MLB Second Half has begun

With a full slate of games tonight, the second half of the MLB season has truly begun.

The first certainly produced a few surprises.  The slump of David Ortiz, the scuffles of the Tampa Bay Rays, the never ending soap opera that is the NY Mets, the surprising start of the SF Giants, the mess that are the Central divisions in both leagues, A-Roid, and Manny-gate.  You just never know what’s going to happen in Baseball.

I’d like to give my condolences to Manny Acta, the recently let go manager of the Washington Nationals.  I really feel bad for him.  He was handed a bad situation, exacerbated by injuries, and was expected to perfrom a miracle.  So, when Washington performed to expectations, ok, maybe a little below expectations, he got the axe.  Maybe if the brain trust in DC would have given him more pitching, particularly in the bull pen, the Nat’s wouldn’t be so awful.  they’d still be bad, but not awful.  And the nagging injuried to guys like Ryan Zimmerman don’t help either.

Now for some 1st half “awards:”

Al Cy Young- Roy Halladay (TOR).  Josh Beckett (BOS) is a close second, but Roy takes it.  He should win it at the end of the year, as long as he stays in the AL.

NL Cy Young- Tim Lincecum (SF).  Matt Cain (SF) his teammate can give Tim a run for it, but I think that Lincecum is the odds on favorite to win his second consecutive award.

AL MVP- This is a tough one, with so many good candidates.  Jason Bay and Kevin Youkilis (BOS) are solid contenders, as is A-Roid (NYY), Nelson Cruz (TEX), and even Torii Hunter (LAA).  For myself, it would come down between Bay and A-Roid.  I’d give the edge to Bay mainly for his complete lack of controversy, and how he carried the Red Sox while Ortiz struggled.

NL MVP- Albert Pujols (STL).  Is there any doubt?  I can’t think of anyone else in the NL who even comes close to meaning what Puljols does to the Cardinals.

AL Manager of the Year- Mike Sciosia (LAA).  Jim Leyland (DET), Ron Gardenhire (MIN), and Terry Francona (BOS) deserve some notice, but none of them have faced the adversities that Scioscia and the Angels have this year.  Don Wakamatsu of Seattle should finish a close second.

NL Manager of the Year: Bruce Bochy (SFG).  Joe Torre (LAD) will get some votes, being Joe Torre and managing in LA, but Bochy should win this.

Looking forward, I expect to see a few things happen.  Texas will fade in the AL West.  They just do not have the pitching, in the rotation or the pen, to compete with the Angels and Mariners.  If the Mariners get a big bat to help their offense, they can give the Angels a serious challenge for the division, and the Yankees for the Wild Card.

The AL Central will come down to the Twins and Tigers.  The White Sox are just too inconsistent to pose a real threat.  The Twins have a terrific 1-2 punch with Mauer and Morneau, a top notch closer in Joe Nathan, and enough pitching to compete in the division.  The Tigers have an issue in the bullpen with no clear closer, but their rotation is by far the strongest in the division.  Expect the Indians to sell of a few players before the trade dead line, like Jamey Carroll and Rafael Betancourt.  Don;t believe the rumors surrounding Victor Martinez.

The AL East is going to continue to be a slugfest.  The Red Sox should win the division by 4-5 games.  The Yankees are something of an enigma, and what actions they take may be dictated not by baseball reasoning, but by the sports writers and vocal fans.  Brian Cashman may be forced to amek a deal he doesn’t want to, with Toronto’s Roy Halladay the main target.  The problem with the Yankees is that they are one injury away from being dead in the water.  The loss of an OF, A-Roid, or another SP will kill their season, trade or no trade.  Toronto is in a tough position, especially with Halladay.  He’s owed a lot of money for next year, and Toronto is 2-3 years away from being truly competetive.  They could get a lot for him, if they deal him.  He’s the prize of this years trade sweepstakes.  Tampa Bay could be surprising in the 2nd half, potentially passing the Yankees in the standings.  Despite the loss of Aki Iwamura, they have a solid offense, defense, and pitching staff.  You cna just write Baltimore off now.

Over in the senior circuit, the NL East is one ugly division.  It seems like half the time no one wants to win it.  The NY Mets are wracked with injuries (Reyes, Delgado, Beltran), and guys like David Wright are under performing.  The Phillies are so streaky, just like the Marlins, that one week they’re hot, the next they’re cold.  I’m not sure adding Pedro Martinez will do much for the Phils, given that Pedro likely won’t go more than 5 innings in any given start.

The Central division is far more competetive, probably the most competetive in Baseball.  The Cards, the Cubs, the Brewers, and Astros are all in it.  Only Pittsburgh is out.  The top teams are so evenly matched, which surprising given that an ace like the Astro’s Roy Oswalt is having an off year.  These will be the teams most active in acquiring a player before the dead line.  Look for the Brewers to get a pitcher, the Cubs a hitter, and the Cards for the best player they can get(a pitcher most likely).  I would offer that who ever makes the best deal by the trade dead line will win this division.

