The ‘Mid-Summer Classic’ in Major League Baseball (the All-Star Game) is regarded as the halfway point for the season. The form of the teams after this week’s game is the best indicator of who will make the playoffs come October.
Just when the leaves start to fall, so do those teams who simply couldn’t maintain their roster and form over the absurdly lengthy 162 game schedule. Ironically, the sport which dominates the beautiful summer months here is often then forgotten when the season is at its most enthralling, gobbled up by the brutish NFL and College Football. That discussion is for another time.
At this important marker, it is worth considering what ‘narratives’ (don’t you love when sports writers try to sound like real writers?) will enthral fans following the big All-Star festivities.
Will the Cubs succumb to their past or overcome it?
Chicago’s North Siders started the season in more than impressive fashion. On June 12th their record was 43-18. In their last 10 games, the Cubs have been on a slightly alarming 2-8 skid. Some Cubs fans point to the seven game lead they still hold in their division so there is no need to panic.
But you can hear the grumblings everywhere, “this is how it starts you know!”, “you know that we’re never going to win right?” or “I’ll call you back when I’m done burning this Rizzo jersey!”. Surely this is the year, still, right?
Can Boston emerge from the murky waters of the AL East?
The polite neighbours to the north in Canada have been making some rumblings lately, closing in on the Red Sox, and everyone seems to forget that the Orioles are actually leading the division. Boston’s offence is fine. More than ‘fine’, it’s on an historic pace in fact.
The pitching is the worry.
The team ERA is in the lower half of the league, among other poor staffs like the Yankees, Phillies and Brewers. It’s been a case of “glass half full” (or “empty” in Boston) for the starting pitchers with Eduardo Rodriguez and Clay Buchholz struggling, while Steven Wright and Rick Porcello have starred. The bullpen also needs a spark, hopefully this will happen with the signing of Brad Ziegler after Craig Kimbrel’s move to the disabled list.
Who will challenge the Giants out West?
The Dodgers could when ace Clayton Kershaw returns from injury. Otherwise, no one.
Does Cleveland become a 2-title town in 2016?
Cleveland already has the Rock andamp; Roll Hall of Fame, and a shiny new NBA title thanks to LeBron James and his Cavaliers. But could they add an Indians World Series trophy?
Fresh off of a 14-game win streak, the Indians are currently 52-36. In terms of hits and runs allowed, they are at the foot of the tables, as is their team ERA. Early front-runners in the AL Central the White Sox seem to have tapered off, and the second place Tigers suffer from an inability to string wins together.
Cleveland is 6.5 games ahead in their division, implying that it would take a drastic collapse in form for them not to make the playoffs. Cleveland is now a winners city, so that won’t happen.
Definitely not… -ish.
Will anyone emerge as a clear MVP candidate?
It’s not because the play has been mediocre this year, far from it in fact! Jose Altuve (Astros), Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox), Mike Trout (Angels), Manny Machado (Orioles) and Josh Donaldson (Blue Jays) have all emerged in the American League. The National League’s candidates appear to among Kris Bryant (Cubs), Nolan Arenado (Rockies), and west coast pitchers Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers) and Madison Bumgarner (Giants). It’s a closely run MVP race where some will fall and others will rise.