July 3, 2008

The first-place Rays. No, really.

by Dan Bilicki In: Baseball

This has to be a joke, right? The Tampa Bay baseball squadron dropped the “Devil,” became the Rays and now have the best record in baseball at the midway point? This has to be some sort of fairy tale based out of nearby Disney World. What else was so shocking about the first half of the MLB season? Ha, you’ve already seen a ton of those lists. Here’s what I think surprised some that really shouldn’t have.

— The NL West is garbage again. When all of the sudden an entire division has a great season — and even represents their league in the World Series — after several down seasons, is it more likely to be an upswing trend or an aberration? Well, the NL West fell on its back faster than Lindsay Lohan after a night of drinking. The Padres can’t hit, the Dodgers are overpaid underachievers, the Rockies only rode a late surprising hot streak to the finals and the Giants are still the Giants. Lastly, the Diamondbacks, who led this sad division at .500, aren’t getting the hitting to support their stellar pitching — shades of a division winner last year that had a negative runs for/against ratio. So what surprise is this?

— Andruw Jones has been garbage. People thought he could rejuvenate his career in L.A. after a slow (contract) year in Atlanta. They were wrong. I’m still wondering how a guy can bat .222 and still drive in 94 runs.

— Josh Hamilton is the AL’s MVP. The former first overall pick looked great in the 90 games he played last year (.292-52-19-47), why wouldn’t he be even better playing half his games in the friendly confides of Arlington?

— Willie Randolph was fired. The only thing surprising about that one is that it happened at 3 a.m. EST and after a win. The way the Mets have struggled, he deserved what he got.

— And most recently, Alex Rodriguez and his wife have separated. The only shocking part of this news is Lenny Kravitz’s involvement. I’m just wondering if A-Rod and Derek Jeter talk about their Madonna hookups in the locker room.

What do I expect from the season’s second half? Well, quickly, the Rays will fall off a bit but still stay close to the playoff race. The Yankees will improve after the all-star break. Chase Utley will be the third Phillie in three years to be the NL MVP and the trade deadline won’t be nearly as exciting as people will expect it to be.

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