|A Look Back at the First Half||| Print ||
Written by Benny Spicer (Contact & Archive) on July 07, 2008
- Josh Hamilton for Edinson Volquez is the trade of the year
A lot of different trades went down this off season; some have helped teams in many ways, but nobody can argue on how much the trade between the Texas Rangers and Cincinnati Reds has impacted both organizations. The Rangers sent pitching prospect Edinson Volquez to Ohio for slugging outfielder Josh Hamilton.
And you know the rest. Hamilton has heard talks of possibly winning the Triple Crown, which hasn’t been done since Carl Yaztremski did it last, and Edinson Volquez has been lights out and has also heard discussion of the Triple Crown, as a pitcher that is. It’s safe to say that neither team was a clear cut winner in this deal, but it’s even safer to say that both teams are happy with who they have.
-The struggling teams: Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres
Coming into the season, the high powered offense of the Detroit Tigers were expected to be the best team in baseball right now. Many predicted the Tigers could score 1,000 runs, a feat that only the best offenses in baseball can accomplish, and a feat that’s unreachable to many great offenses at that. So what have the Tigers done? Not a whole lot. They’ve managed to have a decent first half of the season after they came out of the gates struggling to score runs.
As for their divisional foe, the Cleveland Indians, who were just a game away from a World Series last year, they’ve been heading south in the standings, too. Ace pitcher C.C. Sabathia has been rumored in deals, and it’s come down to him not watching television anymore because he’s so sick of hearing his name caught up in the recent trade rumors. The Indians offense is normally solid, but this season they’ve had their share of problems. The bright light has shined, though, on pitcher Cliff Lee.
Another big underachiever is Seattle. After making a big off season trade to acquire Erik Bedard from the Baltimore Orioles, the Mariners were expected to have a solid campaign in 2008. They haven’t done exactly that, to say the least. 18.5 games out of the American League West lead and it’s not even at the All Star Break, now that’s pathetic. They’ve already gotten a managerial change, and might even trade Bedard, who they gave so much up for in the first place.
The San Diego Padres are the final struggling franchise of 2008. In a rotation with so many great arms they’ve struggled oh so badly. Only 8.5 games back in their division, yet it seems so out of reach. They haven’t had the best of luck on the market, either. After getting rid of Jim Edmonds, he’s had a great amount of success in Chicago with the Cubs. The Padres are really looking bad this year after barely missing post season play last year.
- The surprise stories of the year: Tampa Bay Rays, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Florida Marlins, St. Louis Cardinals
If you as a fan or a baseball writer were to say that on July 2nd the Tampa Bay Rays would be leading the AL East, you’d probably be sent to an insane asylum. Looking at the Tampa Bay roster you wouldn’t expect higher than third or fourth place right now, but the Rays are really looking like a for real team that might even make the playoffs. As weird as it sounds, the Rays are finally a winning ball club.
The centennial year of the Chicago Cubs last World Series victory is this season, and something tells me they’re sick of losing. The Cubbies have played amazing ball, getting production from every spot in their batting order and getting fantastic starts from all five pitchers in the rotation. The bullpen has been stellar, and they are managing to win without Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano, and without Sean Marshall or Rich Hill in the pitching rotation.
But if you’re to mention the Cubs, you have to mention the team on the south side. Ozzie Guillen’s White Sox have been nothing short of amazing this year. They’ve played great baseball and currently hold a half a game lead over the Minnesota Twins, who are a very hot team at the moment. In a division with Cleveland and Detroit, Chicago was expected to follow in their shadow. That hasn’t exactly happened.
Another team that has been worse than expected is the New York Mets, and they’ve really been terrible this year. So who takes their divisional place in the standings? The Florida Marlins. That’s right, not the Atlanta Braves, but the fish. They’ve had great pitching this season and even better hitting, and are only a game out of the lead in the National League East.
The final team that’s been surprising is the St. Louis Cardinals. Looking at their team, which has been plagued with injuries to the starting pitching, you’d expect them to not be a threat to the Cubs, and to at least be in third or fourth right now. But when you have a manager like Tony La Russa and an offense like them, you’re bound to win some games.
- The surprise players of 2008: Cliff Lee, Joe Saunders, Chipper Jones, Dan Uggla
Cliff Lee spent time down on the farm last season. Lee didn’t do much last year, and wasn’t expected to be much of a starting pitcher in the Cleveland rotation this year. Pitching behind C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona is no easy task, but Lee is making it seem that way, as he’s been the Tribe’s pitching headline. Lee has notched 11 wins this season, which is tied for the Major League lead.
Another amazing pitcher is Joe Saunders for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Saunders is tied with Lee and Arizona’s Brandon Webb with 11 wins, which leads the major leagues. Saunders was a projected fifth starter in the Angels rotation, but has exceeded any expectations set for a fifth starter of any team, and that’s a fact. Saunders has played well enough to be the ace of the staff, and that’s saying something when you pitch for the Angels.
Chipper Jones is normally one of the best batters in the league, or at least cracking the top 50. So it’s no surprised he’s erupted to bat for a .394 batting average, and is trying to hit .400, and that hasn’t been done in quite some time for a major league batter. Stricken by the injury bug, however, has been Jones’ one true Achilles Heel. If he can remain healthy he’ll for sure be an MVP candidate.
The player that’s been carrying the Florida Marlins is Dan Uggla himself. Uggla, the second baseman for Florida, has knocked a Major League leading 23 home runs out of the park, and has knocked in 58 runs in the process. It’s a good bet to say that the Marlins would be a very depleted team without the bat of Dan Uggla.
You could dub last year the ‘Year of the Milestone’. We saw several significant happenings last season, including Bonds’ record breaking home run, Biggio’s 3,000th hit and so forth. However, we’ve yet to see many milestones on the year this year, except for Ken Griffey Jr.’s 600th home run with the Cincinnati Reds. I’d label this season the ‘Year of Surprises’.
It’s been so impossible to chronicle this season from the beginning. Some unexpected events have occurred, and followers of the sport have been thrown a curveball, if you will. Nobody expected many of these events to take place, and that’s what makes the sport great. By now the average sports fan expected Barry Bonds to have a team. That hasn’t happened. Baseball keeps giving us interesting things to watch for, and we as fans love that.