As I write this article, I am sitting here watching ESPNEWS. They are showing the highlights of CC Sabathia’s first game as a Brewer. Upon seeing this, a thought came across my mind. “We are seeing what may be the single greatest season in baseball history.” Yes, I said it. The GREATEST EVER.
Chances are, you are calling me crazy. I mean we’ve seen the 1927 Murder’s Row, the ’69 Miracle Mets, the epic collapse of the ’64 Phillies, last year’s prolific run of the Rockies, and more. How in the world could I possible think this is the best when we are a mere 90 games into the 162 game season? My answer: History is being written.
Never before has a team gone from the worst record in the league to the best record at mid-season. This would be a true statement if it weren’t for the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have gone from the league’s laughing stock to laughing at the league. The best part about about it: They have the lowest payroll in the majors ($31.8 Million). While their season high attendance at home is just over 22,000, they have the best home record in terms of wins in the majors (36-14). They lead the STACKED AL East over the Red Sox and Yankees at this point in the season for the first time EVER. They have been driven behind rookie sensation Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, first time all-star Dioner Navarro, and great starting pitching. Troy Percival, when healthy, is one of the most effective closers in the league. IF the Rays keep a steady pace, they will set the record for biggest one season turn-around in AMERICAN SPORTS HISTORY.
It is also a brilliant year for Chicago as well. Which team? Both of them. Imagine what it would be like if the NL leading Cubs won a World Series 100 years after their last title. They entered last season as a team in dismay, but now appear to be the powerhouse that they promised their fans they would become. Kerry Woods has emerged as one of the league’s top closers, and is up for Comeback Player of the Year. Geovany Soto has established himself as the premier rookie in the league, gaining All-Star status rather quickly. They command the National League, and do not appear to be slowing down. On the other side of Chicago, the White Sox are also making their prescence known. They have who is possibly considered the biggest All-Star snub in Jermaine Dye, as well as an emerging star in Carlos Quentin. Their bullpen has the lowest ERA in the entire majors as well. Clearly, Chicago may be the city of destiny.
We have not even reached the July 31st Trade Deadline, yet we have seen two of the biggest deals in recent history completed. The Artist Formerly Known As C.C. (now CC) Sabathia has been traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. This is only the second time in the past 20 years that a pitcher who won the Cy Young has been traded in the season after Roger Clemens. As Milwaukee General Manager Doug Melvin stated, “We’re going for it.” Alongside CC, we have seen a potential playoff contender in the A’s trade off ace Rich Harden to the Chicago Cubs, who currently hold the best record in the National League. It can almost be said that the NL Central has turned into a “Survival of the Fittest” type division, as these teams may not be done just yet. For all we know, more huge trades might be awaiting us. We could see Ken Griffey Jr. make a return to the playoffs if he is traded to the AL East leading Rays. Brian Fuentes appears to be on the move to any contender, and should happen very soon. Only time will tell what transactions will unfold, but it has been nothing short of surprises already.
While we have had our share of upsets with teams like the Rays, we have also seen great disappointment. Let’s take the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners came into this season having just missed a wild card birth last year. All signs pointed up, especially after obtaining star southpaw Erik Bedard. However, the Mariners now have found themselves amongst the worst teams in the league. They have claimed that almost everyone but Ichiro is on the trade block, and it’s very possible they could follow along with this claim. While the M’s are a complete disappointment, we are also seeing the slow demise of former dominators, aka the Mets and Yankees. While both teams are in the midst of playoff runs, they have gone from being shoo-ins to nothing more than contenders. It is possible for the first time since 1993 (not counting 1994), the Yankees could miss out on the playoffs, even possibly a wild card spot. The Mets fired the man who got them to the NLCS in 06, Willie Randolph, and replaced him with the “Gentleman” Jerry Manuel. While the move has sparked some move from the Mets, it would be historic if both New York teams missed the playoffs in this day in age. The Detroit Tigers also came in as a powerhouse, having picked up Milguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. While this move seemed good, the Tigers have flubbed, barely being in third place. This could be an unprecedented upset if it occurs.
While we have seen the major team upsets, we have also been presented with history-defying feats from the individual players. Josh Hamilton, who has become the league’s feel good story, is hitting RBI’s at a record pase. He has 89 RBI’s in only his second major league season, and it is only the mid-point of the season! He is also among the league leaders in HR’s and AVG. The man in the lead for AVG. is Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves. It is VERY possible that if Jones gets a 10 or so game hit streak going, he could reach a .400 average for the first time since Ted Williams did so decades ago. Rick Ankiel, the former pitcher, has turned into one of the top sluggers in the league with 19 home runs. Pitching performances have been nothing short of a miracle, as we have seen Cancer-Survivor Jon Lester pitch a No-Hitter for the Boston Red Sox. The American League has ten 10-Game Winners, while the National League has nine. There is a strong chance we can see a 20-Game Winner this season.
Not to mention, the final season of both Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium is in the midst. The All-Star Game has been awarded to the latter for this year, and should be nothing short of spectacular.
Coming up in the second half of the season, we will see for the first time the use of Instant Replay on Home Run calls. Alongside, what may become the greatest division races in league history could shape up and create upsets. Can the Rays hold their stand? Will the Cubs finally win the World Series? Is this the year the Yankees miss the playoffs? All questions that will be answered come September 28th.
When this season is all said and done, you WILL remember this one above most others. Baseball is making it’s return amongst the people of the nation. People are being captivated by the upsets and spectacular showings that this game has to offer. Ever since the 2002 All-Star Game (The Tie), Major League Baseball has seen a dramatic shift in attention. This 2008 Season will not only act as a savior of the league, but a Revival of Baseball Spirit.