.746 OPS (7th in the AL), 3.78 ERA (2nd in the AL)
The Twins are a team that does a lot of things right, but nothing more right than staying in hailing distance of Chicago. Torii Hunter (.271, 14 homers, an .823 OPS) could have been an All-Star, closer Joe Nathan (25 saves in 27 chances, a .199 average against) is one and All-Star Johan Santana (143 strikeouts in 124 1/3 innings) -- on his good days -- is better than anyone in the league. And the pen is fourth in the league, with a 3.17 ERA.
The new left side of the infield has been a bust, and the defense as a whole has suffered. Ace Santana has been off at times (two wins since early May), Radke has struggled with a sore neck and right fielder Jacque Jones cooled off considerably after a .353 April.
The Twins would love to get a boost at the trade deadline, probably trading for a third baseman. But they're good enough, as is, to compete for the wild card -- if the pitching comes together. And stays together.
Grade: Don't give up yet, boys. -- B
New York Yankees(46-40)
.803 OPS (3rd in the AL), 4.55 ERA (10th in the AL)
Hideki Matsui (.320, 14 homers, 11-game hitting streak) and Jason Giambi (.278, 10 homers, 32 RBIs with five homers in nine July games) are hot, Alex Rodriguez (.317, 23, 72 RBIs) has been steady, along with Gary Sheffield (.298, 17, 68) and Derek Jeter (.308, .393 on-base). Rookies Chien-Ming Wang (6-3, 3.89 ERA) and Robinson Cano (.288, six homers) have surprised. Mariano Rivera (20 saves, 1.01 ERA) is the star of a rudderless pitching staff. They've won seven of nine games in July. And George Steinbrenner hasn't fired any coaches. Yet.
The defense has been horrific, and the offseason acquisitions have been nearly as bad. Lefty so-called ace Randy Johnson (9-6, 4.16) has been inconsistent, Carl Pavano (4-6, 4.77) disappointing and hurt (shoulder) and Jaret Wright just plain hurt (shoulder). Three relievers were cut loose, the 'pen is in shambles, Sheff got into a spat with a fan and an umpire and, dang it, $200 million just doesn't go as far as it used to.
GM Brian Cashman would like to make some moves, but he can't trade what young talent he has, and the old talent is too expensive to unload. If the staff solidifies, the Yanks can make a run. If not ...
Grade: Bad start, but coming on. -- C+
.731 OPS (12th in the AL), 3.95 ERA (6th in the AL)
A steaming June (19-8) turned things around. Third baseman Eric Chavez got hot (.379, seven homers in June), shortstop Bobby Crosby got healthy (.337, four) and the pitching staff was vintage A's. Joe Blanton, Danny Haren, Barry Zito, Kirk Saarloos and Rich Harden were a combined 18-3 in 24 June starts, with a 2.47 ERA. Lone All-Star Justin Duchscherer had a 1.51 ERA and four saves, while rookie Huston Street didn't allow a run in picking up four saves.
A terrible May (7-20) put the A's in a bad way. Crosby was hurt, Chavez was scuffling (.239, two homers in May) -- nothing was going right. Zito trade rumors were rampant, and trade murmurs about another key member of the team -- center fielder Mark Kotsay, possibly going to the Yankees -- were wild until the A's signed him last weekend to an extension.
No telling what GM Billy Beane will do. He says he won't trade Zito. But, given Beane's history, if the deal is right (Eric Byrnes, anyone?), the GM would change the team name from the A's to the B's. Expect something, but Beane won't do anything too drastic because this team has too much going for it.
Grade: Be very afraid of the A's. -- C+
.710 OPS (14th in the AL), 4.24 ERA (8th in the AL)
Richie Sexson is striking out like mad (97 times), but he is hitting homers (18), and that's why they pay him the big bucks. Raul Ibanez has been solid (.298, 12 homers, 48 RBIs), and 24-year-old Jeremy Reed plays a mean centerfield. Looking for a hero? Rivals are hitting just .186 against closer Eddie Guardado (21 saves, 22 chances), who's pitching with a torn rotator cuff.
