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Thursday, July 14, 2005

[Sports] MLB post All-Star season update

The All-star game has just been played and for the eighth time in a row now the American League (AL) stars have come up trumps. While this means bragging rights as the best league for another year it also means the AL secure the all important home field advantage for the World Series.

The season is rattling along now as we have crossed the hump and are now heading to the final stretch and the play-offs. Here are my mid-season breakdowns for Major League Baseball.

From the top;

AL EAST: WHOOOOO baby is this gonna be a trench fight. Early in the season I confidently predicted an easy Yanks victory here. I might still be right but the standings suggest otherwise. The Orioles (47-40) bolted out of the blocks and at one point had a 7 game lead over the whole division. However, as predicted by a comrade the roll didn’t last. Baltimore has begun the slippery slope to post-season obscurity, despite having some extremely solid batting support with Brian Roberts, Sammy Sosa, Melvin Mora, and All-Star MVP Miggy Tejada. The division will once again be all about Boston (49-38) and New York (46-40). However, while over the last few years we have seen one securing the top spot and the second grabbing the wildcard I don’t think that will be the case this year. The Sox lead so far by 2 games over Baltimore with the Yanks a further 0.5 game back. While the Jays (44-44) are hanging in there, they just can’t hope to match it with the big two. As for Tampa (28-61) hurricane season is just beginning to hit so it just keeps getting worse for them. The Yanks have settled and are putting together some winning streaks. The Big Unit Randy Johnson is into his stride and the form of Hideki Matsui, Gary Sheffield, A-Rod and Derek Jeter has been irrepressible. Yanks/Sox begin a 4 game series tomorrow (NZT) at Fenway. To really put my borls on the line, I’ll say the winner of this series will take the ALE Title. I just noticed that the Yanks have a tough series following with the Rangers, while the sissy Sox have a holiday in Tampa Bay. Predicted finish: Yanks, Sox, Orioles, Jays, Rays.

AL CENTRAL: I still stand by my call that the White Sox (57-29) stellar season won’t last. Despite leading the majors with 57 wins at the all-star break for the first time since ages ago, I just can’t see them edging a steadily improving Twins (48-38) unit. Plus they lost their last three coming into the summer break. The Sox did supply the starting pitcher for the AL All-star team in Mark Bheurle (12-2) and John Garland (10-2) played as well, but the AL bats are heating up and the Sox pitchers will run out of run support. And besides, I like the Twins. Cleveland (47-41) is only two games back of the Twins and still has plenty in reserve. The battle between the Tribe and the Sox for the Wildcard will be one for the ages. Detroit (42-44) keep trying in vain, and the Royals (30-57) are making up the numbers again. Predicted finish: Twins, White Sox, Indians, Tigers, Royals

AL WEST: The little old division that could. Los Angeles (52-36) is leading here. I’m a bit peeved that they changed there name from Anahiem. It seems really stupid that essentially they are called the Los Angeles Angeles. How dumb is that? Still it isn’t hurting their performance as they continue to stretch the lead over the chasing pack which essentially is made up of only Oakland (44-43) and Texas (46-40). Realistically only Texas has a chance of playing for this div title. Oakland haven’t got the pitching and my early season prediction of Seattle (39-48) taking it out was definitely made with the heart rather than the head. Predicted finish: Rangers, Angels, Mariners, A’s.

AL Wildcard: Chicago, Angels, Boston, Baltimore and maybe Cleveland.

NL EAST: This race just gets better and better. The Washington Nationals (52-36), essentially the Montreal Expos, plus a bunch of draft picks and cast-offs are tearing up the opposition. Think the ACT Brumbies or the Hurricanes both from 1997. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, they have been posting great numbers with understated leaders all over the field. With their former team in brackets, Nick Johnson (Yankees), Jose Guillen (LAA), Vinny Castillo (Atlanta), Livan Hernandez (12-3, Mont, won ’97 WS with the Marlins) have all made major contributions to the success of this club.

They lead the Atlanta Braves (50-39) by 2.5 games. They Braves have a the depth in hitting and pitching to steal the lead but when your playing with the passion and reckless abandon that has been highlighting the Nationals game, its anybodies guess. Florida (44-42), Philly (45-44) and the Mets (44-44) are so close that this division will go right down to the wire. The NL East is the only div to have all its teams on or over .500 winning percentage. Predicted finish: Braves, Marlins, Nationals, Phillies, Mets.

NL CENTRAL: The Cardinals (56-32) have stomped out to a commanding 11.5 game lead. I picked the Cubs (43-44) and while they are not out of it, it’s pretty hard to see anyone catching the Cards. They appear to be the most complete team in baseball. They have incredible batting talent (Edmonds, Rolen, Pujols, Eckstein, Walker) and Pitching up the Wazoo (Carpenter, Suppan, Mulder). It’s hard to pick anyone but the Cards heading back to the World Series from the National League. In my earliest post I noted the disappointing position of the Astros (44-43). Houston have since started to offer their ample pitching staff with something resembling support and the Astros now find themselves fending off the Cubs (43-44) and Milwaukee (42-46) and to a lesser extent the Pirates (39-48) for second spot behind St Louis. It appears to be yet another disappointing year for the Cincinnati Reds (35-53), despite finally having Junior healthy and reasonably fit. Predicted finish: Cards, Cubs, Brewers, Astros, Pirates, Reds.

NL WEST: Still the division I like the least, and easily the most disappointing division in baseball with only one team with a winning percentage over .500 in division leaders San Diego (48-41). This division is so uninspiring that I really don’t want to talk about it. I’m gonna make a call now and say that I don’t think the NL champions will come from the NL West. Arizona (43-47) no pitching, Dodgers (40-48) no hitting, Giants (37-50) no Barry – therefore no offence, also no defence and no pitching, and the Colorado Rockies (31-56), think the Giants, but worse and they don’t even have a Barry Bonds to come back (Toddy Helton – please leave and go somewhere good, your immense talents are wasted on these guys). Predicted finished: don’t care, but I guess, Padres, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Giants, Rockies.

NL Wildcard: Florida, Washington, Chicago or Houston.


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