Well, it’s finally here, that part of the summer where the major team sports world is a one-trick pony. It’s the heart of the summer, also known as BASEBALL-ONLY SEASON. The NBA has drafted and Hard Knocks is months off. Now I am not naïve in the slightest, for I know that stretch of the year seems like Death Valley for a lot of sports fans. The NBA and NFL are big business/high interest. Life without them seems unbearable for some, and Sportscenter has the value of a high school Earth Science film on the marsupial mating rituals.
However, there are the brave few that need sports no matter what. It’s what makes their blood boil, and ESPN is the only channel they really know. For those folks who adapt as the year goes on, I gladly welcome you to my paradise on earth that is known as MLB-only time. For me, the season never really ends, but in actuality it’s just now hitting its stride and the story of the season is beginning to write itself as the halfway point is upon us.
So have no fear if you are late to the party, I’ve saved a seat for you. Here’s what’s happened and happening in Major League Baseball’s 2012 offering, as well as what could be on deck to come. If you pay close enough attention, you just may keep watching well after those other leagues have gotten back to whatever it is that they do.
There are still 30 teams in 24 different cities. The St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series last October, Albert Pujols plays in LA now, the Red Sox and Yankees still really hate each other, and when the clock turned over 2012, it officially ushered in 106 years of World Series-less time for the Chicago Cubs. Now that the table is set, let’s get you into the main courses thus far:
The Texas Rangers are still really good. Actually, they may be better than ever, which is amazing to ponder considering for the second straight year they lost an All-Star, ace pitcher (Cliff Lee in 2011, C.J. Wilson in 2012). But they are propelled by the best lineup in baseball, one that fields potentially six everyday All-Stars, led by Josh Hamilton, who is off to an unreal start and is looking every bit like a future $100 million man this winter when he meets free agency. That’s one loss they may not be able to stomach.
The National League is a lot different than when you last looked. None of last season’s division winners are in first place. The Phillies have spent much of the first half in last place actually, with $25 million parked on the disabled list between Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay and the recently returned Chase Utley. And they are not alone.
The World Champion St. Louis Cardinals haven’t struggled quite that much, but they’ve been horribly ravaged by injuries as well, with Lance Berkman not notching a month’s worth of at-bats yet and Chris Carpenter having not even thrown batting practice. The Brewers have not been able to replace Prince Fielder, and the Diamondbacks haven’t had that same magic that made them the biggest shock of the division champs in all of baseball a year ago.
There will be one more team making the playoffs from each league, making for a bigger, faster playoffs from here on out.
I’m a firm believer that the closest I’ve gotten to Heaven is Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. In the meantime til we cross paths again, I’ll pass along the gospel of the Field of Dreams here, Cheap.Seats.Please, I70 Baseball, and ‘Live From The Cheap Seats’.