Surprise contenders, chase at records highlight second half
The Associated Press
Barry Bonds likely will take down the Hammer’s home run record soon. The fates of the surprising Milwaukee Brewers, the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Yankees are far murkier.
With baseball still buzzing about Ichiro Suzuki’s sprint around the All-Star bases, the talk turned to the dash to October.
“Now the fun starts,” San Diego outfielder Brian Giles said.
Can Alfonso Soriano and Lou Piniella lead the Chicago Cubs into the playoffs? Will Jake Peavy and the Padres emerge from the packed NL West? Are David Ortiz and the Boston Red Sox going to breeze the rest of the way?
Some things are fairly certain. Surely some trades are on deck before the July 31 deadline — Ken Griffey Jr., anyone?
The second half opens today with Bonds just five homers shy of breaking Hank Aaron’s career record of 755. The only question seems to be whether commissioner Bud Selig will be there to see it.
Tom Glavine will start this week going for win No. 298. Alex Rodriguez is six home runs short of joining the 500 club — Frank Thomas already made it this year. And the Philadelphia Phillies will reach a much bigger and more dubious mark: Their next loss will make them the first team in major league history to drop 10,000 games.
The race for records will soon give way to the chase for playoff spots. Almost half the teams are within 5½ games of a postseason berth, including clubs in two hard-luck cities.
There is joy in Seattle, where the Mariners are just 2½ games behind the Los Angeles Angels after finishing last in the AL West for three straight seasons. Fans there may get some other good news, too: Suzuki, MVP of the AL’s 5-4 win Tuesday night, is close to signing a long-term contract extension.
The summer also is a lot brighter in Milwaukee, where Prince Fielder and the Brewers lead the NL Central by 4½ games over the Chicago Cubs — buoyed by their major league-best 30-13 home mark.
Milwaukee has not finished a season over .500 since 1992 — when it played in the American League.
“They all have a lot of confidence in their abilities and they all are extremely talented,” Brewers manager Ned Yost said. “I’ll take my chances with them.”
Even for teams like Texas, Cincinnati and Kansas City that seem to be out of contention, the trading deadline could bring hope for the future.
The Rangers, with slugger Mark Teixeira and relievers Eric Gagne and Akinori Otsuka, could be major players. And the Reds are bound to get a few calls, with Adam Dunn among those available for contenders looking for a boost.
The Yankees could be buyers or sellers with their string of nine straight division titles in trouble.