The NL West is a run away for the LA Dodgers so far.  San Francisco is off to a somewhat unexpected start, and could nail down the Wild Card for the NL by the end of August.  The Diamondbacks season was lost when Brandon Webb went down to inury.  Sand Diego, who had one of the more coveted SP in Baseball, lost out on a chance to make a big deal when Peavy went down to an ankle injury.

The Red Sox and Julio Lugo are about to part company.  This is far from unexpected.  The only question is if he will be traded or released, as I don’t expect he will accept assigment to the minors.  Likely suitors for Lugo will be Seattle, Tampa Bay, San Francisco, and Chicago Cubs.  If a deal is made, the Sox will have to pick up most, if not all of his salary, and will only get a medium level of value in return.

Expect eric Wedge to be fired in Cleveland.  He may last the season, depending on how the Tribe’s 2nd half goes, but he won’t be back next year.  Joe Girardi may be on the hot seat as well, more so if Cashman makes a deal and the Yankees don’t make the play offs.

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MLB Trade Deadline 2008

Well, it’s now the end of non-waiver trades in MLB.  Some surprising moves were made.  The biggest being the end of the “Manny-Era” in Boston.

Manny Ramirez, the mercurial OF for the Sox, was shipped off to the land of granola (all fruits and nuts), while the Sox got Jason Bay, and the Pirates got a bevy of prospects.  This was the block buster of the day, and perhpas the season, trumping even CC Sabathia going to Millwaukee. 

Manny had to go.  He had quit on the team, supposedly to “punish management,” which made him expendable not only to the brain trust, but to his teammates as well.  I doubt even Big Poppi could defend Manny after his antics the past few weeks.  So now Manny is Joe Torre’s problem with the Dodgers in LA.  Can’t wait to see how Manny and Larry Bowa get along.  Yes, the Sox gave up alot to get rid of Manny, they’re paying his salary, and gave up Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss as well.  The Dodgers gave up Andy Laroche, and another prospect to the Pirates, who sent their star OF Jason Bay to Boston.

I actually kind of like this deal.  The Sox get Bay, who is under contract for next year, and get rid of Manny, his antics, and the headache.  The money really isn’t an issue, as they’d have been paying it if Manny had stayed.  The Dodgers get a HoF hitter to help bolster their line up, and don’t have to pay him. The Pirates really make out on this deal.  They get four players, trim their payroll slightly, and get set for having a solid team for the next 4-5 years.  This makes up for them getting ripped off by the Yankees in the Nady/Marte deal.

The Yankees meanwhile picked up Pudge Rodriguez for Kyle Farnsworth.  This is an intriguing deal, as the two were exchanged straight up.   With Jorge Posada going down for the season (and perhaps longer, depending on his surgery), the Yanks were in the market for a solid all round catcher. The Tigers have been fading a bit, and seem to be very comfortable with Brandon Inge at catcher.  In return for Pudge, the Tigers got a much needed reliever, one that had become expendedable in NY, and was finally getting his act together.  Expect Fransworth to close some games the rest of the way for the Tigers. 

The Brave’s actually dealt Mark Teixeira.  Yes, this means that the Brave’s are surrendering this season and next.  The Angels make out good with this deal, as Teixeira is a big time upgrade at 1B over Casey Kotchman, offensively and defensively.  The Braves do get younger, and Kotchman is cheaper, and under contract for the next few years.  The Halos will be very, very tough down the stretch, and in the post season. 

Strangest deal was Junior Griffey going to the White Sox.  this one makes very little sense to me.  Other than giving Junior a shot at a ring (which he deserves), thsi doesn’t make much baseball sense.  The White Sox are set at the corner OF poisitons (Carlos Quentin and Jermaine Dye), and Junior isn’t all that great in CF anymore, and hasn’t played there regularly in years.  The DH slot isn’t much of an option either with Jim Thome entrenched there.  I understand that Junior and the White Sox GM (whose neame escpaes me ATM, Ken Williams?), have a relationship going back a while, but even still.  This one seems to be just about giving a bone to Junior.

And that was about it.  The two earlier trades for pitchers, Sabathia to Milwaukee, Rich Harden to the Cubs, weren’t deadline deals, though were significant.  As ESPN called it, this was a “dud line.” 

I was suprised that certain players did not get moved.  Jack Wilson from the Pirates, Brian Fuentes from the Rockies, Jeremy Hermidia from Florida, were all rumored to be going.  None of them moved.  I was more surprised that the Brave’s didn’t deal Jeff Francouer.  I would have thought he had all but worn out his welcome in Atlanta.  He may yet go, but probably not untill the off season.  Some talked about guys like George Sherrill in Baltimore, but I doubted he would move, not after the Bedard trade which brought him to Baltimore, unless a team really overwhelmed the O’s with an offer.  Dealing may not yet be done, but any deal will involved players needing to clear waivers before being traded.