The Good: Jim Edmonds (.314, 17 HRs, 44 RBIs)
does everything. Albert Pujols (.294, 21, 55) is
showing no slump -- he has the same numbers in homers
and RBIs as he did in his rookie season. The staff has
been fantastic, especially given what this team, and
this city, has faced. Rookie Jason Simontacchi is
7-1 with a 2.77 ERA.
The Bad: The death of pitcher Darryl Kile has
battered the Cards, who also lost longtime broadcaster
Jack Buck. An injury to J.D. Drew has hurt them on the
field, and first baseman Tino Martinez (.248) has not
been his old Yankee self.
What's Next: They should contend for the
Central crown. In fact, they should be favored. But
with the hardships they've had to endure, there's no
telling which way the Cardinals will go.
The Bad: How are the Reds contending? The 4.45
starters' ERA was worst among contending teams, and
their bullpen is feeling it. The pen has been
admirable, a 3.39 ERA, but they've pitched a whopping
313 innings, most in the NL. Also, is it time for
Barry Larkin (.227) to just quit? And what about
What's Next: We still contend that
you-know-who -- Ken Griffey Jr. -- can carry this
team. But he's gimpy and shows no signs of getting
un-gimpy. The Reds can't make it through the second
half with that pitching staff -- and without Griffey.
The Good: Lance Berkman, all the sudden, has
power -- a whopping 81 RBIs to go with those 29 home
runs. Go figure. The Astros still have one of the best
closers in the biz in Billy Wagner, and they have
first baseman Jeff Bagwell, who still has pop (15 HRs,
49 RBIs) in his bat.
The Bad: But the pop is gone from Craig Biggio
(.245), injuries have hurt the starting pitching and
Daryle Ward (3 homers, 30 RBIs) has bombed in
replacing Moises Alou. This team should be better.
What's Next: Larry Dierker got fired because he
couldn't get the Astros past the first round of the
playoffs. What's that say for new skipper Jimy
Williams? Bagwell and Biggio are disappointing,
injuries across the roster have hurt ... they're not
done, but they're close.
The Good: Mike Williams (25 saves) is
recognized as one of the best closers in the league,
admirable considering the Bucs don't have nearly the
chances other teams do. Brian Giles (.299, 22 HRs, 53
RBIs) should've been an All-Star. Kip Wells (9-6, 3.41
ERA) and rookie Josh Fogg (9-6, 3.56) are solid
starters on anyone's team.
The Bad: Third baseman Aramis Ramirez (.217)
can't find his hitting stroke. Kevin Young can't do
anything, either (.233), Pokey Reese is poking along
(.237) ... after a good start, the Pirates fell
predictably back and now are mired in the muck of the
What's Next: The muck is where they'll stay.
The Bucs don't have the talent to stay with the rest
of this division, bad as it is. And when they don't
get performances from the talent they supposedly have
-- Young, Reese, Ramirez -- it figures to be a tough
The Good: Sammy Sosa (28 homers, 58 RBIs) has
persevered and continues to be one of the game's best
sluggers. Baby-smooth righty Mark Prior will be an ace
in the big leagues some day.
The Bad: The hitters have stunk up the joint.
Fred McGriff is sporadic, and he's the best of a weak
infield. Moises Alou (.133 in April and .211 in May)
is just now starting to hit. The team is hitting under
.240 with runners in scoring position. The 5.14 ERA
among relievers is the worst in the NL. That's liable
to get somebody fired.
What's Next: Whoops. Someone, Don Baylor, did
get fired, replaced by Bruce Kimm last week. If the
Cubs keep this up, they could lose 100 games. Tell us
again, what's loveable about these guys?
The Good: All-Stars Richie Sexson (he'll drive
in 100 or more) and Jose Hernandez (pay no attention to those
strikeouts) are pluses. The Brewers are hosting the
All-Star Game. There're three things right there. And
third baseman Tyler Houston (.315). That's four.
The Bad: That pitching staff. It has a 4.99 ERA
among starters. There is no ace. Young Ben Sheets has
been thrown to the wolves (4-10 in 18 starts, with a
4.19 ERA in 109 1/3 IP). The Brewers canned manager
Davey Lopes, a mercy firing if ever there was one. His
replacement, Jerry Royster, still has the same team
and goes into the break 12 games under.
What's Next: This may be the worst team in
baseball, well on its way to a 100-loss season and a
shocking -- well, maybe not so shocking -- drop in
attendance at Miller Park. No fixes in sight.