*NOTE: Originally published in AHS School Newspaper in June Issue.*
Memorial Day is only just around the corner, but the 2015 Major League Baseball season is already in full swing, showcasing the future of the MLB with exciting breakout seasons while paying homage to stars of the past, who are still proving their relevance. This season more than any other feels special because there are less than five “pushover” teams; nowadays everybody is a contender. With the Midsummer Classic, the MLB All-Star game fast approaching in Cincinnati this July, now’s a great time to analyze the months gone by while previewing for the stretch run.
AL East: Where better to start our coverage of the MLB than with arguably the most interesting division year in and year out, the American League East. So far, the New York Yankees are running away with the division, thanks to 2009-style seasons from Jacoby Ellsbury, Mark Teixeira, and of course Alex Rodriguez, who already boasts 10 home runs. The Yankees’ most direct challenger at the moment is the Tampa Bay Rays, but their spotty offense and injury-prone pitching will cost them. The Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, and Toronto Blue Jays are good enough offensively to keep them in the hunt, but question marks surround each team’s pitching corps. Whichever team emerges out of July with the healthiest and most talented rotation will win the AL East.
AL Central: The days of the AL Central being the Tigers’ alone are gone. While Detroit can still show off an over .600 won-lost record, it is the Kansas City Royals who are the new class of the Central. Led by unofficial captain Alex Gordon and a supporting cast featuring catcher Salvador Perez, outfielder Lorenzo Cain, and lights-out relievers in Greg Holland and Wade Davis, the Royals could very well represent the AL in the World Series this year again. The back of the division is not as exciting as the front runners, but the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, and even the Minnesota Twins have enough finesse to challenge for a wild card spot.
AL West: The AL West has some of the biggest expectations every year, and always produces disappointments. For instance, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, led by Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, who are having tremendous seasons, are just one game over .500. The Seattle Mariners are below .500 despite young talent bursting from the seams. The Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics do not have very competitive teams, but have star power that cannot be ignored. Finally, last but not least, I failed to mention who is shockingly leading the AL in wins this year: the Houston Astros. Yes, those Houston Astros. The young core has graduated to the MLB level and is taking the league by storm. All good things come to an end, but the Astros could hang around for a playoff berth, their first since losing the 2005 World Series.
NL East: Switching over to the National League, we begin in what many call the NL Least. The New York Mets are trying their hardest to shed that unwanted L off of their division, and they are doing a successful job; they are proud owners of a 22-16 record. One half-game back are the Washington Nationals, who look like NL favorites at times and embarrassments at others. However, this is finally the year when they will go the distance, maybe winning a playoff round. Bryce Harper has muscled 13 home runs so far, and the dominant pitching, if it remains healthy, could be unbeatable come October. The rest of the division, though, is a total laughingstock. The Miami Marlins, seemingly cursed by the baseball gods as unable to ever rebuild, have fired their manager, as not even Giancarlo Stanton’s other-worldly power can save the Fish. The Atlanta Braves have an almost minor-league-level lineup, and the Philadelphia Phillies actually do run out a AAA level roster routinely. It’s time to give it up and sell, Phillies.
NL Central: The NL Central is one of my favorite divisions in Baseball. All five teams are intriguing in their own way, and as of right now, four are somewhat within playoff contention. The St. Louis Cardinals and their league-leading win total are the MLB’s kings right now, but the loss of Adam Wainwright will hurt them in the playoffs. The Chicago Cubs are still a few years away from World Series contention, but are still at least an average team right now. Meanwhile, hosting the All-Star Game in July is probably the only interesting thing going on for the Cincinnati Reds right now, and as Andrew McCutchen has had a rough start to the season, so too has the whole Pittsburgh Pirates team. The Milwaukee Brewers are in full rebuild mode just one year after nearly winning the division. Check back into Miller Park in three years or so.
NL West: Finally, onto the NL West, where winners are made. The Los Angeles Dodgers keep churning out the regular season success, and this may be the year that the Don Mattingly-managed club tastes postseason champagne. The defending Champion San Francisco Giants are holding their own, and the much improved San Diego Padres are at least Wild Card worthy with all of their franchise players. But now the precipitous dropoff occurs, and boy is it steep. From three potential playoff teams, the NL West plummets to the lowly Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks, who may wind up fighting for the rights to the first overall pick in next year’s draft; their ineptitude is way too prevalent to see anything close to the playoffs represented here.
AL East: New York Yankees
AL Central: Kansas City Royals
AL West: Seattle Mariners
Wild Cards: Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
NL East: Washington Nationals
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers
Wild Cards: New York Mets, San Diego Padres
AL Champion: Kansas City Royals
NL Central: Los Angeles Dodgers
World Series Champions: Kansas City Royals