Bang the drum loudly ……..
The second half of the MLB season will get underway with several teams now seeking to make inroads in terms of the divisional races , while at the same time wildcard berths will be up for grabs within the AL and NL . Through the first half of the season, there were no great surprises ,but the Oakland Athletics were proving why they remain one of the best regular season teams in baseball over the past four years. Unfortunately, the regular season is nothing more than the precursor to baseball’s Fall Classic , the World Series ,but also the postseason itself. It would be safe to say, the A’s have seen their share of ups and downs in recent postseason forays. Bob Melvin and his managerial staff will almost certainly be looking to make a better showing for this postseason as they continue to dominate the AL West , without being seriously challenged by any of their divisional rivals .
Oakland will resume their schedule with a home game on Friday against the Baltimore Orioles, with Jeff Samadzija on the mound for the home team as he faces Chris Tillman of the Orioles. The O Coliseum is likely to be packed, as the game’s best team embarks on proving their legitimacy as the AL’s top-ranked ball-club at this point of the season. With Yoenis Cespedes coming off another exceptional performance in the MLB All Star Home Run Derby contest where he successfully defended his title. The A’s slugger is perhaps the team’s best offensive player and is certainly proving his worth for the ball-club this season , while being considered a likely candidate for the AL MVP .
Baseball’s mid-season showcase event, the MLB All Star Game played at Target Field in Minneapolis , Minnesota, where we witnessed the AL triumph over their NL counterparts to gain themselves home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels signified his status as the heir-apparent to Derek Jeter in becoming the face of baseball for the next decade. Anyone who might a doubt to the claim, might want review the player’s heroics during the All Star Game on Tuesday night.
Trout and the Los Angeles Angels are in the hunt within the AL West, sitting 1 ½ games behind the Oakland Athletics with the Seattle Mariners in third place, followed by the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers bringing up the rear within the division. . It would be fair to say, Angels’ manager Mike Sciocsia and his staff are under a great deal of pressure to succeed this season. An All Star cast in terms of three high-profiled players , led by Mike Trout , Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton have failed to ignite the expectations sought by team owner , Arte Moreno and the front office led by GM Jerry Dipoto . In fact, the Angels’ fans must be wondering if the money spent on Pujols and Hamilton can be justified when the returns have been so meager by way of their output over the last two seasons.
Coming into the All Stat break the Los Angeles Angles were 9-1 in their last ten games, a league leading best among the teams in baseball. The approach of the team and Sciocsia’s staff, has been to play hard, with an emphasis on both offense , pitching and defense . . While I believe Mike Sciocsia’s position as the manager of the Los Angeles Angels remains in jeopardy, the team’s ongoing miscues could lead to Jerry Dipoto making the decision to relieve him of his managerial duties. Trout and his teammates will resume their season with a weekend series starting on Friday, when the Angels play the Seattle Mariners at Angels’ Ballpark in Anaheim , California . Taking the mound for the Mariners will be Hisashi Iwakuma against Jered Weaver of the Angels. . A pitching match-up I believe will bring out the best in these two AL pitchers as both seek to strengthen the presence of their respective teams as the second half of the season begins.
Two decades of witnessing the very best that Derek Jeter has to offer the game of baseball does seem to be something of a privilege for fans of America’s pastime. For the New York Yankees’ captain, this final season has been something of a milestone as he does the rounds being applauded by his peers and fans alike. A five-time winning World Series champion, Jeter and his teammates would like nothing better than to add another title to his list of achievements as well to that of the fabled ball-club. .However, if he and the team are to achieve that goal, then they will most certainly have to raise the level of their play entering the second half of the season . One of two wildcard berths within the AL may well be the best that the Yankees can achieve but I believe they will have set their sights higher and make a bold attempt at winning the AL East division, because the American League has been very competitive this season. Several teams are vying for the two wildcard berths, while the division now appears to be a three-horse race between the Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees.
The Yankees have fared well against their divisional rivals this season, but their issues remain ever-present and the loss of their best pitcher in 2014 has been felt by the starting rotation . Masahiro Tanaka remains on the fifteen day DL , along with a number of teammates familiar in their starting roles for the Yankees’ lineup this season. Yankees Stadium will be packed over the next three days as the team plays host to the Cincinnati Reds in a three-game series beginning on Friday , 18th July. David Phelps of the Yankees will square off against Mike Leake of the Reds in this pitching duel.
Hal Steinbrenner and GM Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman have come a long way since the death of George Steinbrenner , but the fact remains the ball-club’s wish to be seen as being financially expedient has fallen on deaf ears within the organization. Other than the Los Angeles Dodgers , the New York Yankees are the only other team in Major League Baseball with a payroll above $200 million for this season. Hal Steinbrenner promised and failed in the attempt to lower the figure in 2013 and it seems for this year even in falling behind the Dodgers in the payroll sweepstakes , financial expediency no longer seems to be a major concern for the front office.
While the New York Yankees will not have to worry about a financial commitment to now disgraced star Alex Rodriguez for this season , the issue remains theirs is one of bloated salaries where a number of their players are among the highest paid in all of baseball, with the scenario unlikely to change . There will come a point where Hal Steinbrenner will have to show financial restraint, rather than showing the pretext of saying one thing and doing the complete opposite.
