The Good: The Braves finish the first half with
the best record in baseball. Tom Glavine (11-4, 2.27
ERA) has the lowest ERA among starters in the majors
and John Smoltz (31 saves in 34 tries) has been money
as the closer, part of the best bullpen in baseball
(2.28 ERA). Matt Franco (.357, five HRs in 25 games)
has nailed down the first base job. Rafael Furcal
(.286, 57 runs) has been very good.
The Bad: Chipper Jones is hitting (.307), but
not with power (only nine HRs). Andruw Jones still
strikes out (83) too much. Gary Sheffield was bothered
early by injuries. Greg Maddux spent his first time on
the DL but looks to be back in form. Second base is
What's Next: A 21-5 June put the Braves way
out in front in the East, where they should stay if
they stay healthy. Chipper should find his power
stroke, Sheffield is coming around, the staff is
Braves-solid. A 100-win season?
The Bad: No power (10th in HRs, 9th in
slugging) outside of Vlad, which is why they're
looking at Cliff Floyd to go with Dempster. No
lights-out guy in the bullpen to speak of. The Expos
are a great story, coming back from the dead. You just
wonder how long the story will last.
What's Next: They'll chase the Braves --
especially if they get Floyd and Dempster -- but
catching them will be difficult. (The Expos are 3-6
against Atlanta). In reality, what the Expos are after
here is a wild-card spot. That's possible, but they'll
have to have a better second half.
The Good: Luis Castillo's 35-game hitting
streak was a beauty. Mike Lowell, a doubles machine
(he leads the NL with 31) and good defensively, should
have been the All-Star starter at third. Cliff Floyd
(.287, 57 RBIs) has slumped but still drives them in.
The Bad: The starters all have been iffy. The
closer, Vladimir Nunez, has blown six saves and the
rest of the pen is a crapshoot (13th in the NL with a
4.05 ERA). Preston Wilson still strikes out waaay (88
times) too much. Has anyone seen Charles Johnson?
What's Next: The Marlins seems to be in the
hunt, but it's deceiving. They're ready to ship out
Floyd and Dempster and, with them, the Marlins' hopes
for this season.
The Good: Mike Piazza (.285, 18 HRs, 56 RBIs)
is still the class of the NL's catchers. And Al Leiter
(8-7, 2.90 ERA) is still among the best lefties in the
league. Armando Benitez is a steady closer who hasn't
had nearly enough chances with this poor-hitting team.
The Bad: Roberto Alomar (.268, 7, 30) has had
an off first half, almost as bad as Mo Vaughn's (.248,
10, 34), Roger Cedeno's (.247, 12 stolen bases) and
Jeromy Burnitz's (.206, 9, 30), three of the other big
offseason acquisitions. When Shawn Estes missed Roger
Clemens with that pitch, it said it all.
What's Next: The Mets started off badly last
season, too, and their inspired second half fell
painfully short. They may do some trading this month,
but with all the supposed help they got in the
offseason, what's the point? Manager Bobby Valentine
will feel some New York heat this summer.
The Good: Last-sec All-Star Vicente Padilla
(10-5, 3.05 ERA) is nasty, and we mean that in only
the best sense. Right fielder Bobby Abreu (.302, 43
RBIs) is coming around, but the rest of this team is
The Bad: The Scott Rolen fiasco -- no, not the
fact he's an All-Star -- has sickened this team, and
hyper-demanding manager Larry Bowa can't fix it. There
is not a team in baseball with this talent that is
this bad. Rolen (.253, 58 RBIs) has to take a lot of
What's Next: A Rolen trade, if the Phillies can
find any takers. And a long, long second half either
way. Look for a lot of call-ups, too, guys like Marlon
Byrd, who could push Doug Glanville (.230) out of