MLB Replete With Special Stories in 2012

With another incredible weekend of games and stellar attendance numbers, we’re entering the final 60 or so games of the 2012 Major League Baseball season, and the storylines are as appealing as I can remember.

bryce-harper-stephen-strasburg

Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and the first place Nationals continue to be one of the most compelling storylines in what has been a thrilling, surprising baseball season so far.

Though some obstinate folks still bemoan “lack of parity” in Major League Baseball, that claim now falls on deaf ears, considering the recent success of small market clubs and lack of big market success in the postseason.

American League

In the American League, despite recent hiccups, the Yankees and Rangers appear stacked and well on their way to winning 95 games or more; therefore three playoff spots would still remain.

Most are confident in the big bats and consistent pitching of the Angels to take the top Wild Card if they can’t come back on Texas in the West.  The wheeling and dealing Tigers, thanks to AL MVP frontrunner and still vastly-underrated Miguel Cabrera, took their expected perch in first over the weekend, making the second wild card addition vital, as I wrote last week.

There are many contenders for those two tickets in the AL with many good storylines, particularly the Athletics, White Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays and Indians.

And while things can change — which is part of the beauty of a baseball season — it’s highly possible just one of those teams will play in October. (ESPN has a nifty gimmick that tracks a team’s chances at making the playoffs.)

Oakland has recently become the “best” story in the AL, having won 14 of 16, including four straight from the first place Yankees.  They’ve mainly succeeded thanks to great young pitching and the league’s best bullpen. They’re in Toronto and Baltimore this week for intriguing series that will hopefully draw national attention from the northeast media.

Chicago’s led the Central most the season, but now sits behind favorite Detroit. Of this group of five, they have the best chance to still win their division, and considering many picked the White Sox for last place, rookie skipper Robin Ventura has done a splendid job.  His club’s aided by a mix of young talent (like all-star Chris Sale), the mature bats of Paul Konerko , A.J Pierzynski, Kevin Youkilis, and comeback player of the year candidates Adam Dunn and Alex Rios.

–On paper, Baltimore‘s roster is as poor as any in the game, which shows the amazing job Buck Showalter has done.  They led the East for awhile, faded, but just won five in a row on the road to grab a share of the Wild Card lead.

Toronto has used the long ball (case in point this past weekend in Boston) to stay relevant in the AL East and Wild Card race, despite inferior pitching.

Cleveland had a good first few months, but has suddenly stopped hitting and is below. 500 for the first time in exactly 100 days.

National League

The National League may even have better stories and tighter competition.

No one can deny that the Pirates and Nationals are the two best stories in the Senior Circuit this season.

Pittsburgh’s last playoff appearance was 20 years ago, while the Nats have never made the playoffs, and the franchise’s last postseason run was more than three decades ago in Montreal.

While Washington, bolstered by MLB’s best team ERA, has the league’s best record at 55-39, Pittsburgh has been atop the Central (first or second) since early June. The Pirates have the Majors’ best home mark (in MLB’s best ballpark.)

–The Reds, though very talented on paper, are also a good story. Dusty Baker likely has held this team back, having not won a playoff series since 1995, and only making one appearance – an embarrassing sweep at the hands of Philly in 2010.

–The Mets were picked to lose 100 games, and though the Wild Card is now their only hope, were .500 or better every day until Sunday.

–The Dodgers were also expected to be mediocre at best; instead they had the best record in the NL much of the season and are currently just one and half games behind first place San Francisco and a mere half back in the Wild Card.

-Saint Louis, despite being the defending champs, lost Albert Pujols, their Hall of Fame manager, three of their five starting pitchers, and has seen their ace, Adam Wainwright, perform subpar coming off a lost season.

Lance Berkman (.300/31/94 in 2011) has missed most of 2012, while key contributors Allen Craig and John Jay (both hitting over .300) have missed significant time.

Yet thanks to Cy Young contenders Kyle Lohse and Lance Lynn, MVP candidate Carlos Beltran, the best offense in the NL, and arguably the most consistent player in baseball, Matt Holliday, the Redbirds are right in the Central and Wild Card race.

With the Phillies dominating the league the past few regular seasons, especially 2011, it’s nice to see new blood, as Philadelphia sits dead last despite the coastal media’s excitement over their aging “stars” returning (and struggling).

The Giants and especially the Braves — after acquiring Ryan Dempster — are very good teams that should be playing .550 ball, as they are.

*Editor’s Notes:

–I’d be remiss if I failed to mention two NL West notes:

*Arizona’s Jason Kubel had four home runs, six hits and seven RBI Saturday and Sunday versus Houston. The Diamondbacks are tied with the Mets, five out of the Wild Card.

*The Padres, though still just 41-56, have won seven of their past eight series.



