Written by: LaShawn Encarnacion aka The Dark Knight of Sports
As the baseball world comes together in Cincinnati for the mid-summer classic known as the All-Star Game, preseason projections are reflected upon by most in the media. Who would lead their divisions, who would be in the MVP and Cy Young discussions, etc… Well lets go over the winners and losers by each League as they stand at the end of the first half of the season.
Let’s start with division winners and losers of the American League:
American League East:
Winner: The New York Yankees, a team that most had in the middle of the pack in terms of wins and losses. But at the end of the first half of the season, the Yankees have finished atop of the AL East with a 48-40 record, 3.5 games ahead of the second place Tampa Bay Rays and 3.0 games ahead of the first Wild Card holder. Led by their primary weapon, their bullpen, the Yankees have continued to get through their competition through tough pitching and timely hitting. Mark Texeria, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Chase Headley and a surprising Alex Rodriguez have been the catalysts for the rise of what most believe to be the “Evil Empire” of MLB. Add in up and coming players like Slade Heathcott and Brendan Ryan the farm has been good to the Yankees.
Loser: The Boston Red Sox, the team that most had in the thick of the playoff picture have taken the worse of worst turns this season. With a record of 42-47, the Red Sox have been hit with the injury bug early and often. But just 6.5 games back of the AL East lead and 6.0 games back of the Wild Card slot, the Red Sox are very optimistic of their chances in the second half of season. Their all star Dustin Pedroia returned from injury this past Friday and they come into the break on somewhat of upward momentum swing. All-Star Xavier Bogaerts continues to make his name well-known with the Boston faithful and Big Papi continues to be Big Papi David Ortiz in that DH position that he does oh so well. Can the Red Sox turn the season around, time will tell but that all comes down to turning their fortunes around right away and often.
American League Central:
Winner: The Kansas City Royals at 52-34 have the best record in the American League. 4.5 games ahead of the team in second place (also a winner ) in the Minnesota Twins, and an astounding 9.0 games ahead of the third place team, the Detroit Tigers. All-Stars Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas just continue to get better as the season moves on. Granted Gordon did suffer an injury that will keep him out 6-8 weeks. But the Royals are a team for a reason as manager Ned Yost has planned well. Yost is definitely a candidate for AL Manager of the Year with the job he has done for keeping his players hungry after winning the American League title is no easy feat. The bulls-eye on their back has gotten bigger and the Royals embrace the challenge.
Loser: The Chicago White Sox finish the first half of the season at 41-45 which is 11 back of the Al Central and are 5.5 games back of the wild card slot. The south-siders have truly lost their way as a franchise. Their identity as a team is gone and there are lots of rumblings from fans for Robin Ventura to step down as manager right now. Jose Abreu, the rookie sensation from last season is not as hot as first advertised and the big free agent acquisition of Melky Cabrera has not paid off like the White Sox first though it could. While pitcher Chris Sale is looking to find his Cy Young stuff after returning from injury, the other pitchers have not been able to step up as the White Sox front offices had hoped. Free Agent pitcher Jeff Samardjiza has not produced as first projected. With a 6-4 record and an alarmingly high 4.02 ERA, the obvious deficiencies have been a detriment to the team and its performance.
American League West:
Winner: The Los Angeles/Anaheim Angles, who seem somehow to continue to dominate the West are sitting pretty with a 48.40 record and 0.5 games ahead of the very surprising new kids on the AL West block, the Houston Astros (the other BIG winners of the first half of the season for the AL West). Reigning MVP Mike Trout continues to deliver his offensive and defensive performances, hence why he is dubbed the “Five-Tool” player. Albert Pujols has returned to the form that won him numerous MVP awards as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals (lets hope the Home Run Derby jinx does not get him). Starting rotation has been normal but the key for the Angels has and always will be their bullpen and closer Huston Street who continues to dominate when its time to close up shop.
Loser: The Oakland Athletics lost a number of free agents prior to this season beginning and it has shown. Finishing the 1st half of the season with a 41-50 record, which leaves them 8.5 games behind the Angles for the AL West lead and 8.0 games from a wild card slot, the Athletics look to their All Stars, Stephen Vogt, Josh Reddick and Sonny Gray for answers. Granted there is still the second half of the season but there has to be a tremendous amount of luck for the A’s to make a serious run for the playoffs.
Current MVP Candidates:
Detroit Tigers Miguel Cabrera (currently on DL)
Los Angeles Angels Mike Trout
Texas Rangers Prince Fielder
Seattle Mariners Nelson Cruz
Toronto Blue Jays Josh Donaldson
Los Angeles Angels Albert Pujols
Current Cy Young Candidates:
Oakland Athletics Sonny Gray
Houston Astros Dallas Kuechel
Seattle Mariners Felix Hernandez
Detroit Tiger David Price
Chicago White Sox Chris Sale
Coming up next, the winners and loser of the National League
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