A postseason match-up between the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers would be something that all of baseball would definitely relish. The two most storied franchises in the game meeting in World Series would be a considerable boost for MLB , given baseball’s inept handling of a litany of issues over the past decade. Unfortunately, such a scenario would allow Bud Selig to ride out on a psychological high with his taking credit for the creation of such a showcase . The Dodgers for their part having caught and now past the San Francisco Giants within the NL West are now proving why they are best team within the division and one of the best in the National League.
If ever there was a time for Don Mattingly to prove himself as a manager, then now would be it. Having won the NL West crown in 2013 with a great deal of ease the Dodgers being dismantled in the NLCS by the St Louis Cardinals showed why having a team of stars lacking in leadership was a sure way of being completely embarrassed. There was a great deal of complacency among the players , managerial staff as well as within the front office as senior partner Magic Johnson was simply making promises that his team would never keep. Disappointment and abject failure, pretty much summed up the NLCS series for the Dodgers against Mike Matheny’s Cardinals.
The maturation of Yasiel Puig remains a work in progress with the young player making a name for himself among his peers and the opposition faced this season. Puig like his teammates, are among the most explosive teams from an offensive standpoint within the game, but not to be left out of the equation, has to be the pitching of the Los Angeles Dodgers , with both Clayton Kershaw and Josh Beckett this season, having thrown no hitters for the team . The Los Angeles Dodgers have played with a great deal of presence and dominance against their opposition.
The Los Angeles Dodgers and St Louis Cardinals will renew their acquaintance when these two teams meet at Busch Stadium in St Louis , Missouri in a three-game series , starting on Friday, through until Sunday . Dan Haren of the Dodgers, will be on the mound when he takes on Lance Lynn in what is sure to be a great game between these two teams. . I believe the Dodgers are capable of winning the NL Pennant for this season , but the issue to my mind remains , who can anyone point to as being the vocal leader on this team? There are seasoned veterans such as Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp , Carl Crawford , Dan Haren, Paul Malholm and Brian Wilson , but when it comes crunch time, are any of the players in question likely to step up to the plate? There was no evidence there to suggest they are capable doing so especially in light of the failures of last season in the NLCS series against the St Louis Cardinals. The Dodgers are simply a safe bet during the regular season but they have been ’ fool’s gold’ during the postseason in recent years.
If someone had suggested to me Oakland Athletics’ starting pitcher Scott Kazmir would be among the best pitchers in baseball this season while leading the A’s starting rotation in wins and ERA(earned run average), I would have stated they are out of their mind ! Yet lo and behold Kazmir seems to have resurrected his career and found the form that saw him once spearhead the Tampa Bay Rays . Scott Kazmir’s former team are having their own issues this season, much of it of their own making and the mistaken belief among the Rays’ fans baseball analysts alike , they would be among the favorites to win the AL East and AL Pennant this season. Nothing could be further from the truth at this juncture, in spite of the ongoing optimism of Joe Maddon who believes the division still remains a wide open race.
Oakland has a slight lead (1 1/2 games) over the Los Angeles Angels within the AL West, with both teams scheduled to resume their respective schedules today. Bob Melvin will lead his team against the Baltimore Orioles when they meet at the O Coliseum in Oakland, California. Chris Tillman will be on the mound for the Orioles as they take on the division leading A’s, with Jeff Samardzija being the opposing pitcher . Contests between these two teams tend not to be close affairs, but I believe with both ball-clubs now riding high and their being so much at stake we are likely to see a competitive game and series .
Mike Trout I believe to be the most dominant force in the game today as an offensive player and granted , many are likely to view the reigning two-time AL MVP Detroit Tigers’ slugger Miguel Cabrera set about trying to prove which of the duo just happens to be the most dominant player. Within the NL I certainly do not believe there is a player the equal of either Cabrera or Trout in terms of productivity over the past two years . The singular awards for this season are up for grabs and I believe the races for those crowns will carry on until the end of the season. As to who those winners are likely to be, will be dependent upon the play of the presumptive frontrunners.
Picture gallery .
Through the first half of the MLB season which teams or players do you believe have provided the best highlights ? As baseball resumes play, how do you see the rest of the schedule playing out and which ball-club is likely to be the most dominant and be seen as a firm favorite to win the World Series ?
Picture and slideshow details below .
(1) Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin ,left, is seen here with the team’s general manager Billy Beane . The duo have seen the A’s become the leading frontrunners within the AL for the AL Pennant but their greatest wish has to be, bringing back a World Series’ title to the state of California and to their loyal fans . AP Photo / Mark Edmonds …
(2) Jeff Samardzija of the Oakland A’s has been one of the main reasons the team has been consistent within the AL West this season . Getty Images / Chris Jones …
(3) Jul 15, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; American League infielder Derek Jeter (second from right) of the New York Yankees greets all star teammates Robinson Cano (22) of the Seattle Mariners and Mike Trout (27) of the Los Angeles Angels before the 2014 MLB All Star Game at Target Field . Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports …
(4) Los Angeles Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly is seen here with All Star player Yasiel Puig ,left . Getty Images / Hector Gonzalez …
(5)The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Matt Kemp chats with Magic Johnson before Game 2 of the 2013 National League Division Series in Atlanta. With almost one-quarter of a billion dollars ($250,000,000) invested in the team’s payroll for the 2014 season, Johnson hopes the fortunes of the Dodgers will be far more fruitful than during the 2013 MLB postseason. Getty Images / Christina Martin ….
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