Ichiro slumped (.242 in June), Bret Boone did worse (.202 in May) and was designated for assignment and free agent Adrian Beltre got off to a terrible start in the AL (.216 in May). That's not why they pay him the big bucks. The Mariners have a losing record against everybody but the Angels in the West, including a galling 3-9 record against the A's. The Mariners' starters have a near 5.00 ERA.
Next year, of course. Until then, the Mariners may try to sell off Guardado and others. It won't be a pretty second half.
Grade: Good money gone bad. -- F
Tampa Bay Devil Rays(28-61)
.736 OPS (11th in the AL), 5.87 ERA (14th in the AL)
Carl Crawford (27 steals) and Julio Lugo (24) can fly. Second baseman Jorge Cantu (15 homers) looks legitimate. Scott Kazmir, despite the record (3-7, 4.59 ERA), can pitch, if he settles some control problems. He's allowed fewer hits than innings pitched. It would be interesting to see how good closer Danys Baez (13 saves in 19 tries) would be on another team.
The Rays never recovered from late April sweeps in Toronto and Baltimore, and have endured losing streaks of eight, seven and 10 games. Young pitcher Dewon Brazelton went AWOL, manager Lou Piniella has ripped his bosses, nobody's showing up (barely 13K fans a game) ... welcome to the new Montreal.
More misery. The Rays would have to win 57 percent of their games in the second half to reach the franchise-best 70 wins they managed last year. Since the moneykeepers won't help, the chances of that are as good as a sellout at the Trop.
Grade: Devil Rays in baseball hell. -- F
.812 OPS (1st in the AL), 4.78 ERA (11th in the AL)
An All-Star infield makes this group of bangers dangerous. First baseman Mark Teixeira (.290, 25 homers, 73 RBIs) is getting better every day. Second baseman Alfonso Soriano (.275, 21, 56) and shortstop Michael Young (.333, 14, 47) are sensational. And third baseman Hank Blalock, who didn't make the All-Star team, could have (.285, 16, 57). It's not only the infield, though. Seven players, including DH David Dellucci and outfielder Kevin Mench, have at least 10 homers each. And the Rangers are the best-fielding team in the AL.
A 10-17 June killed them. Outside of hothead All-Star Kenny Rogers (10-4, 2.54 ERA) -- let's not go there -- and rookie skyscraper Chris Young (8-5, 4.01), the pitching on this team is atrocious. The Rangers jettisoned Opening Day starter Ryan Drese, and Chan Ho Park hasn't made it past six innings in 10 of his 17 starts. The bullpen's hurting, too.
The Rangers aren't likely to make any moves before the trade deadline, but if they do, they'd be best served to get Rogers some help. Not the psychological kind. The backup kind.
Grade: Still need arms, and a brain. -- B
Toronto Blue Jays(44-44)
.749 OPS (6th in the AL), 4.11 ERA (7th in the AL)
Shea Hillenbrand (.302) is an All-Star, Vernon Wells (17 homers) provides the pop and Roy Halladay (12-4, 2.41 ERA) returned to Cy form -- until Saturday night. Miguel Batista has found success as the team's closer (15 saves in 17 tries), and the Jays have a 22-13 record against the AL East, best of the bunch.
Corey Koskie's thumb injury took a lot of punch out of the lineup. After Halladay (who suffered a broken leg on a comebacker Saturday, putting him out for maybe two months), the rotation falls off pretty quickly. It's a good thing the Jays have done so well against the East, because they were 8-10 in interleague play and they're 5-12 in one-run games.
The Jays are closer to the East lead, at the half, than they have been in years. A good starter would help tremendously, as would getting a big bat -- or Koskie back (maybe by late July). It's a lot to ask. But is it enough? Is it ever?