Around this time in the season things begin to sort themselves out. What we thought might be real for some teams turns out to just being a mirage and hope against hope that these teams could and would continue to overachieve.
Conversely, what seemed to be real for some teams is real and goes even further than expectations during the pre season.
Not always, but often what explains this phenomenon is team chemistry. And you can’t almost have it – a team either has it or it doesn’t. And it doesn’t have to mean that players are buddy buddy and they go out to dinner with each other or their wives go shopping together. It can (mean that) but it doesn’t have to.
More likely, it shows up in the dugout and on the field while disharmony shows itself off the field and in the newspapers. Take what happened in San Diego a few days ago when their GM publicly called out James Shields and subsequently traded him for a bag of peanuts the next day. Think that wasn’t noticed in the clubhouse?
So who’s got it and who doesn’t………and who are the contenders and who are the pretenders……
The first and runaway “real” contenders has to be the Chicago Cubs who continue to win nearly three of every four games they play. They pitch well and they score runs with a lineup that has different contributors each day. Their sole weakness may be in the bullpen but that could very well shored up in a trade before the deadline. Think the pretending and therefore sellers Yankees and either Miller or Chapman for a couple of ready to play prospects. Plus, they have every player’s manager in Joe Maddon.
The Giants will get token resistance from the Dodgers but the division as a whole will roll over for them. And they do have “Bum” who nearly won a title all by himself two years ago. Oh, and did I mention that this is a even numbered year?
Both the Nationals and the Mets are real contenders and they’ll continue to stay pretty much neck and neck throughout the campaign , but injuries are mounting for the Mets and they can’t figure on hitting five hundred home runs to stay in the race. Still, their pitching leaves nothing to ask. The Nationals have last year’s axe to grind – or is it an albatross? We’ll be watching ……..
In the AL East, both Baltimore and Boston have good but not great teams. They both have big holes in starting pitching but everyone knew that in April. Yet, here they are consistently within a game or two of each. It would appear unlikely that either wild card will come from this division so it’ll be winner take all in the march to the playoffs.
The Great Pretenders stick out like a sore thumb. Who can even remember when the Phillies were confounding everyone and were ten over? Back to earth for now but they are a team on the upswing. Meantime, the White Sox were supposed to be contenders and for a brief while they were. No more. Chris Sale cannot win a pennant by himself and even he has struggled in his last two or three starts. Gone but not forgotten too is the dissension that plagued the team in April with the Adam LaRoche debacle. Team chemistry there?……don’t think so.
The Royals have shown some signs of life lately but it remains to be seen if they will be able to put together a run that will overcome the surprising Indians who could be the next installment of the Phillies or maybe not. No doubt, an interesting team to watch. Forget the Tigers who are only getting older with each tick of the clock.
You have to wonder what happened to the Astros in just six months removed from last year’s playoffs. One mystery is Dallas Keutchel but that can’t be all there is to their story so far. But the real intrigue in the AL West are the Seattle Mariners. Again, they could be a reincarnation of the Phillies or they could remain a serious contender to Texas. One thing is for sure…..whoever prevails will not make it very far in the playoffs and again it’ll be winner take all as a wild card spot is unlikely.
In just six weeks and 30-35 games, we’ll reach the halfway point and the All Star Game. More entrenched trends will be apparent by then and we can look forward to more surprises as teams either find a way to get it done….or not. Welcome to the intrigue of a long baseball season.