the ball (
Kendall has been downright pathetic at times). While the A’s have amazing pitching, it isn’t strong enough this season to overcome some of the worst power production in the AL. Not this season Bay Area fans.

Texas Rangers [38-50] banished from playoff contention
-With the
Texas heat ready to beat them down into submission, it’s not a question of if, but when they start dumping whatever they can to playoff contending teams. The real question is: what will they get back, if anything, for the likes of Texiera and their decent bullpen depth?

The NL gets it’s just-do tomorrow. However, we’re definitely ready to either hear some answers to these questions or to be posed a few of your own.

Whether your team is in or out as of yet; there’s still plenty of drama left in the American League over the next couple of months. That’s a guarantee.

Until next time…

1 comment:

Paymon said...

I'm not quite ready to completely write off the White Sox.

And can someone extend the KC manager's contract? 38 wins in early July?!?! I will wait patiently for their double-digit losing streak(s).