MLB contenders hit mid-season form, All-Star Game looms
Dave Larsen, Sentinel EditorThe Major League Baseball annual mid-season classic, the All-Star Game, will be played in Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City, July 10.
Thursday, June 28, 2012
I’ve never been a fan of Commissioner Bud Selig’s decision to put more emphasis on this exhibition game by awarding home-field advantage in the World Series to the winning league. Even so, I’ve always been a fan of this game.
I remember going to June games as a kid in Milwaukee’s Country Stadium and punching through card stock ballots for my favorite Brewers. The Brewers were terrible in the early 1970s, but they were my heroes nonetheless.
Fans still get a say about who they see in baseball’s annual summer showcase. Thanks to internet voting, which has replaced those hanging chad ballots I punched out as a kid, record-setting votes are going to baseball’s biggest stars.
Rangers’ Hamilton tops
According to MLB.com, Texas Rangers’ slugger Josh Hamilton is on the verge of receiving the most votes ever cast for a single player. Voting ends today at 11 p.m., and as of Tuesday, Hamilton was less than 150,000 votes from breaking the record.
Hamilton had 7,310,824 votes through Tuesday. The record stands at 7,454,753 – for Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista last year.
Hamilton leads a potent offense for the Rangers, who lead the American League West Division with a stellar 46-29 record through Tuesday.
His personal stats thus far have been impressive, as well.
Hamilton has belted 24 home runs (tying Bautista, by the way, for the MLB lead) and knocked in a MLB-best 67 runs. His .317 batting average is second on the club only to third baseman Adrian Beltre, who is hitting .328 this season.
Taking a look at the MLB landscape, the reigning American League champion Rangers lead the surging Los Angeles Angels by 4.5 games. No other team has a winning record out west.
In the AL Central, the Chicago White Sox have a game-and-a-half lead over the surprising Cleveland Indians and a three-game cushion over the Tigers from Detroit. The ChiSox are leading their division, at 39-35, despite having a losing record at home this season (19-21). I expect this race to go down to the wire with all three aforementioned teams competing for a division title. Of course, come playoff time, whoever emerges as the winner will become first-round fodder for the really good teams.
The New York Yankees, through Tuesday, have the best record in baseball at 45-28. Their closest competition comes from the surprising Baltimore Orioles four games back. This is baseball’s toughest division, folks, with every team posting a winning record thus far. The Toronto Blue Jays are in the AL East cellar at 38-36. If they played in the Central, they’d be a game out of first place.
In the National League, the Washington Nationals are winning the East Division at 42-30. That’s the best record in the NL. They’re winning games with unbelievable pitching and defense, including a team earned run average a shade under 3 (2.98). Fireballer Stephen Strasburg is 9-2 thus far with a 2.60 ERA and 118 strikeouts in just 90 innings. Gio Gonzalez leads the Nationals in victories with 10.
In the East, the Atlanta Braves stand three-and-a-half games back from the Nats, and the Mets are a game behind the Braves.
Out west, the Los Angeles Dodgers have a one-game lead over the San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers are 43-32, thanks to winning two-thirds of their games at home this season (24-12). They’re hanging onto first place despite the loss of slugger Matt Kemp to injury. Kemp still leads the Dodgers in home runs with 12, though he’s been out a couple of weeks already and has only played in 36 games. Right fielder Andre Ethier has picked up some of Kemp’s offensive slack, hitting .291 and knocking in 55 runs so far.
The Cincinnati Reds hold a slim lead over the reigning World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central. The Reds sat at 41-32 through Tuesday. Cincinnati has been paced at the plate by first baseman Joey Votto, who carries a .353 batting average (third in the league) and has cranked out 31 doubles already. Right fielder Jay Bruce leads Cincinnati in power production with 17 bombs and 51 RBIs.
The California Angels’ youngster, center fielder Mike Trout, has to be the biggest surprise this season. He leads the AL in hitting at .335. Trout is setting the baseball world on fire even though he doesn’t turn 21 until Aug. 7. He’s already swiped 21 bases and even shown a bit of power with 14 doubles and seven homers thus far.
The other surprise? How about a 33-year-old catcher leading the NL is hitting?
Philadelphia backstop Carlos Ruiz is hitting .361 through Tuesday. He’s hit 10 dingers and knocked in 41 runs, too, but Ruiz is a career .275 hitter. Don’t expect the magic to last, but if you’re a Phillies fan, enjoy it while it lasts.
This week, we talked a bit about baseball. Next week, we’ll delve into the Olympic arena as Team USA prepares to invade London next month. Until then, “Go, Brewers go!”