The second half, finally, commences tonight. After some due rest and relaxation, all 30 teams resume their 2013 campaigns tonight. With bodies rested and minds refreshed, the dawning of the second half is not like Opening Day. For many teams, the season is essentially over; the pursuit of division titles and post-season glory a long-dead dream.
But there is still much to play for this season, between the playoff chases and ongoing pursuit of records and the like, here are some things to watch for/enjoy/anticipate during the second half of the 2013 baseball season.
- When Puigs Fly (back to Earth) – Who doesn’t love the Yasiel Puig story? Soulless ghouls, that’s who. The supernova that was Yasiel Puig bursting on the to the stage was the feel-good moment of the Dodgers season. It also appeared to kickstart the Dodgers rise through the standings in the NL West, though that has just as much to do with the Giants, Rockies, and Padres follies as it does the Dodgers competence.
Yasiel Puig inspired the Dodgers (and one hell of a grindcore band) but there is very real chance he is going to “inspire” National League pitchers to “throw” him “nothing to hit” thanks to his “inability to lay off pitches thrown anywhere near the plate.”
The talent is undeniable – not many hitters as raw as Puig would stand a chance during their first run through league, let alone post a mind-boggling .391/.422/.616 line. That’s crazy, the stuff of dreams. Unfortunately, reality will settle over that dream through July and August. As the Dodgers outfield gets healthy, perhaps a graceful exit to the safety of the minor leagues is in everyone’s best interests.
- Alex Rodriguez will make you angry – This one seems like a given. Alex Rodriguez makes EVERYBODY angry. But he is now poised to rejoin the Yankees after a brief rehab stint. Much like his (now re-injured) teammate Derek Jeter, Rodriguez just needs to stroll onto the field under his own power to provide the Yanks with a significant upgrade over their third base production.
More likely, Alex Rodriguez will exceed whatever meagre expectations remain for the broken-down shell of one of the greatest players in the games history. In the ongoing Yankee tradition, Alex Rodriguez will rise from the grave and post obnoxiously good numbers, helping to drive the little Yankee engine that could for another few months. You’ll hate it but we can’t really fight it, at this point.
- Biogenesis suspensions taint the entire season – this is a hypothetical situation as nobody really knows how the next phase of this saga plays out. But should the suspensions come down and somebody, say Nelson Cruz, will miss time and cost his team a chance to make some playoff noise.
Maybe this is just, as the players will be judged to have acted outside the rules and agreements of the game. Maybe nobody will miss any time this season with pending appeals keeping them on the field. Just know that, should key players miss time due to suspensions, the 2013 season will go down in infamy.
- The Cardinals will play worse but it will not matter – The Cardinals are still the best team in the league but they are, in some ways, the luckiest team in the league thus far. Their situational hitting numbers are through the roof, casting doubt on the team’s collective ability to keep up their insane production with runners on base.
Fun as it might be to hit more than 60 points better than the fourth-best team with runners in scoring position, it isn’t likely to stay that way for long. The Cardinals will perform more like a regular team but it won’t matter. They are still the most talented and deepest team in baseball. The Cardinals will survive and persevere through much worse than a little regression.
Just look at Chris Carpenter – after the Cards all but held a funeral for him during Spring Training, their former ace and brave leader is making rehab starts and charging hard to rejoin the rotation. Exactly what they need – more depth!
- Matt Garza will help somebody win a division – Matt Garza is a really good pitcher, a pitcher who might well be on his way to join the Texas Rangers. Trade talks are already getting hot and heavy between the Rangers and Cubs, we were told last night and into the morning. No deal yet but whichever team enlists the services of Matt Garza gets a tidy piece for the playoff push.
Garza has been brilliant thus far in 2013, posting a 3.17 ERA powered by a 3.79 FIP in 11 starts. His strikeout rate is lower than it has been at any point during his National League tenure but his walk rate is at a career-best 6.8%. He has kept the ball in the park and runners off the bases, which all but describe his very job.
Though he is a free agent at the end of the season, Garza will fetch a tidy package of prospects as he is sure to bolster any rotation which ventures to add his services. Flags fly forever, friends. Don’t let sticker shock scare you off a big deadline addition.
- No matter how much the fans pine for it, no team will blow up their roster in a satisfactory way – The trade deadline is not a binary time of year. Buy or sell is the ultimate false dilemma, as is the pervasive view that any player with any value should be shipped out of a rebuilding/reloading team. There is getting value and then there is making a move for the sake of making a move. Getting something in return for a player who would otherwise leave without compensation is nice and all, but it isn’t so simple. It is possible to take the idea of a players as assets too far, to ignore the value a player offers on the field and simply playing every day.
Nobody does what the Astros are doing. Few teams are positioned as well as the Cubs are to strip their roster down and make significant moves to improve both the near-future and overall health of the organization. The Phillies might look like sellers but any moves they attempt are unlikely to address the greater organizational problems, namely a roster built to win now. Trading Michael Young might bring something back but, given the way the team looks on the whole, can anything they receive for Young actually impact the franchise in a real way? Probably not.
So wish as you might, your favorite team is not trading every breathing bullpen arm only to receive future fringe bullpen arms. They are not trading your fourth outfielder for anything more than a future fifth outfielder. The days of the deadline trade heist are all but over. (NOTE: trades with Ned Colletti do not qualify as evidence to the contrary.)
- Get ready for more AL MVP blood feuds – If, before this season started, you thought Chris Davis was capable of hitting 37 homers in fewer than 100 games, please step forward. If you thought Miguel Cabrera would come off his Triple Crown-winning season by hitting even better, please step forward. If you thought Mike Trout would follow-up on his historic season but…putting up the identical numbers, please step forward.
If you think Chris Davis will stop hitting home runs or Miguel Cabrera will stop hitting everything or Mike Trout will suddenly lapse into a sophomore slump, BY ALL MEANS, step forward. Watch Davis flick his wrists to send balls crashing into left field seats and watch Miguel Cabrera hitting the ball out to center field and marvel as Mike Trout’s overt athleticism blinds us to the fact that he’s on of the best pure hitters in the game and then tell me who, of those three guys, is mostly likely to lose pace with the others.
Without any of those three things actually happen, the AL MVP race will be just as closely contested and hotly debated as the 2012 award was. So enjoy that mess, I know will not.
Enjoy the second half! Congratulations, fans of [REDACTED TEAM], hope your enjoy October parades!