In less than two weeks, Major League Baseball will celebrate its halfway mark of the season with its annual All-Star Game. This year’s game will mark the 88th meeting between the National and American Leagues. It takes place on July 11 at Miami’s Marlins Park. Ironically, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has put his team on the mark for sale this season.
The very first game was played in 1933 at Comiskey Park in Chicago, with the American League ultimately winning 4-2. The AL has won 41 more times since, while the National League holds 43 total victories in the mid-summer classic. Last year, the AL also took the contest by a final of 4-2. Of course, we know what that means by now, right? Winners of the All-Star Game earn home field advantage in the World Series for the eventual champions of the respective league.
Meanwhile, the Home Run Derby will be played once again the night before the game, with Giancarlo Stanton returning as the defending champion after stroking 61 dingers last year. 1985 would mark the first year of the tournament with Dave Parkera��the former Pirate then playing for Cincinnatia��claiming the crown.
These days, the Home Run Derby hardly resembles the version that was broadcast on television in 1960 by the same name. Famous baseball players of the day would compete against each other in a home run hitting contest staged at Wrigley Field. No, not the famous Chicago Cubs home. Rather, a ballpark in Los Angeles that hosted minor league teams of that era.
The show ran from January 9 to July 2 that year. A segment from the show appears below.
But let’s get back to it. As we reach the halfway point of the MLB season, have there been some surprises? Are teams on track in terms of reaching their preseason predictions? On the other hand, what about disappointments? On Bleacher Report before this season began, they made their choices as to who was going to win each division. Across both leagues, BR had the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, Washington Nationals, Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants as division winners. Well, 67 percent isn’t exactly a passing grade, but it certainly works enough for this sample.
One of MLB’s best writers, Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated, had his own opinion. His picks to win division titles were in the same order as above: Red Sox, Indians, Texas Rangers, Nationals, Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers. A couple of different guesses, sure, but that doesn’t change the end result: 67 percent. Verducci took it a step further by declaring that the wild card teams in each league would be the Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners, New York Mets, and the Colorado Rockies. The Astros are too busy worrying about their division right now to entertain wild card rumors. The Mariners and Rockies, however, are in good shape. The same cannot be said for the Mets.
Advancing to this year’s World Series in Verducci’s book will be the Cubs again. Well… But this time, they will be facing Bostona��who Verducci said would lose. That means a Chicago Cubs repeat, folks. The first team since the 1998-2000 Yankees, in fact. Except they won the World Series in three consecutive seasons. As of this writing, both sources above have been pretty accurate in the predictions. The Cubs haven’t hit top gear yet while the Giants are a mess and Texas is simply mediocre, but there’s plenty of season left.
The division leaders at this point in the order they predicted above are the Red Sox, Indians, Astros, Nationals, Milwaukee Brewers and the Dodgers. The teams mentioned above not leading their divisions are the Giants and the Rangers. And at this point, it’s reasonable to assume neither of them will get that chance to this season.
Of Verducci’s wild card teams, Houston is leading their division, Seattle is 15 games behind the Astros in fourth place (but only two games off the WC pace). Meanwhile the Mets are in third, but 10.5 games off the pace Washington has set thus far. As for the final wild card prediction, the Colorado Rockies are holding one of the two spots as we speak. The Arizona Diamondbacks own the top position.
In the AL, the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins are the current wild card leaders. Surprise teams? Certainly the Milwaukee Brewers, for starters. Speaking on Bleacher Report specifically again, they predicted they would finish last in the NL Central. They suggested this team would be winners of only 62 games. At this point, the Brew Crew are just 19 wins away from that benchmark and we are only halfway done.
While the Houston Astros were favorites to make the postseason, they have opened some eyes due to leading the way with MLB’s best record. The defending champs, on the other hand, have had a bit of a struggle. Yet, they are still right there with Milwaukee. Elsewhere, the Indians are fighting off the Twins and are only two games ahead at this point. The Astros have the most comfortable lead of all division leaders, sitting on a 13.5-game advantage in the AL West.
Will any record be broken in 2017 at the plate or on the mound? Halfway through the season it doesn’t appear likely. The days of ridiculous home run totals are long over. Aaron Judge of the Yankees leads the majors in round-trippers with 27. Hack Wilson’s all-time RBI record should be safe for the 87th consecutive season as Paul Goldschmidt currently leads MLB with 66. He has a long way to go to catch’s Wilson’s record of 190.
Remember when men like Lou Brock and Rickey Henderson used to steal bases like it was no big deal? In 1982, Henderson thieved 130 bases for the MLB record. Washington’s Trea Turner is the top base-thief this season with 35 as of this writing. Unfortunately, he just fractured his wrist. As for pitchers, Clayton Kershaw recently earned his 12th victory and the solid standard has long been 20 wins. But with bullpen usage so specialized these days, it’s highly unlikely any pitching records will ever be broken again.
The Chicago Cubs had waited 110 years to win another World Series. Now they have a chance to win a second consecutive title. Last year’s opponent, the Cleveland Indians, haven’t won one in 63 years. The Houston Astros have never won a World Series. Other teams trying to win it all for the first time in a long time include the wild card hopeful Twinsa��who last won the World Series 26 years ago.
The Colorado Rockies have not won any titles in their history either. It’s been 16 years since the Diamondbacks upset the mighty New York Yankees. The Washington Nationals have been favorites to go far in the playoffs for several years but have yet to get to the promised land. And they can’t possibly do it with their current bullpen, right? Prior to moving to the nation’s capital, the Nationals were the Montreal Expos. Neither city has celebrated a World Series titlea��unless you defer back to the original Washington Senatorsa��who won the World Series in 1924 by beating the New York Giants. They then returned a year later, this time only to lose to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Milwaukee Brewers have never won it as the Brewers but the 1957 Milwaukee Braves defeated the New York Yankees for a World Series title. The Dodgers haven’t been crowned MLB champs in 29 years. There is plenty of baseball remaining to be played, though. Especially for teams that find themselves way behind. Going forward you may see calls to the minors to discover any possible new talent. Heck, some are predicting that former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow will make his regular season major league debut before the season ends.
And for the contenders, some divisions may go down to the wire. Houston may run away with theirs, though, and start resting players in preparation for the playoffs. Either way, baseball attendance has been good. It’s been a fun and exciting season thus far. And there’s no reason to believe the second half of the MLB season won’t be any better.