Who's in it, who's not; dealin' for D-Train and more
Posted: Friday July 21, 2006 11:49AM; Updated: Saturday July 22, 2006 9:50AM
Twins pitcher Johan Santana is typically one of the strongest second-half pitchers in baseball.
Time to separate the cream from the crud, no easy task when half the teams seem to sway between those two extremes. Yet, fresh off my prediction that the Braves and the Angels would be the ones to make big second-half runs, I'm feeling slightly big-headed. So here are the contenders and pretenders among the middle 14 teams. (I'm not considering the eight teams already in playoff position and the eight that need a miracle to get into the race.)
Yankees They're no shoo-in, between injuries (Hideki Matsui, Gary Sheffield, Robinson Cano), pitching questions (Sidney Ponson, a thin bullpen), shaky defense (even A-Rod) and wasted locker space (Carl Pavano). But how can you count them out? Verdict: Contender.
Blue Jays The problem is their location. No, not Canada. It's the AL East, where $200 million gets you only to second place so far. GM J.P. Ricciardi gets points for upgrading the offense, and even without just-cut Shea Hillenbrand, they have plenty of that. Verdict: Contender.
Twins Pitching virtuosos Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano make them a potential playoff monster ... if they can get there. Their division is also their drawback. But a big right-handed bat -- how about Alfonso Soriano? -- to go with Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau might keep them close. Verdict: Contender.
Angels Not only do they possess about the best pitching, they also have the most prospects to cover the injuries and acquire the best trade-deadline help. Verdict: Contender.
Rangers Their hitting isn't quite what we've come to expect, but the good news is that their pitching isn't, either. Mark Teixeira's due for a big second half. But how long can soft-tossing young Johns -- Koronka and Rheinecker -- keep fooling 'em? Verdict: Pretender.
Mariners It's fun to watch them play. They have my favorite outfielder (Ichiro) and favorite infielder (Adrian Beltre). They also have a lot of outs in that lineup. Verdict: Pretender.