Not that Barry Bonds (left), who turns 37 on July 24, was washed up, but such a power surge at his age? Please. With 39 homers he's on his way to shattering his career high of 49, which he hit last year. Hank Aaron is the only other player with 500 home runs to hit his season best, 47, at such an advanced age (37). Bonds also appears a lock to become the oldest player ever to hit 50 in a season.
Bonds isn't the only graybeard with a spring in his step. Devil Rays first baseman Fred McGriff, 37, was hitting a career-high .330 and on track to reach 30 homers for only the second time since 1994. For three years outfielder Ruben Sierra, 35, had bounced around the minors and the Mexican League, but since the Rangers called him up in May, he has hit .313 and cracked 13 homers in 147 at bats. Orioles infielder- DH Jeff Conine, 35, who hasn't hit more than 17 homers or driven in more than 75 runs since 1996, was batting .314 with nine home runs, 48 RBIs and a career-best .388 on-base percentage.
Someone took John Rocker off the Braves' hands
Namely, the Indians, whose general manager, John Hart, tried for more than a year to obtain the embattled lefthanded closer from Atlanta. Hart finally got Rocker (right) on June 22 in a swap of relievers—Atlanta got Steve Karsay and Steve Reed—that strengthened both clubs' bullpens.
The Devil Rays are even worse than we thought
No team has lost 110 games in a season since the expansion Expos and Padres both did in 1969. Tampa Bay, which won only 27 of its first 88 games, has an excellent shot at losing at least that many. Don't be surprised if the Devil Rays' second half is even uglier than the first after the inevitable dumping starts and veterans like righthander Albie Lopez, outfielder Greg Vaughn and, perhaps, Fred McGriff are dealt. Tampa Bay might even challenge the benchmark for futility set by the '62 Mets: 120 losses.
A fearless look at what's in store for the second half of the season
?NO DEALS. Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi and the rest of the A's will stay put. That's because Oakland will claw back into the wild-card race. Since May I the A's have had the league's lowest ERA and fourth-best record. A total of 10 second-half games against the Indians and the Red Sox, both wild-card contenders, will give Oakland an opportunity to make up ground.
?PACKING THEIR BAGS. Rockies righthander Pedro Astacio, Blue Jays outfielder Jose Cruz Jr., Royals outfielder Jermaine Dye, Tigers closer Todd Jones, Devil Rays outfielder Greg Vaughn, and Pirates outfielder John Vander Wal and closer Mike Williams will all likely be traded before the July 31 deadline. Astacio could wind up with the Red Sox, Dye with the Cubs and Jones with the Diamondbacks.
?ACE IN A HOLE. Pedro Martinez will win only 12 games, his lowest total since the strike-shortened season of 1994. An inflamed rotator cuff will keep him on the shelf until late July or early August. Even so, the gritty Red Sox will remain in the playoff race through the season's final, frantic week.
?BROWNOUT BY THE BAY. For a while it appeared he would hit 70 home runs by August, but Barry Bonds will lose power as the season drags on.
?THE TWINS HANG ON. It'll be close, but Minnesota will edge Cleveland for the American League Central title. The race comes down to starting pitching—the Twins have enough; the Indians do not.