With the MLB season at the halfway mark and set to charge toward the October playoffs, here is how I see the races and the storylines shaping up:
- NL East: The Nats win this division in a stroll. I cannot see any other team here getting anywhere near the Wild Card slots. My bold prediction is that the Phillies will not lose 100 games. They will lose 95 – – but not 100.
- NL Central: The Brewers are the Cinderella story of 2017. On opening day, they had one of the lowest payrolls in MLB. The question here is can – or will – the Cubs shake off their World Series hangover. Unless one of the teams in the NL West dies like a dog, there will only be one team from the NL Central in the playoffs.
- NL West: The Dodgers will win this division in a walk. The Rockies and D-Backs are pleasant surprises this year and both have significant leads in the race for the NL Wild Card slots. The D-Backs have the second-best run-differential in the NL (behind the Dodgers); the Rockies are 5 games over .500 on the road this year. How did the Giants fall to a point where they have the second worst record in the NL?
- AL East: The Red Sox lead this division on the strength of their pitching and defense and not their offense. Who saw that coming? The Yankees have played very well this year but the biggest surprise in the division are the Rays. The AL East will provide one of the wild cards in the AL. Just a hunch, I think it will be the Red Sox as the division winners and the Rays as a wild card.
- AL Central: I see that the Twins and Royals are “nipping on the heels” of the Indians. Nonetheless, I think the Indians win this division without a ton of drama. The Twins and Royals will fight for a wild card slot.
- AL West: It would take a catastrophe of the magnitude of the team plane going down with no survivors for the Astros to lose out in the AL West. The big surprise here is that the Angels are only 2 games below .500 despite having Mike Trout on the DL for more than a month. Maybe the Angels can get into the wild card mix with the Twins and Royals?
I watched a couple innings of the All-Star Game; when I was younger, this was must-see TV; I never missed a game. Back in those ancient times, there was no inter-league play. The players in the “other league” existed only in newspaper game stories, articles in Sports Illustrated and on baseball cards. In terms of nationally televised games, there was only one game a week all the way up through the 1980s. Watching the All-Star Game – and the World Series – was the way to see the stars of the “other league”.
That “mystery factor” no longer exists and the game is no more meaningful than a Spring Training game. In fact, a Spring Training game is probably more interesting because in Spring Training there is always the question of which rookie might make the team this year or which veteran attempting a comeback will be successful in that endeavor. The All-Star Game has no aura related to “consequence”.
Having said all of that, let me be clear on something:
- The MLB All-Star Game is far and away the best All-Star Game of the major US sports. None of the games have any meaning; so that is not the reason the MLB game is the best of the lot. The reason it is the best is that the MLB All-Star Game actually resembles a real baseball game; pitchers are actually trying to get hitters out and fielders are actually playing defense. In football, basketball and hockey there is zero defense and so the all-star games bear no resemblance to the actual sports they represent.
Let me switch gears here to comment on another example of strange fan behavior. There are lots of colleges who can point to the dedication and fervor of their fan bases; every once in a while, one of those fans does something that might indicate that the fan is just a tad too ‘involved with” or “attached to” the school’s scholar-athletes. LSU is one such school with an avid and devoted fan base. Teams playing LSU in Baton Rouge on a Saturday night know they will be facing a good football team on the field and a crowd of more than 100,000 fans whose ardor gave the stadium the nick name, Death Valley.
Today, there is a report about one of the LSU fandom taking his passion into Tiger Stadium on a different vector heading. Local police arrested a 36-year old man and a woman standing by a ladder that was positioned in a way for them to enter the locked stadium. No, they were not going there to take selfies at the 50-yardline; when the police arrived, the man admitted that the woman was a prostitute. I will leave it as an exercise for the students here to come up with conclusions as to what the couple might have intended to do once inside the facility.
The man was arrested and charged with “unauthorized entry into a place of business” and solicitation of prostitution. It was not clear to me from the report if the “unauthorized entry into a place of business” referred only to Tiger Stadium of if there may have been multiple charges contained therein…
Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times about a fan interruption of a MLB game earlier this year:
“A streaker clad in only his socks ran across the field at a Brewers-Giants game in Milwaukee three security finally tackled him near shortstop.
“He’s expected to be charged with misdemeanor lewd and lascivious behavior, and violating the infield-fly rule.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………