A year of haves and have-nots in baseball

By Steve Sell
June 12, 2018

I’ve been an avid follower of Major League Baseball for more than 50 years.

I began in 1964 following my beloved St. Louis Cardinals as they defeated the New York Yankees in the World Series behind Bob Gibson’s stellar performance. So I’ve seen my fair share of the national pastime.

But I can’t ever remember a year where there has been such a separation from top to bottom, especially in the American League. It’s like there’s a millionaire’s club and then there are several teams on the poverty line.

The American League is the league of the haves and have-nots. The slugging New York Yankees (my pick to win it all at the start of the year) and the Boston Red Sox have gotten off to blistering starts, the Yankees 42-19 (.689) and the Red Sox right there at 45-22 (.672).

But then you look at the AL West and it’s more of the same. The surprising Seattle Mariners, who toil in anonymity in the Pacific Northwest, have surged to a 42-24 record (.636) and have we already forgotten that Houston is the defending World Champion? The Astros have proven they’re no flash in the pan with a 42-25 record (.627).

And never count out Cleveland. While the Indians are only 35-29 as they have battled injury after injury, they have a ton of games coming up against their AL Central brethren. Remember teams in the same division play each other 19 times and Cleveland is going to fatten up against the Chicago White Sox (22-42, .344) and Kansas City Royals (22-44, .333).

I think when the dog days of August get here, the Yankees and Astros will separate themselves from their challengers. The Yankees’ offense is just so potent and it hasn’t even found its stride yet. Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez have been scuffling and when they get hot, this is a team that could score 6 runs a game.

Houston has such good pitching that it will eventually pull away from Seattle, which is doing it with smoke and mirrors and also without All-Star Robinson Cano.

As for the have-nots, the before-mentioned White Sox and Royals are joined by the true dreg of the league, Baltimore. It’s hard to believe a Buck Showalter-led team is just 19-46 (.292). I wonder when the last time was that three teams in the same league lost 100 games in the same season.

The AL has three teams under .500 in the East and four of the five are below the break-even line in the Central. The West has four of its five over .500.

The National League doesn’t quite have the star power of the AL. The Chicago Cubs (38-25, .603) have caught fire and are starting to look like the possible World Series representative. Washington was terrible at the start of the year, but all of a sudden you look up and it’s 36-27 (.571). The NL West is very balanced and those teams are going to take turns knocking each other off. Don’t be surprised if the division winner has about 86 wins.

Miami and Cincinnati are the bottom-feeders, the Marlins just 24-42 (.364) and Reds are 23-43 (.348). Both will probably lose 100 games.

The dynamics of baseball have changed. When a team is bad, it starts casting away its most desirable assets and blows the whole thing up. That’s what’s going to happen to the Royals, who most likely are going to deal Mike Moustakas and Kelvin Herrera at the July deadline and get a haul of prospects.

It’s definitely a year like none we have seen in recent memory.