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TSL’s Top 11 Storylines Heading Into MLB’s Second Half

THE NATS “WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR” PHILOSOPHY IS BACKFIRINGRight about now, Washington GM Mike Rizzo is in his kitchen, slamming dishes and shouting the Florida Evans (Good Times), “Damn, Damn, Damn.

THE NATS “WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR” PHILOSOPHY IS BACKFIRING

Right about now, Washington GM Mike Rizzo is in his kitchen, slamming dishes and shouting the Florida Evans (Good Times), “Damn, Damn, Damn.”

The expression, “wait till next year” often sounds dope. Problem is, sometimes “next year” never comes. Last season the Nats rode the delicate, golden arm of phenom Stephen Strasburg to a franchise-record 98 wins, Washington’s first playoff appearance since 1933.   

Strasburg was the lights-out hurler the Nats needed to make a deep playoff run. Instead, GM Mike Rizzo shut his ace down when they needed him most—right before the playoffs and San Francisco wound up winning it all. Rizzo’s contention was that he’s preserving the Nats’ future. Well, with the Nats stumbling into the all-star break at 48-47, 6 games out of first place in the NL East, Strasburg struggling at 5-7 and still fighting the injury bug, there’s no guarantee that they’ll even make the playoffs.


 

CRASH AND CABRERA SHOOT A FAIR ONE


The AL MVP race is tight, and you can roll the dice on whether Chris “Crash” Davis or Miguel Cabrera is more deserving. Both players have had potent seasons for contending squads, becoming the first major leaguers to bash 30 homers and collect 90 ribbies by the All-Star game. Davis’ 37 homers gives him the power edge over Cabrera (30), as he chases the boss-player 60-homer mark. Cabrera’s Ruthian exploits have become so common place, that no one’s even stressing the fact that he could become the first ever back-to-back Triple Crown King.  That’s baseball’s equivalent to bagging five King Mag cover girls on consecutive nights at the club. Barry Bonds was the last cat to dominate baseball in such a Jordanesque manner.    

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DEATH OF A DYNASTY? OR RETURN OF THE FUNKY CHILD

The Yankees have endured a decimation of injuries, and the recent A-Rod drama, to go 51-44. They are hanging in the AL Wild Card race with a solid cast of low-cost vets and youngsters. Can the Yanks make a move on Boston when their injured stars return?  Or will they fall further back in the standings and out of elite status, as many predicted at the beginning of the season?


 

NOT TO KEEP ASKING, BUT CAN THEY KEEP THIS UP?

The “Pit of Hell” is popping like Philly Greekfest back in ‘92. The Pirates have gone from a 20-year running joke to letting that baseball pistol smoke. They’re gunning down opponents that used to use them as target practice. Andrew McCutchen’s diamond studs were bling-city when he swiped second in the All-Star game, and Pedro Alvarez flexed his big-bopper status at the Homerun Derby.


These cats seemed focused, and all-star weekend was just a preview of more to come from these new Pirates. It will be an unfamiliar sight, but don’t try to adjust your TV set for color when you see the Black and Yellow balling in October.  

 

MONEY TREES STARTING TO GROW

The LA Dodgers and Angels and the Toronto Blue Jays all spent mega-chips in the offseason, hoping to dash off with a World Series title. The season popped off in the worst possible way. All three teams were looking like cautionary tales of big-spending in baseball leading to big disappointment. Then in true baseball fashion, they kicked it into gear and are looking forward to making second half pushes towards the playoffs. The Angels and Blue Jays are scratching their way back to .500 and the Dodgers are only 2.5 games behind Arizona in the NL West. Second half is “show”-time in LA.

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PED PITY PARTY

The latest PED saga, involving more than 20 MLB players and Biogenesis Clinic boss Tony Bosch, will continue to muck-up baseball’s second half. This PED pity-party has been like a soap opera at the circus and Bud Selig is the ring leader. It’s a lingering sore that won’t heal. The possible 100-game suspensions that MLB heads are threatening suspicious players with are no closer to happening than they were when the bombshell dropped. In fact, it’s pretty clear that the way the wheels of justice moves in baseball, suspensions won’t even be levied until next season, if at all.



 

WHEN DOES PUIG COOL OFF?


In his first month as a pro Yasiel Puig came, conquered, confused and captivated. No, he ain’t crippin', but he's been playing like gangbusters. In 151 at bats the “Cuban Missile” is batting .391 and slugging .661. He’s brought the excitement back to LA and hit baseball like a Tsunami. His game is wet. The 6-3, 245-pound jack hammer is most def a supreme baller, but it will be interesting to see what happens once the league figures him out.  

 

IS THIS JETER’S SWAN SONG, OR AN ENCORE? 

Derek Jeter’s got to be hoping he can be more like Jigga Man in the season’s second half. After prematurely announcing his retirement from the game, Jay-Z returned stronger than ever and took his steez to a next level. Cats have been trying to “Fade (Jeter) To Black” since that wicked ankle injury ended his ’12 season. Can he comeback and stay back?

 

SOUL PATROL HAS TO GET OUT OF SLOW-MO  


It wasn’t supposed to go down like this for The Upton Brothers and The Soul Patrol. We were supposed to witness baseball’s best outfield. Defensive highlights, power and speed. Justin and B.J.Upton and Jason Heyward were supposed to swarm baseball like when the Wu Tang Clan first hit the industry. Injuries and massive slumps have resulted in an album flop. The pressure of big contracts has stunted many a player. Maybe that ATL lifestyle is getting these guys caught up?  The saving grace is that the Braves are in first place and there’s a lot of season left to make a mark in Braves history.

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ONE MORE CHANCE FOR LEYLAND AND WASHINGTON

Detroit should have won the World Series last season. They have the skills, pitching and experience. The Texas Rangers blew two shots at a WS in ‘10 and ’11, and had a historical collapse last season. Detroit is in first place in the AL Central again and the Texas Rangers are in the thick of the AL West race. If neither one of these teams can get it done with their talent-laden rosters, it might be time for Jim Leyland and Ron Washington to hit the road. How many chances do you give cats who continue to come up short with superior teams?

 

CAN BIG PAPI CONTINUE TO HIT LIKE HE’S 25?


Big Papi hit just .257 from ‘08-‘10. Injuries and age seemed to be slowing him down. All of a sudden he had a rebirth and has continued to shatter records. This season has been even more remarkable. Papi’s turned the clock back and is wacking Boston to an unexpected AL East Crown. Boston goes as Ortiz goes, and son is doing it at the highest levels. 


JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The Deputy Editor and Senior Writer is in his 23rd year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, magazines and national TV.

His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.