Did you think the teams that are first in their division would actually be the ones there by the All-Star break? Taking a look at who is on top half way through the season, I am actually not that surprised with most of them.
The Red Sox and the Tigers lead their respective divisions. Both of these teams have proven to be strong contenders and they continually show their worth. They will need to stay focused and energized, because both are capable of getting rattled. They may find themselves having to climb uphill to get out of a mess if they obscure team unity, and lose sight of the ultimate goal.
The Yankees have been disappointing so far this summer, but they still have plenty of time to make up for it. The talent is there. They just have been hit with so many injuries that they are trying to get by with a skeleton crew wondering who is going to go down next. The Yankees have managed to not plummet to the bottom of the AL East during all of the broken bones, twisted knees, and MRIs. So, that says something about their team and the potential they have after the All-Star Break.
I am not shocked that the Blue Jays are in dead last heading into the second half of the season. The team, suddenly packed with celebrity sluggers and household names, needs to learn how to work together before they can win the division. They certainly have not met the high expectations that come with the blockbuster trade headlines over the off-season, and now they are feeling the extra pressure. The good part is they know it, and they can start sewing the seams of the club and begin to make some progress together. They have the capability, they just need to smooth out the chemistry if they want to start inching their way closer to the play-offs. But it will not be easy.
The Royals were fierce in the beginning of the season, but has since cooled off. They can get that fire back if they just find out what killed their momentum. Perhaps, they lent it to Cleveland. There has been some contagious energy going around among the Indians. The confidence and attitude of the team as a whole, is making them intimidating. They seem to be doing something right at the moment and are on the heels of the first-place Tigers. Sometimes the mid-season break can put a hiccup in a team’s performance. Maybe the players get too relaxed? Or they lose their steam? But this club seems to have an extra boost of agility that might just last the rest of the year.
In the AL West, the always powerful Rangers have found themselves in second place to the Oakland Athletics. Although, Texas is only 2 games back at the moment, the A’s seem to have an unstoppable ambition about them this year while gaining MLB and fan attention with their Home-Run Derby winner, and the way they love to walk-off games in style.
I would not have thought that the Angels would be 11 games back by the All-Star break, but I do not doubt their drive to plow down those teams that are in the way of the pennant. They have a lot of talent and should be seen as a threat in the NL West.
Defending Champions, San Francisco Giants, find themselves almost to the bottom of their division with the last-place Padres close behind. Making minor adjustments and amping the club up a bit might help them out considerably. It is just a matter of finding their groove.
Arizona has had a strong first half and leads the NL West. The amount of seemingly random changes the Diamondbacks made to their roster over the off-season, apparently was a clever plan. Collectively, the Diamondbacks have been fairly consistent and have learned how to lean on each other like a team should. They have average talent with some big potential sprinkled throughout their club, but they need to keep channeling that inner animal the entire season, or they can easily be tamed.
The Dodgers have been on a roller-coaster. The consistency is not quite there yet this season, but even while having to fight for each game, they are still in a close second at the All-Star Break. They too, had significant changes to their team, but are still ironing out the wrinkles. The Dodgers are getting healthy, pulling it together, and slowly creeping up to the lead. If they stay persistent, the Diamondbacks better have their defense ready.
Pittsburgh has been fighting to keep that division lead and fell short just before the All-Star break, taking second to the Cardinals. The Pirates have a history of coming in strong and simmering down a bit after the break. If they can forget about last years second half and remain at the top of their division, they will have a chance to finally end their play-off drought. But with the ever aggressive Cardinals, and the Reds with their boxing, er uh… baseball gloves ready, the NL Central is still up for grabs.
I honestly did not think the Braves would be this effective right away. I thought they would have had a little more chaos before they gained momentum, but they are ahead by 6 games while the Nationals and the Phillies battle for second. Atlanta’s adventure this season has had some curves, but whatever they are doing, it is working. Their recent injuries might create a weakness in the club and that will give the chance for the rest of the division to plot their attacks.
And now we enter the second half, where trades and attitude can change any team’s course.