Hello again everybody...
I'm going to beg your forgiveness for any cognitive dissonance in today's column. I'm on the comeback trail, but I spent the better part of yesterday on my couch feeling downright miserable thanks to some sort of virus and contemplating the meaning of life....
Translation? *nose-blowing*... "Why am I alive?"... *nose blowing*... rinse, repeat...
But as I said, I'm feeling moderately more human today. And by tomorrow I'm sure I'll be almost 100%. Or I'd damned well better be, otherwise I might find myself picking games that don't even exist!
But as it is, my mind's still in something of a fog, so I'll get to the Peek at the Picks and be done for today....
"Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature."
- Tom Robbins (1936 - ), American author
So no dawdling - who knows what might leak out of my brain - let's get right to this week's Peek at the Picks segment.
NL East: New York Mets, 81-61 (Dan's Pick: Mets)
Once again Johan Santana took on the role of stopper and prevented the Phillies from tying the Mets for first place. A win yesterday extended New York's lead to 2.5 games. There's every indication that 2 weeks from now, this division will still be undecided. New York's bullpen is still in disarray, and now with Billy Wagner's career possibly being over, it's even more jumbled up. But Philadelphia has had such a problem remaining consistent with their offense that it's not clear that they have it in them to overtake the Mets and take control of the division. Mets Magic Number: 16
NL Central: Chicago Cubs, 86-58 (DP: Cubs)
What the hell Milwaukee?! The Cubs throw open the door and beg you to take the division lead and you're still 4.5 back?! Somebody explain that to me. I'm begging you. Chicago's won exactly twice in their last 10. But Milwaukee's only won 3 of 10. And at this point, Milwaukee's biggest problem may be who's chasing them rather than who they're chasing (see NL Wildcard for more). Chicago's Magic Number: 14
NL West: L.A. Dodgers, 74-71 (DP: D'backs, 2.5 Games Behind)
This is beyond depressing. It's bad enough to have one of your favorite teams in first place with a "barely above .500" record. It's even worse when they go straight in the tank and gack up first place while falling below .500. And when you think of the April and May this team had... good heavens. Arizona's dug quite the hole here. And they don't have any more games with L.A. to offer them an easy out. There's still plenty of games in total, but it isn't going to be easy. L.A.'s Magic Number: 16.
NL Wildcard: Milwaukee Brewers, 82-63 (DP: L.A. Dodgers, 8 GB)
How's that... a division leader is 8 games behind the Wild Card leader... oof. I started to mention it earlier. The Brewers have utterly failed to take advantage of the opportunity that the Cubs have offered. And now it's my contention that folks in Milwaukee ought to be watching that rear view mirror very closely. The Phillies are 3 back, St Louis 3.5, and the team with the best record since the All-Star break - that's right, your Houston Astros are 4 games behind the Brewers. I still like Milwaukee's chances, but they'd better get back on track in a hurry, or there's a strong chance they could get Colorado Rockied, if you take my meaning. Milwaukee's Magic Number: 15.
AL East: Tampa Bay Rays, 86-57 (DP: Boston Red Sox, whom I hate, 1.5 GB)
A funny thing happened on the way to Boston, whom I hate, taking control of the division... Dan Johnson (a Minnesota native) hits a home run off of Jonathan Papelbon (spaz) in the 9th inning to tie the game (Tampa later tallied another run off of Paps (spaz) to win the game). Understand this wasn't just Johnson's first home run of the year. It was only his second freaking at-bat of the season! These are the kinds of stories that make unlikely division champs. There are 4 more games between the two clubs to come, including tonight's series rubber match. So a lot is yet to be decided. But suddenly the mojo resides in the Tampa locker room. And I likes it! Tampa's Magic Number: 18.
AL Central: Chicago White Sox, 80-64 (DP: Detroit Tigers, 10.5 GB)
What a difference a day can make. Combine Chicago getting broomed in a double-header by Toronto (thank you Canada) with the Twins taking the series opener from Kansas City and presto, a 2.5 game lead gets shrunk to 1 game. Chicago lost MVP candidate Carlos Quentin for the season last week and now yesterday, 1B Paul Konerko came up with a knee injury. Translation? The Whities have some bad magambo working against them. So now's the time for the Twins to step up and reel off 5 or 6 straight and take control of the division. If the Twins are in the lead when Chicago comes to town in a couple weeks, I like Minnesota's chances... a lot. We shall see. Chicago's Magic Number: 18.
AL West: L.A. Angels, 87-57 (DP: Seattle Mariners, 30.5)
The Sports Take reader that guessed Seattle would finish 31 games back has to feel pretty damned good right about now. But there's still 3 weeks to go! The Angels are back in control of the best record in baseball. K-Rod's closing in on the Saves record. And Torii Hunter's so close to a World Series ring he can smell it. If the Angels can stay healthy, they have to be the odds-on favorite to win the whole bit. But ah, those 3 weeks.... L.A.'s Magic Number: 2.
AL Wildcard: Boston Red Sox (whom I hate), 85-59 (DP: Cleveland Indians, 14.5 GB)
Cleveland has no shot here, but they have been hot as a pistol lately. And now they're bringing Travis Hafner back from the DL. Not sure why you do that in a season that's been lost for months, and has only 3 weeks left. But if they can create some havoc for the White Sox? Why not! Boston (whom I hate) has a 6-game lead here, so they're all but guaranteed a playoff spot. That's too bad. But they've earned it. I really can't complain. Well, not much anyway. Boston, whom I hate, has a magic number of 13.
2 of 8? Oof. Not good. Can a guy get a re-do? Nah, didn't think so. Did I mention that I wanted to pick the Angels pre-season and Buster Olney talked me out of it? Don't care? Yeah, didn't think so.
Okay, I'm going to go now before my friend, Mr. Day-Quil makes me ramble incoherently any more. I'll be back tomorrow with the Week 3 picks. Until then, thanks for reading!