Major League Baseball’s All-Star break is coming up in just a few days. Ostensibly the halfway mark of the season, the break actually takes place when most teams have played 90 games (give or take) of their 162 game schedule. Gildshire Magazines, sticklers for accuracy that we are, chose the actual halfway point to give out our mid-season grades. Does your team get a gold star? Which teams need to show improvement? Do your favorites belong in detention with a dunce cap? Read on…if you dare.
Beantown’s favorite baseball team arrives at the halfway mark with a four-game lead over the Yankees as the season reaches the 50% mark. The American League East has been tight most of the way until Boston opened this short lead on the field. Offensively, outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi have been revelations. The Red Sox still need to fill a gaping hole at third base. The disastrous signing of Pablo Sandoval still rankles the Fenway crowd, but the offense ranks 4th in the A.L. The pitching staff has shown surprising strength and is top-ranked in the league. Lefty import Chris Sale has been all the Red Sox hoped he would be when they plucked him from the White Sox. Drew Pomeranz has been solid, as well.
The Houston Astros are probably printing playoff tickets as we speak. Houston has been great, no doubt about it. Their division has helped them out by being one of the weakest in Major League Baseball. In right fielder George Springer, 2nd baseman Jose Altuve, and shortstop Carlos Correa, Houston has three of the most enjoyable players to watch play in all of baseball. On the mound, Dallas Kuechel hasn’t lost a game and looks like he may never again, while Lance McCullers has been as dominant as anyone not named Dallas.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have opened up a short lead in the National League West. Heavy favorites at the beginning of the season, L.A. has been in a season-long tussle with Arizona and Colorado for division honors. Colorado has faded and Arizona may not have the horses to stay with the well-heeled Dodgers who may pick up more pieces at the trading deadline. Offensively, sure-fire Rookie of the Year Award winner Clay Bellinger is worth the price of admission. On the mound, Clayton Kershaw continues his Hall of Fame-bound career and lefty Alex Wood is 10-0 at the midseason mark. Should the Dodgers be gold star recipients? Perhaps, but it takes a lot to gain a gold star when you’re the richest team in the world.
The Nationals are going to win the National League East, and by a large margin unless a cataclysmic upset occurs. Right fielder Bryce Harper, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, second baseman Daniel Murphy and third baseman Anthony Rendon are top drawer players. The Nationals’ staff, led by Max Scherzer, is solid enough to take this team far. Then why no gold for Washington? Their bullpen, particularly at the back end, is a sieve. Will it keep them from a World Series title?
The Bay Area used up its good karma when the Golden State Warriors humbled LeBron James in the NBA Finals. That’s the only way we can explain what has happened to the Bay since baseball season started. One can almost forgive the A’s. They are a small market team with a lousy stadium. They want to move to San Jose but the Giants have blocked the move to protect their South Bay fan base. It has been a long time since the halcyon steroid-laced days of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire.
The San Francisco Giants have none of Oakland’s built in excuses. They are one of Major League Baseball’s wealthiest teams in the best stadium baseball has to offer. Three World Series banners from this decade fly above AT&T Park, but they won’t be joined any time soon by more. The Giants are buried in last place behind the ever-awful San Diego Padres, even after a recent brief surge. That isn’t a spot this proud franchise relishes.
What hope lies in the future for Bay Area sports fans? Well, the Warriors’ open their season in about 110 days, and the Raiders look like they might be pretty good. Giants fans and A’s faithful can take solace in those two things. As far as Major League baseball is concerned, there’s always next year. Have a great All-Star break.