By Guest Writers Gareth Von Kallenbach and Paul Zevgolis
The Major league baseball season is a third of the way through its grueling season, and having just completed the first wave of inter league play, it is time to reflect on the season to this point, and give some insight on what could happen in the months ahead.
Speculation and what ifs as usual will be at an all time high, at least through the trade deadline when the teams have their best attempt to solidify the team for the final charge up what has become Mt. Yankee.
The American league has probably gone through the biggest changes of the two leagues. Of the three division leaders, you've got teams that are completely out of ( at least in one teams case) centerfield. The Chicago White Sox are actually leading the Cleveland invitational or the league formerly known as the AL Central. Some ask how? Let me be the first to say that it is due to brilliance. Excellent drafts in the 90's and a few trades that at first were highly criticized, now seem to be paying off in the form of the biggest surprise of the season. The White Sox have either been tied or held sole possession of first since April 18th in a division usually decided by the end of May. The AL West has been a playground for Texas Rangers the last few years has two teams vying for first place. The Seattle Mariners were thought to be in somewhat of a rebuilding year after losing the second future hall of fame player from their roster in three years. The departure of Ken Griffey Jr. had the city of Seattle feeling as gloomy as a Seattle winter, are now catching a glimmer of sunlight and hope after New GM Pat Gillick brought in some key free agent acquisitions and the stellar play of the players received in exchange for Kenneth are making this now young team more complete and tailored for their new ball park. The afore mentioned losses of two future hall of famers, (Griffey and Randy Johnson) have replenished a once depleted minor league system as well as making the future bright in Seattle.
Down the freeway in Oakland, the Athletics have done it the same way right down to trading a future hall of famer in Mark McGwire to achieve a complete team with a potential future. A potential all star at every position, peppered with the right amount of veterans to help them though the tough moments, the A's and Mariners have arrived. The biggest shock this year, would have to be the descent of the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees. Although by most standards they are having good years but due to their success in recent years, both teams are scratching their collective heads and scrambling for answers.
The National League has seen a few changes to its landscape. The most notable would have to be the collapse of The two time defending Central Division Houston Astros The Astros now hold the worst record in baseball, and the pressures of having a new stadium to fill and the reality of having a medium market salary base that caused them to lose key players in the offseason, have made for bad tidings deep in the heart of Texas. While Houston has problems, out west the Rockies are Mile high having completely gutted their team and brought in mostly cast offs and never produced prospects. The Rockies find themselves only a game back of division powerhouse Arizona who boasts a potential all star at every position, while Big Mac has lead the Cardinals to first.
While the Braves roll right along on their annual pilgrimage to the postseason, not many people have noticed the success story north of the border. I'm talking about the Montreal Expos led by budding superstar Vladmir Guerrero .The Expos have played well above their heads, and are exceeding all expectations with their .500 baseball, making teams who once thought of Montreal as an easy victory actually play their regulars against the Expos. In Cincinatti, the Reds and their fans had a lot to be excited about the start of the year with the addition of Ken Griffey Jr to their lineup along with a returning overachieving team the postseason seemed automatic. The Reds are playing well , but are not quite in first as Griffey still continues to adjust and find his groove. One has to wonder with the improvement of the Mariners since his departure and the decline the Reds are having , if Kenneth brings more to field and clubhouse than his 45 homeruns: Attention all players, please check your ego at the door.
Over in the east the New York Mets added a couple of key players via trades and like the Reds, have not met expectations, the story there is chemistry. Last year, the Mets were like the get-a-long gang. Fun to watch, easy to like, and taking it to the Braves. To the end, this years team has been one thing after another ,but seems to have righted their ship since the release of the cancerous Rickey Henderson.
League wide, there seems to be a changing of the guard. The Braves, Yankees, Redsox and Diamondbacks are plotting a course for the postseason , while newcomers to contention are making headlines. Teams such as the Kansa City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals, and the Colorado Rockies along with the Mariners and Athletics and White Sox are pushing for playoff berths. Baseball is getting fresh shot of what was needed most, an appearance of balanced playing fields. With expectations of the same 10 or so teams to appear in the playoffs annually most fans and some experts can only come up with one word to describe this season: crazy. The fans in cities probably could care less what you call it or them as long as the word "contender" is thrown in somewhere. Will the new look contenders maintain there pace or will they fall back where they are accustomed? We will find out in the upcoming months, but until then, it is making for one of the most exciting and unpredictable seasons in recent memory.