The MLB’s Midsummer Classic will be played on Tuesday, July 15th at Minnesota’s Target Field. The MLB’s 85th annual All-Star Game marks the unofficial halfway point in the long and grueling MLB season. TSL offers our midseason round up and mash-up with an array of awards to deserving players and coaches. We also offer our observations of the MLB season to date as well as some predictions for a wild and wacky second half.
Derek Jeter starts his final All-Star Game
The King of NY is hanging it up after two decades, five WS c’hips, 14 All-star appearances and well over 3,000 hits. No need to beef about whether or not he deserves to be starting. This is baseball royalty getting his proper send off. It’s not like he’s playing miserably, just not at that supreme level, but that’s why he’s retiring anyway. He is a Top 3 player of the last 25 years and the classiest player and most cherished ambassador for MLB. A true example of what respecting the game means.
When and to where will David Price be traded?
We know flamethrower David Price is leaving Tampa. He only signed a one-year deal for 2014. With his recent All-Star induction and his league-leading 159 K’s up for grabs; teams will be putting a full court press on Tampa to acquire his services for the stretch run and the future. Price’s eminent trade is rocking the rumor mill. Some have him going to the pitching-strapped Yankees and others to the Cincinnati Reds for slugger Joey Votto. Wherever the “Black Ace” ends up should be a lot better than the 41-50 Tampa Rays who are tumbling deeper into AL East oblivion and won’t spend a dime to change it.
Ryan Braun’s return
He used illegal performance enhancers, lied about it and was bounced for 65 games as part of the Biogenesis case. The Brewers are in a desperate spot because they still owe him $117 million through 2020. He hasn’t been the player he was in 2012 when he hit 41 homers and swiped 30 bags. He hasn’t performed at all-star levels but he hasn’t fallen of the face of the earth either. His .288 BA., 11 homers and 49 RBI is solid. The verdict is still out on this guy, but he’s just 30 and has a few years to show us who he really is.
The Legend of Yasiel Puig grows
Yasiel Puig hit baseball like a shooting comet in 2013 and to tell you the truth he hasn’t really fizzled out at all. If anything, he’s toned it down a bit and that’s all anybody was asking the Cuban phenom with the Hollywood –scripted life story to do. Puig tore up MLB pitching for most of last season and his combination of power, speed and his cannon arm has earned him an All-Star selection – one of 25 first-time selections this season. The sky is the limit for Puig and his title-bound Dodgers squad.
Is Cano making a difference?
The Yankees could probably use Cano’s bat right now. He’s hitting over .300 and has 51 RBI’s, but those six homeruns is suspect as hell. I doubt Brian Cashman is shedding tears over Cano walking away to take $240 million with Seattle. The Yankees can spend a lot less money to buy six homers worth of power. Seattle is much improved at 48-40 and as they continue to surround Cano with pieces, his worth will become even more evident. The trade is everything that we said it was; A costly, but desperately needed win for Seattle and water off the Yankees back.
DREAM TEAMS (DIVISION LEADERS)
Baltimore Orioles (AL East)
The Orioles had three starters voted into the American League starting lineup for this year's All-Star Game. Center fielder Adam Jones, designated hitter Cruz and catcher Matt Wieters will represent the O's after winning at their respective positions in the fan balloting. Wieters is out for the season due to Tommy John elbow surgery and was replaced by Salvador Perez of the Royals.
The Orioles have risen to the top of the AL East and it can’t be considered a fluke. With dynamic players such as Manny Machado, Jones, Cruz and bomber Chris Davis, if the pitching can hold up, this power-laden offense could be one to make old O's skipper Earl Weaver proud.
Detroit Tigers (Al Central)
The Tigers find themselves in a familiar spot atop the NL Central with two All-Star starters, Miggy Cabrera and pitcher Max Scherzer. They also find themselves in the familiar position of being a team that looks great on paper, but their playoff resume is shaky. The past few years Detroit has been knocking on the door of a WS, but they stay falling short. Will a managerial change and chucking Prince Fielder get them over the hump? Will Verlander regain the consistency that made him the game’s golden arm just a few years back? Can Scherzer continue to pitch like Orel Hershiser?
Oakland A’s (AL West)
The Athletics, who have the best record in baseball, placed six players on the roster for the first time since 1975. Sensing that he has a “legit” shot to go all the way this season sabermetrics king Billy Beane made an atypical power move by unloading some of his most heralded prospects to add some power arms to the A’s starting staff as they gear up for the second half push.
This past weekend, Oakland and Chicago announced the blockbuster, with NL All-star hurler Jeff Samardzija and Josh Hammel heading to the West Coast for a package of dope prospects that included the A's first-round selections in each of the past two drafts.
Beane felt he needed to add depth to a rotation that responded well to season-ending injuries forJarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin. Drew Pomeranz also is on the disabled list with a broken right hand. Samardzija and Hammel join rebirthed Scott Kazmir and Sonny Gray in one of the majors' best crop of starting pitchers.
"We had to dig into our depth really early, and we felt like we needed two (starting pitchers)," Beane said.
Theo Epstein, who is stacking chips for the day that the Cubs will be contenders again, gets Addison Russell who scouts condsider the No. 3-ranked prospect in the game, as well as outfielder Bill McKinney and pitcher Dan Straily.
MLB Network analysts gushed about the trade immediately declaring Oakland “the team to beat,” in MLB.
Atlanta Braves (NL East)
The Braves bring the arms with All-Stars, reliever Craig Kimbrel and 23-year-old starter Julio Teheran . Despite his lack of hitting, Justin Heyward helps make the outfield a black hole for opposing batters. Justin Upton (17 homers, 50 RBI) Elvis Gattis (16 dingers) and Freddie Freeman (.294 BA, 99 hits) help compensate for Heyward’s struggles. Still, there’s a large contingent of baseball minds that believe the Washington Nationals are the better team and will eventually surpass Atlanta as top dawgs in the division.
Milwaukee Brewers (NL Central)
The Brewers own the NL’s best record at 52-37 and lead the National League with two starters and four players overall. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez and outfielder Carlos "The Mouth" Gomez will start for the NL squad. MVP candidate and catcher Jonathan Lucroy and the old veteran fireman K-Rod ( who TSL wrote about earlier this season) was also voted to the team by the players. When former MVP Ryan Braun is an afterthought in your lineup, that’s says a lot for the Brewers staying power over the long haul.
"We've got some guys who have had great first halves so far, and that's what's nice to see," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. "It's great, because it's a team game, we play to win, but it's nice when an individual is recognized like they are for this game."
Let’s not forget 2013’s surprise squad, the Pittsburgh Pirates, sit just 4.5 games out and MVP Andrew McCutchen (.324 BA) is still wielding serious wood.
LA Dodgers (NL West)
LA doesn’t have the AL’s best record and Bruce Bochy and his playoff-ready Giants are nipping at their heels, but this team has too much talent to blow it. From All-stars Yasiel Puig, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke to the overlooked terrors like Dee “Flash” Gordon and Adrian Gonzales. The Dodgers are loaded and this is the year to put up or shut up. Magic Johnson and Co. can’t do anything more than they’ve done to give skipper Don Mattingly a chance to bring LA its first World Series win since 1988.