Musings from first half of a thrilling baseball season
Back at the tail-end of March, I predicted that the Chicago Cubs and the Houston Astros would meet in the World Series, with the Cubbies winning a second-straight world championship after going 108 years without one.
Now, fast-forward to today, and, well … I seem to have nailed the Astros prediction, but the Cubs are stuck in the worst World Series hangover in baseball history.
Thursday’s trade for starting pitcher Jose Quintana should help jump-start the North Siders, but how much is anyone’s guess.
While the Cubs’ struggles seem to be the top story in baseball, it’s hard to miss the great baseball that the Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers are playing right now, as the two teams are running roughshod all over the league.
Combined, the two teams have 121 wins, which has to be among the highest between the two best teams in the league at the All-Star break in league history. As of now, it appears that the Dodgers and the Astros are ticketed for a World Series showdown this fall, and what a series that would be with all the star power that would be involved, from Clayton Kershaw, Corey Seager, Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger, to Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer and Lance McCullers. Sign me up for that series.
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Outside of the Astros and Dodgers, there’s plenty of interesting story lines that have caught my attention in baseball, starting with the emergence of Aaron Judge for the New York Yankees.
Did you get a chance to catch his performance in the Home Run Derby Monday night? Talk about power.
Prior to breaking into the big leagues, I figured Judge would be a serious power threat in the mold of former Cincinnati Reds slugger Adam Dunn — a big power bat that strikes out a ton and doesn’t hit for average. Boy was I wrong. Judge is a superstar in today’s game and has almost single-handedly made the Yankees a championship contender once again. He’s a refreshing star who is humble despite his impressive success, and he seems to be a perfect fit for the Big Apple like Derek Jeter once was.
Along with Judge, you have the scrappy Jose Ramirez putting up MVP-caliber numbers for the Cleveland Indians this year. He’s added some serious power to his game as well, and even put on a show in his first All-Star Game Tuesday night, going 2-for-2 as the third base starter in the American League while also stealing a base. If you haven’t had a chance to yet, I advise getting some eyes on Ramirez and the Indians. They’re a fun group to watch, minus the big-name stars.
In the National League, the resurgence of Andrew McCutchen has filled my summer with joy, considering he plays for my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates. Sure, the team isn’t very good, but seeing McCutchen return to his glory state from his 2013 NL MVP campaign has been a ton of fun to watch on a nightly basis. Although I do know that his time as a Pirate is coming to an end, it’s still something that I’m going to remember fondly, considering he proved a lot of doubters wrong this season.
That brings me to the Colorado Rockies, who — if not for the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks in their own division — would be running away with most other divisions in baseball. Granted, the Rox hit a rough patch at the end of June that sent them sputtering a bit, but with a loaded lineup and a deep prospect pool to deal from, the Rockies will be in search of a high-end starter at the end of July in hopes of bolstering their rotation.
For the first time since 2007, summer baseball in Colorado really, truly matters. The Rockies might not win the NL West because of the Dodgers and their historic pace, but topping the Diamondbacks for the top Wild Card spot and a chance to host a Wild Card game at Coors Field this year with that lineup? Who knows what could happen for the Rockies if they can get through the Wild Card.
The one place I keep coming back to in baseball though is the AL Central. As of today, the Indians lead the division by 2.5 games, with the Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals hot on their heels.
But that’s not why I keep coming back to that division.
I keep wondering what’s going to happen to the Detroit Tigers. Will they trade longtime ace Justin Verlander? What about slugging outfielder J.D. Martinez? Is this the last of the Tigers being an upper-tier team as we know it? Possibly, considering that Miguel Cabrera isn’t getting any younger and the starting rotation outside of Verlander and Michael Fulmer is very bland.
And finally, that leads me to the AL East, which has all five teams within eight games of the division lead, which currently belongs to the Boston Red Sox.
Thankfully, the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry has some juice to it again, without the on-field violence. Judge and Co. battling it out with Sale and Co. is going to be a fun race to the end of the season, not to mention the young Tampa Bay Rays making a serious case for a Wild Card spot.
It’s going to be an exciting second half in baseball, not just for the play on the field, but also for what could happen in trades. I can’t wait.
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