Second Half Brings Hope and Excitement for Playoff Push in Baseball

The National League finally got the All-Star Game monkey off its back fittingly in the home of the rally monkey. The American League had no late-game heroics in its back pocket and the NL tasted victory for the first time since 1996.

Despite the horrible ratings, I found the game to be enjoyable for once. Maybe that’s because I’m a Cubs fan and therefore a National League fan, but I guess that’s just how it goes. After watching the NL lose year after year, I was pumped after watching the win.

It never gets old watching your favorite team win. And the hope that your team will win never wavers. It’s part of being a fan. [...]

Now that the Al-Star Game is over, the excitement for fans everywhere is recharged after a fun couple of days in Anaheim. Everyone takes a long look at the standings and tries to see if their team still has a shot. Each legion wonders what it will take to reach the Promised Land. A new bat? A new arm? A little luck?

Others are already wondering what it will take to get back in the hunt next year. They wonder who will still be around as the season plays out in September and then turn their attention to the farm system to see if hope is even possible for a few years.

As a Cubs fan, things are a little more complicated. After watching a hopeless bunch play uninspired baseball from April to July, I still had some small sliver of hope that they would turn it around. Sure they were bums for three and a half months, but they were talented bums.

Despite the trade rumors surrounding Derrek Lee, Ted Lily, Ryan Theriot, and a host of others, I was holding my breath that they could find a winning formula before the end of July and then fight like crazy with the Reds and Cardinals.

I guess the hope that comes with being a Cubs fan can be a curse at times. After two big wins over Philadelphia coming out of the gates for the second half of the season, I was ready to give this team another chance. Then, Carlos Marmol blew up in the ninth today to give away another Cubs win.

The team looked like it had more energy the past few days, though, and I’m holding onto some hope with two series with the Astros and a date with the Cardinals in their future.

In reality, the Cubs are finished. They haven’t been consistent all season and consistency is what makes a winner in baseball. The season is too long to be erratic. Rollercoaster rides may be fun in amusement parks, but baseball fans just want a steady ride at a good speed until October comes. Then, it’s anybody’s game. All the fans want is a win.

Chicago is turning its attention to next season. The famous ‘Wait ‘Til Next Year’ is ringing in the ears of every fan despite their best efforts to block it out. The minds are looking at the farm system and wondering if the talent is there or if it will be a solid five years before a contender develops again. They’re also looking at Ryne Sandberg and others with questions surrounding the manager next season.

The times are changing in Chicago, but it’s the same old tune. It’s July, and when the calendar turns to August, the clubhouse may have a very different look to it.

For me, I’ll wait until August. If the Cubs can cut the lead down to four games, I’ll believe again. I’ll believe that this team wants to fight. They want to go down swinging. If not, Ted Lily may be in New York and Derrek Lee could be in L.A.

Then, I’ll turn my attention to next year as a Cubs fan and to the rest of the playoff races as a baseball fan. I’ll find a team to root for and hope they can shock the Yankees and Red Sox in the playoffs. Maybe the Texas Rangers.

Despite their financial difficulties and a history of losing, the Rangers are fun.

Elvis Andrus is the best young shortstop in the game. He’s the heir apparent to Jeter’s All-Star throne with a good glove and steady bat. Michael Young is the same old quiet player that has had quite a career. Josh Hamilton is one of the most exciting players on the game with a chance at the triple crown. Ian Kinsler is a great hitter and Vlad Guerrero looks like he’s back in Montreal. Throw in Cliff Lee and it’s hard not to like this team.

Or Maybe the Minnesota Twins who always seem to be in the mix.

Or their division rival, the Detroit Tigers. With Miguel Carbrera battling Hamilton on the stat sheet and finally becoming the player everyone thought he would, the Tigers are a likeable team. Who doesn’t like a story about second chances?

Cabrera has been brilliant after his embarrassing failures with the season on the line last year.

Talk about a roller coaster ride and the Cubs season and every other doesn’t compare. Cabrera hit rock bottom and now his flying high and only going higher up the hill. Will he carry the Tigers with him or will they take the plunge down the rails and miss out on the playoffs again?

Or the Atlanta Braves could be the team to get behind.

Bobby Cox is on his way out after an unprecedented run in professional sports today. Chipper Jones is talking retirement too. What better way to go out for those two baseball legends than on top.

The hopes for all these teams have started with the second half of the summer. The race is on and it’s gonna get hot.

And when it cools down, one team will be left standing as the champion. In July, that picture is far away.

Every team is still hoping and fighting to be smiling in the season’s final snapshot.

Tags: Atlanta Braves Bobby Cox Chicago Cubs Chipper Jones Elvis Andrus Michael Young Miguel Cabrera Texas Rangers

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