About AJ Kaufman

A former schoolteacher and military historian, A.J. now works in public relations. As an MSF columnist since 2009, he supports anything baseball-related. Raised in San Diego, A.J. has since resided in numerous parts of America, including Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Ohio and Washington State. After departing the coasts in 2005, he's traveled the back roads of all 50 states and prefers the Heartland. Married to Maria, A.J. is the author of three books and enjoys reading presidential biographies.

Comments

  1. Well done. Who would have thought the Oakland A’s would be watchable? Usually they serve as my “at least the Mariners aren’t last in the AL West” team to rag on…but they have some momentum

  2. AJ Kaufman says:

    Momentum. It’s a long season, and they’re hot now. We’ll see. Good story, but I bet they miss the playoffs, even with the extra wild card.

  3. Ahaa, its pleasant discussion on the topic of this piece of writing
    here at this web site, I have read all that, so now me also commenting at this place.

  4. Genuinely when someone doesn’t understand afterward its
    up to other viewers that they will help, so here it happens.

  5. The following time I learn a weblog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as a lot as this one. I imply, I do know it was my option to read, however I actually thought youd have one thing attention-grabbing to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about one thing that you possibly can fix should you werent too busy looking for attention.

  6. Hello! I simply want to give a huge thumbs up for the great data you have got here on this post. I can be coming again to your blog for more soon.

  7. Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read something like this before. So good to seek out someone with some unique thoughts on this subject. realy thank you for beginning this up. this website is something that is needed on the internet, someone with a little bit originality. useful job for bringing something new to the internet!

  8. I抎 have to test with you here. Which is not one thing I usually do! I get pleasure from reading a submit that will make folks think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!

  9. I抎 have to examine with you here. Which isn’t one thing I often do! I get pleasure from reading a put up that may make people think. Additionally, thanks for allowing me to remark!

  10. I wanted to post a brief comment in order to appreciate you for some of the magnificent tricks you are showing on this site. My incredibly long internet investigation has now been honored with awesome know-how to exchange with my guests. I ‘d point out that we website visitors are definitely endowed to be in a fantastic network with very many marvellous individuals with very helpful guidelines. I feel really grateful to have encountered the website page and look forward to tons of more fabulous minutes reading here. Thanks once again for a lot of things.

  11. You made some decent points there. I regarded on the web for the problem and found most people will go together with with your website.

  12. I wanted to put you that very small remark to be able to say thanks as before relating to the great principles you’ve featured on this site. It’s tremendously generous of people like you to present unreservedly all that most of us might have offered for sale for an ebook to make some bucks on their own, most notably seeing that you might have done it in the event you considered necessary. The concepts likewise served like the easy way to recognize that most people have the same dreams the same as my own to grasp somewhat more with regards to this condition. I think there are millions of more pleasurable periods ahead for people who looked over your website.

  13. very good submit, i definitely love this website, keep on it

  14. I found your weblog web site on google and examine a couple of of your early posts. Continue to keep up the excellent operate. I just further up your RSS feed to my MSN News Reader. Looking for forward to reading more from you in a while!?

  15. I wanted to create you the bit of word just to give many thanks once again considering the spectacular techniques you have shared here. It was simply incredibly open-handed of you to provide extensively all most of us could possibly have made available as an electronic book to help make some profit for their own end, mostly given that you could have done it if you ever decided. These principles also served to be a easy way to recognize that most people have the identical zeal much like mine to learn good deal more with reference to this issue. I’m certain there are several more enjoyable periods in the future for individuals who looked at your blog post.

  16. WONDERFUL Post.thanks for share..extra wait .. ?

  17. I抦 impressed, I need to say. Really rarely do I encounter a weblog that抯 each educative and entertaining, and let me inform you, you might have hit the nail on the head. Your idea is excellent; the problem is one thing that not enough persons are talking intelligently about. I am very blissful that I stumbled across this in my search for something regarding this.

  18. Howdy! I just want to give a huge thumbs up for the great info you’ve gotten right here on this post. I shall be coming again to your weblog for more soon.

  19. That is the correct weblog for anybody who wants to seek out out about this topic. You notice a lot its virtually hard to argue with you (not that I actually would need匟aHa). You positively put a brand new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Great stuff, simply nice!

  20. After I originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get four emails with the identical comment. Is there any approach you possibly can remove me from that service? Thanks!

  21. Would you be excited by exchanging hyperlinks?

  22. I discovered your blog web site on google and check just a few of your early posts. Proceed to keep up the excellent operate. I simply additional up your RSS feed to my MSN Information Reader. Searching for forward to studying extra from you later on!?

  23. Arsenal’s injury update: giroux Ramsey will return soon
    tissot watches

  24. Wow, amazing blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your web site is excellent, let alone the content!

  25. The windy city front – exclusive bull’s new signing: wear 1 do not have what meaning, don’t want to
    adidas terrex

Speak Your Mind