After a sad weekend here in Ottawa, it's time to jump back into the sports world; so here we go...
The non-waiver trade deadline is fast approaching in Major League Baseball and the buyers and sellers are starting to sort themselves out. As the races in several divisions tighten up, the dog days of summer roll in, and teams are looking for the one player that may put them over the top. Let's take a quick trip through the American and National League divisions.
In the A.L. East, the series to watch this week may be the Tampa Bay Rays in Toronto. I wondered here a few weeks ago, how Tampa would react to the Red Sox and Yankees in their rear-view mirror? Well, despite the best road record in the American League, the Ray's lead is down to 1 game over Boston and they are 3 ahead of the Yankees. With Manny Ramirez possibly wanting out of Boston, and David Ortiz just returning from a wrist injury, the Sox may face a power outage. I expect the red hot Yankees to jump past the Sox and Rays by August 5th; especially if they get Jarrod Washburn and former Expos Jose Vidro out of Seattle as is rumoured. After a dismal start, the Jays are now 7.5 games back and their season could be rejuvenated with a series win against the Rays. If Toronto should slip further back in the standings, I believe A.J. Burnett will be moved sometime in August, despite General Manager J.P. Riccardi's comments that he won't be shipped out.
Looking at the A.L. Central, the Chicago White Sox continue to show their 2005 World Series form, holding on to a 1.5 game lead over Minnesota. The Detroit Tigers, the team expected to run away with the division, sits 6.5 games back. With a lot of high priced talent, and carrying a 53-52 record, the Tigers have to decide if the Wild Card or Division title is a realistic option. However, the Sox, Twins, and Tigers are all 5-5 in their last ten games, and there are plenty of games to be played within the division, so the Tigers can't be counted out yet. The race for first will get tougher if the Sox land All-Star shortstop Miquel Tejada from the Houston Astros.
Speaking of being counted out, let's give the A.L. West title to the Los Angeles Angels. They have the best record in baseball and are 8-2 in their last ten, continuing to stomp their division rivals. Oakland and Texas are 11.5 and 12 games back; and only a few years removed from their best season, Seattle is the worst team in the American league and are 25 games behind the Halos. With a 6 run, sixth inning last night versus Boston, Los Angeles demonstrated their win/loss record is no accident.
Let's stay in the West, and have a look at the division no team wants to win; the National League West. The Arizona Diamondbacks have a slim lead over Joe Torre's L.A. Dodgers going into their series this weekend at Dodger Stadium. A split in that series could open the door for the Colorado Rockies, who sit 6.5 games back. According to the Boston Globe, the only team still showing interest in Manny Ramirez are the Diamondbacks. But with both teams in a pennant race, it seems unlikely Boston would take prospects in a trade, and Arizona would want to hold on to their roster players. Perhaps the Red Sox would bring in Barry Bonds to replace Manny's home runs in the line-up, then a prospect or two from Arizona wouldn't be such a bad idea.
The N.L.East looks like a three way race to the finish. After last year's late season melt down, and a slow start this year, a hot streak has the Mets .5 games ahead of Philadelphia and 1 game ahead of Florida. The young Marlins always seem to be in the hunt, but New York and Philly will pull away as August rolls on. There is lots of power on the Phillies with Ryan Howard leading the N.L. in home runs with 30, and RBI's with 94. The Mets have Jose Reyes leading the N.L. in hits with 133, and a rotation that includes ace pitcher, Johan Santana. New York still needs another arm though, they can't count on Pedro Martinez to stay healthy anymore. Only 7.5 games back, but throwing in the towel, are the Atlanta Braves. Atlanta is reportedly shopping future Free Agent, Mark Teixeira, and it appears the Angels are the front runners. If they land the Braves first baseman, they become heavy favorites to win the World Series.
The division I have been keeping an eye on all season long has been the N.L. Central. Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Louis could all be in first if they played in different divisions. There's no doubt that the Wild Card will be coming out of the Central this fall.
Only 4 games separate these three teams,but St. Louis needs to make a big move to improve their pitching, they rank 27th overall and they risk falling further back. Milwaukee looks like the big winners on the trade front, trading early for C.C. Sabathia, who has gone 4-0 since coming over from Cleveland. It's the power of the Brew Crew that should have the Cubs and the Cards scared. The Brewers have 140 team home runs, compared to Chicago's 121 and St. Louis' 114. Will the Cubs fold under the weight of the one hundred year curse? They look solid, ranked third in Pitching, but they'll need to avoid the injury bug to build upon their lead.
As summer really heats up; so do the pennant races.
Have a great sports day everyone.