Some quick thoughts on the larger deals that went down at the trade deadline:
White Sox get Jake Peavy for 4 pitchers
Chicago's biggest needs are defense and a couple offensive sticks, so I'm not sure how acquiring an injured starting pitcher with $56 million owed to him through 2012 will help. Maybe it will be a decent long term deal, but with several veterans in the lineup scheduled to be free agents at the end of the season, there will be an even greater need for hitting and less payroll to spend it on.
Red Sox get Victor Martinez for some pitchers
Cleveland is taking the Florida/Oakland/Pittsburgh approach and trading away talent for a surplus of "potential." Only time can determine the winner in these deals, but Boston lands yet another solid hitter with some position flexibility for the stretch run.
Twins get Orlando Cabrera for SS Tyler Ladendorf
Minnesota is rarely on the buying end of deadline deals, and while this is isn't a blockbuster, it addresses a need and makes them instantly better, even if just by a little. In the AL Central, a little goes a long way.
Tigers get Jarrod Washburn for two talented LHPs
Seattle is hoping the young pitchers give them a chance in the near future, but Detroit remains the favorite in the Central thanks to this deal. While the White Sox lost bullpen depth and wait for Peavy to get healthy, the Tigers got better TODAY.
The Phillies landed Cliff Lee and are in good position for the playoffs, as are the Dodgers despite their recent lackluster performance. The one team that could be in trouble is the Cardinals. If they make the playoffs, they will be as dangerous as anyone with Pujols and Holliday in the middle of the order, but failure to beat out the Cubs down the stretch will put a serious wrench in St. Louis' future plans since they mortgaged part of the future in trading for Holliday.
On a side note, I find it very annoying that Roy Halladay's "Doc" nickname is being used more than ever considering there is another All-Star with the ACTUAL last name of Holliday.
If the White Sox somehow win the AL Central and people start mouthing off at season's end that Mark Buerhle's dramatic perfect game was the turning point of the season, remind them how awful Chicago looked immediately afterward. So far, the ChiSox have lost 3 of 4 to Detroit after entering the series tied for first and just lost again to the Twins in the Metrodome (for the 15th time in the last 19 games there) thanks in part to 3 errors. If Chicago plans on making a run to October, they will need to throw the leather around much better than they have all year.
The Commish took a well deserved short vacation, and all he missed was a perfect game, more Pirates traded, the Cubs in first place, and the best leadoff hitter of all time (his words AND mine) inducted into the Hall of Fame. Next time it will be a winter vacation!
With the unofficial start of MLB's second half starting tonight, it's time to take a look at the surprises around the league. (pause) (pause) Well that didn't take long.
In truth, they have been a couple surprises, but so far it's pretty much been by-the-book. Boston and New York are battling it out in the AL East with Tampa Bay starting to play some good ball. As expected, the AL Central is still up for grabs, with no team showing their dominance. The Angels currently rule the roost in the AL West, with Texas knocking on the door.
In the National League, Philadelphia is the only NL East team to show any signs of competence, but everyone else besides Washington is still very much alive. The NL Central is the craziest of divisions, with five teams just five games apart, and even Pittsburgh is still only out of first by a single digit, although it's the largest single digit. The NL West is looking like a runaway, with Los Angeles holding a commanding lead and looking to expand on it thanks to the plethora of talent on the field at the moment.
The only true surprises in the AL have been Texas and Cleveland, and neither team is exactly making national headlines. The Rangers have performed much better than expected, but still wouldn't make the playoffs at this point. As one who always give Texas grief about pitching, I have to credit Kevin Millwood and the gang for pitching well enough to give the lineup a chance to win every night. On the downside, Cleveland keeps bringing up what we all believe to be great young talents, but through injuries, bad luck, and poor performance, the Indians appear to be getting worse rather than improving. They're not the worst team in baseball, but the playoffs are no longer a thought, even in a division that could be won at any time with the smallest of changes.
In the NL, Chicago has been a disappointment given their talent and salary level, but the fact remains that one solid week could put them in first place. After that, the past won't matter if the hitting finally shows up. That's a big "if" though. San Francisco has been a positive surprise and is currently in the Wild Card lead. Barry Zito still hasn't performed well, but the rest of the horses have been lights out. The pitching has been so good that any questions about the hitting haven't mattered. Yet. Other than that, it's been status quo in MLB this year. The next couple weeks will be important ones as teams try to determine who is buying and who is selling. Expect the fan bases of a couple teams to be furious when they start trading away talent instead of trading for talent despite technically being in a divisional race.
Overall, last night's All-Star Game was decent viewing. The "community" all stars at the beginning was a nice touch, and the game itself felt like a real baseball game, clocking in at 2:31. There was plenty of drama, some good defense (Crawford), some timely hitting (Granderson, Jones), and more of the same as the AL won thanks to a trio of late inning shut-down relievers in Papelbon, Nathan, and Rivera.
What irked me the most, however, was the so-called hit by pitch endured by Derek Jeter in the 1st inning. Jeter backed away from a Lincecum pitch up and in but couldn't get out of the way. It looked and, more importantly, sounded like the ball hit the knob of the bat. An audible crack was heard, and the ball ricocheted violently. If the pitch got a piece of his hand and still was put in flight like it was, Jeter would have a broken bone or two. Instead, he took off his batting gloves and jogged to first with not so much as a slight wince of pain. Later, in the 9th inning, Jeter can be seen hanging on the top rail of the dugout with both hands exposed while watching Rivera finish on the NL. There was not a mark on either hand. No bruise, no swelling, nothing.
The reason this is such a big deal is that the AL scored two runs that inning, one of them being Jeter. In a 4-3 game, that's the difference. My issue isn't with Jeter, although it would be nice if the umpire actually did his job instead of just letting Jeter dictate the game. The problem is with everyone else! How does Lincecum not question that? How does Charlie Manuel not at least come out and ask the ump if he saw the ball hit Jeter? Manuel's team has a good chance at getting to the World Series this year, and the silly home field advantage rule is important. Even the announcers refused to do their job. Tim McCarver simply suggested that it got a piece of Jeter's hand AND the bat. No chance. It his the knob squarely, so unless Jeter wraps a finger around the knob (which he doesn't), it didn't hit him. I find it funny when guys like Jeter or Biggio do these things, it's viewed as "doing anything to win." Truthfully, I don't fault them one bit, but if it were ARod, he wouldn't receive the same courtesy, and he'd probably be called "bush league." The video is below (at least until MLB takes it down) so you can judge for yourself.