Time out from health reports, player hot streaks and not streaks, to gaze upon the mirror, mirror on the wall and guess which is the fairest Major League baseball team of all about five weeks and 30-something games into the season.
Going into Tuesday’s games we have no runaway division leaders, but the teams that figured to be the worst of the worst this season are living down to expectations.
American League East
The Boston Red Sox have played better than expected to compile the best record in the majors at 21-11. They have rebounded nicely from their 2012 disaster and could return to the playoffs. The New York Yankees have coped with a revolving door on the disabled list. Being 18-12 right now is miraculous and wins Joe Girardi manager of the year to date. The Baltimore Orioles are showing that they are a young, solid team and that 2012 was no fluke. They will be in the division title and playoff hunt. Tampa Bay is shaping up as a spoiler, capable of beating anybody in the division, but not challenging for the top–budget constraints seem to be hampering the Rays. The Toronto Blue Jays are probably the biggest disappointment in baseball at the moment. A pre-season division favorite after shrewd off-season moves, the Blue Jays are last at 12-21 and looking lousy on all fronts.
American League Central
The Detroit Tigers were the overwhelming pre-season division pick and they are starting to motor as predicted. The Tigers have great pop in the batting order and superb starting pitching. They should accomplish what everyone said they could. After years of being told the Kansas City Royals have great young talent and would be good someday, this appears to be the year when that outlook comes true. The Cleveland Indians had a great off-season refreshing the roster and while there are still some holes, they are moving up. The Minnesota Twins have been running last recently, but are showing small signs of improvement. The Chicago White Sox made the mistake of standing pat in the off-season and they’re paying for it now. Counting heavily on starting pitching the Sox are watching the rotation fall apart and are in last place, where they may well stay.
American League West
The Texas Rangers let Josh Hamilton get away and right now they’re looking smart. They blew the division title on the last day of the season last year, but seem determined to reclaim it and their supremacy in the AL. The Oakland Athletics made a great late-season run to swipe the division crown from Texas, but have not been consistent yet this season. The Seattle Mariners, who have been patiently building with young talent, are up to third place. The free-spending, outstanding-on-paper Los Angeles Angels are 11-20 and rival Toronto on the disappointment meter. As expected, the 8-24 Houston Astros have a death grip on last place.
National League East
The Atlanta Braves got off to a swift start, faltered a bit, but are still holding on to first place. The Washington Nationals were supposed to be 100-game winners, but started very slowly and have only now inched past .500 at 17-15 and bulldozed their way into second place. There is no threat from below, however, in what is probably the weakest division in the game. The recently-vaunted Phillies are floundering just below .500. The New York Mets are basically treading water. And the Miami Marlins are the worst team in the league, in a competition only with the Houston Astros in the sport.
National League Central
St. Louis has lost several key performers over the last couple of years, but the Cardinals have replenished with young talent, have very solid pitching, and are in first place at 20-11. The Pittsburgh Pirates are still trying to fight their way over .500 for the first time in more than 20 years, and this seems to be the year. This division was supposed to be the domain of the Cincinnati Reds, and it still may be. But the Reds have been erratic, mostly at the plate. Cincinnati has excellent starting pitching and a very reliable bullpen, but the hitters have been very up and down. Milwaukee seems perfectly comfortable in fourth, though the Brewers could be spoilers in a close race. The Chicago Cubs are doomed to last place, though they keep flashing glimmers of improvement.
National League West
This division is the biggest enigma in the game, outside of the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants, that is, who have slipped into first at 19-13. The inexplicable Colorado Rockies are in second, the Arizona Diamondbacks are just over .500 in third, and the going-nowhere-this year San Diego Padres are fourth. Sitting in last are the 13-18 Los Angeles Dodgers, an underachieving team with serious injuries to the pitching staff.