We have now passed the MLB trade deadline and have commenced the dog days of summer. Let’s see how the 30 teams are faring since the All-Star Break and why I feel kind of sorry for the Chicago Cubs.
The New York Yankees have gone 10-2 since the All-Star Break and enter August six games ahead of both the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays and eight games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays. But the Yankees cannot rely exclusively on A-Rod and Mark Teixeira much less their bullpen to bail out their starters. The Yankees did not improve their club much during the trade deadline adding only Dustin Ackley from the Seattle Mariners who has gone from prospect to suspect.
The O’s and Jays are only a game back of the Minnesota Twins for the second AL Wild Card spot while the Rays are only three games back. Toronto made a statement with their acquisitions of Troy Tulowitzki and David Price as well as Mark Lowe and Ben Revere. The Orioles also made improvements to their outfield with Gerardo Parra and Junior Lake. However, the Rays dealt Jepsen to the Twins, the very team they would want to knock out of the Wild Card. Are the Rays giving up on the 2015 season?
The Boston Red Sox are 4-11 since the All-Star Break and are likely to have their third last place finish in four years. The 2013 World Series triumph seems like so long ago now that Shane Victorino has been traded to the Angels.
At 61-41, the Kansas City Royals own the best record in the AL with only their cross-state rival St. Louis Cardinals having a better record. There’s a lot of good baseball being played in Missouri these days. Certainly the best since these two teams matched up in the World Series 30 years ago.
Since the All-Star Break, the Royals have expanded their lead over the Minnesota Twins from 4 1/2 to 8 games. The Twins have gone 4-9 since the All-Star Break and cling to a narrow one game lead over the Orioles and Blue Jays for the second AL Wild Card spot. They only added Kevin Jepsen during the trade deadline. The Twins are not only vulnerable to the O’s and Jays, but are vulnerable to being overtaken in the division by the Chicago White Sox who have won 7 of their last 10 games and are now tied for third place in the AL Central with the Detroit Tigers. Even though the Chisox and Tigers are only 3 1/2 games back of the AL Wild Card, the Chisox are going full steam ahead while the Tigers have called it quits trading David Price, Joakim Soria and Yoenis Cespedes in rapid succession. The Cleveland Indians are having a very disappointing season and it is best exemplified by 2014 Cy Young Award winner Cory Kluber. Last year, he led the AL in wins with 18. This year, he leads the AL in losses with 11 and counting.
After struggling before the All-Star Break, the Houston Astros have rebounded and earlier this week swept the Los Angeles Angels to regain first place in the division. The addition of Scott Kazmir from the A’s last week has already paid dividends and ex-Brewer Carlos Gomez gives them a Gold Glove calibre outfielder who swings a good bat. They have a two game lead over the Angels who have lost four in a row despite the additions of Shane Victorino, David DeJesus and David Murphy within the past several days.
Although the Texas Rangers have a losing record at 50-52 and were only 10-14 in July, they are only three games back of the Twins for the second AL Wild Card spot. Their fans are excited for their coup for Cole Hamels who makes his Rangers debut tonight against the San Francisco Giants in front of the hometown fans. But that’s been the Rangers problem. They are 31-24 on the road, but only 19-28 at home. Usually teams fare better at home. Unfortunately for the Rangers, 17 of their 28 games in August are at home.
Both the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland A’s continue to play mediocre, uninspired baseball and botht teams traded away a number of their players this past week. The best they can do is play spoiler.
The Washington Nationals and New York Mets are facing off this weekend in a critical three game series. The Mets struck first last night with a 12th inning walk off home run by Wilmer Flores who had nearly been traded to the Milwaukee Brewers 48 hours earlier. This win brought the Mets within two games of the Nats. If the Mets sweep they will be tied for first place in the NL East. The acquisitions of Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson and Tyler Clippard have helped the Mets and can only get better with tonight’s Mets debut by Yoenis Cespedes.
The Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins both had awful months going 10-16 and 10-15, respectively. Indeed, it was the Braves who gave the Mets both Uribe and Johnson. The Marlins were also sellers at the deadline.
Of course, the Philadelphia Phillies were also sellers dealing away Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon as well as Jake Diekman and Ben Revere. Yet the Phillies actually have the best record in MLB since the All-Star Break at 11-2. Yes, the Phillies still have the worst record in MLB. But with nothing more to lose, they are care free and are playing their best stretch of baseball all year.
The St. Louis Cardinals actually had their worst month of the season going a modest 14-12 in July. But their 66-37 record is the best in MLB and they are 10-4 since the All-Star Break. They have a 5 1/2 game lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates who would be a first place team in any other division in baseball.
But it is the Chicago Cubs from whom I feel the sorriest. If the Cubs were in the NL East they would be in first place. But their 55-47 is only good enough for third place in the NL Central. They are 10 1/2 games back of the Cardinals. What about the NL Wild Card? They are a game back of the San Francisco Giants for the second Wild Card spot. If things remain as they are the Cubs would be the odd team out. It would only add to their century plus of misery. But baseball, like life isn’t fair.
Still, the Cubs wouldn’t trade places with either the Cincinnati Reds or the Milwaukee Brewers who are 19 and 22 1/2 games back of the Cardinals, respectively. The Reds and Brewers weren’t quite as busy at the trade deadline as expected although they did try to add Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler without success. I suspect both teams will go through an overhaul in the off-season.
The Los Angeles Dodgers still lead the division, but by only 1 1/2 games over the San Francisco Giants who are 10-3 since the All-Star Break. The Dodgers were very busy during the trade deadline adding Mat Latos and Alex Wood to the starting rotation, Luis Avilan and Jim Johnson to the bullpen and outfield help from ex-Pirate Jose Tabata (in exchange for Mike Morse). It remains to be seen if that will be sufficient to hold off the Giants who added ex-Red Mike Leake to the starting rotation.
At the All-Star Break, I said to watch out for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Well, the D’Backs have won six in a row and are only a game under .500 and 5 1/2 games back of the Giants for the second NL Wild Card spot. I say we will need to continue to keep an eye on the snakes in the outfield grass.
The San Diego Padres are 9-4 since the All-Star Break and did not trade James Shields, Justin Upton and Craig Kimbrel although not for lack of trying. They remain the biggest disappointment in the NL in 2015.
Meanwhile, the Colorado Rockies are 14 games back of the Dodgers and in search of an identity as they begin the post-Tulowitzki era in Denver.
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