The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

July 1, 2013

Some baseball surprises at the halfway mark

By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Here we are, a few weeks from the start of football preseason camps, with the NBA draft just past and free agent season just begun.

So what is left for sports fans to talk about?

Oh, yeah, baseball.

We are halfway through the Major League Baseball campaign, with the All-Star break coming up soon, so it’s time to take a look at how well the preseason prognosticators did in predicting the 2013 season.

In a word, not well. OK, so that’s two words, but the fact is this has been a surprising big league season thus far.

Sports Illustrated’s experts were split between whether or not the Tampa Bay Rays or Toronto Blue Jays would capture the American League East. Today the Boston Red Sox are atop the division, with Baltimore second, Tampa Bay a distant third and Toronto mired in last.

Detroit, picked for first in the AL Central, is a half-game back of the pesky Indians.

Some observers had the Rangers winning the AL West, but many more chose the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, or at least the closest freeway exit to Disneyland. Texas has a slim lead over Oakland, but the Angels currently are nine games out.

The Washington Nationals were the picks of many not only to take the National League East, but the World Series, as well. They are presently mired in second place well behind the Atlanta Braves. St. Louis and Cincinnati were supposed to battle for the NL Central, but as the second half of the season begins the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates hold the lead.

Meanwhile the Dodgers, Giants and Diamondbacks were supposed to battle for the NL West. Arizona’s leading, all right, but the only thing LA and San Francisco are fighting for is the cellar.

That means of the top 10 big league teams in terms of payroll, only three currently are in first place, alone or in a tie.

The other seven teams with the most bloated payrolls are, before Monday’s games, an average of seven games out of first place.

That’s heart-warming for those of us who don’t like to see big-money, big-market teams dominate professional sports, though it has worked for the NBA’s Miami Heat the past couple of years.

The second half figures to have some intriguing story lines. Can Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera win his second straight triple crown, leading in average, RBIs and home runs, or will Baltimore basher Chris Davis knock him off? And will Davis, who had 31 home runs as of Monday, challenge the 60 home run mark, or will he fade during the dog days of August?

Will either the Dodgers or Phillies avoid finishing below .500 with a combined payroll of nearly $376 million?

Can Pittsburgh, with its lowly $66 million total payroll, hold off high rollers like the Cardinals ($116 million) and Reds ($110 million)?

Can Detroit’s Max Scherzer (currently 12-0) approach the 25-victory mark, breaking the 24 wins by his teammate Justin Verlander in 2011?

Stay tuned. In the meantime, the first NFL training camps open in 19 days and the first exhibition (oops, sorry, preseason) game is slated for Aug. 4.

Hey, this is Oklahoma. We can only stand being without football for so long.



Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.