July is when baseball season changes from a new friend that you are getting to know into either a welcomed confidant or a nuisance that refuses to bring delight. The spring and summer weather has lost its novelty. The crack of the bat and the satisfying first bite of the dog are not enough anymore. Predictions have come true. Surprises have risen to the top. Disappointments have fallen to the bottom. Hope still rests in the middle of the standings. The once uninterested fan is starting to pay attention to the goings-on of their local nine as the mid-season contest approaches.
Beginning in a positive mindset sounds best because one can always return when a store of happiness is needed. In other words, it can be harder to pull out of the dumps when you have no lifeline. So here’s your safety net. The San Francisco Giants and Boston Red Sox are playing great ball. And while this will cause deep depression in the followers of Dem Bums and the Bronx Bombers, it is a pleasant surprise nonetheless, because nobody expected it.
The Red Sox had a dismal 2020 season. They traded away Mookie Betts and wound up finishing in last place in the AL East with one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball. Now, a season later, they are at the top of the heap in the East. This would–if they can hang on to the top spot through the second half–mark the third time since 2012 that they have gone from last to first in a season. The Sox owe much of their success to the breakout play of Xander Bogaerts (.323/.385/.535) at short and the lights-out pitching of closer Matt Barnes (19 saves, 2.68 ERA, 62 K to 37 IP).
The Giants 2020 season wasn’t nearly as bad as the Red Sox, having missed the postseason by only one game, but their 2021 is shaping up to be much better. As of today, the Giants have been in first place in the NL West for 65 days, a spot that nobody picked them to be in at the beginning of the season. A combination of aging players having career years at the plate, such as Buster Posey (.328/.421/.547) and Brandon Crawford (.275/.354/.542), and a pitching staff led by Kevin Gausman whose 8 -3 record, 1.74 ERA, and .801 WHIP have him in serious Cy Young contention, have led to the Giants first-half success.
Let’s just start this off by saying that the Arizona Diamondbacks are having a rough first half. That being said, they are not at the top of our mid-season muffs. Why? You ask. Because they weren’t expected to set the world on fire. And even though nobody thought they would struggle this much, their place in the standings isn’t the biggest surprise. But two teams that have surprised us, and not in a good way, are the New York Yankees and the Atlanta Braves.
The Yankees were supposed to be at the top of the American League. But for now, they are struggling to stay above .500 and languishing away in fourth place in the AL East. Their offense is at the bottom of the league in most categories, including runs scored. It is safe to say that by Yankees standards, the season thus far has been a disappointment, with the lone consistent bright spot being Aaron Judge (.284/.377/.525)
Welcome to a messy room, also known as the Atlanta Braves. Their season has been riddled with injuries including Marcell Ozuna, Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Tucker Davidson, and Chris Martin. As well as being injured, Ozuna has also had some off-field complications, having been charged with aggravated assault for strangulating and battering his wife. And if injures and assault weren’t enough the reigning National League MVP, Freddie Freeman hasn’t been playing up to his most valuable standards, batting .270/.376/.470. His numbers aren’t bad, but they aren’t quite Ruthian either. At this point, the Braves’ view from third place seems miles behind where they should be.
A Mid-Season Lofty View
Who knows what the future will bring. Will it be joy, or heartache, or complacency? Will the Giants fend off the Dodgers for another half or will the highly touted San Diego Padres blow past them both with their young talent and brash attitude? Possibly the Yankees will get their act together and the Red Sox will fall to pieces. None of this can be known for certain, but isn’t that why we’re here? Loving this game isn’t about winning, it’s about buckling up for the long car ride and enjoying everything that blazes past.
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