Memorial Day is generally the first indicator of the Major League Baseball season, followed by the Fourth of July and finally Labor Day.
To say the least there have been some surprises. The American League is seeing some new blood as the New York Yankees have returned to relevance in the AL East, Minnesota is a surprise leader in the AL Central and Houston is running away and hiding in the West.
To nobody’s surprise, Washington has a solid hold on the National League East. Milwaukee is leading the underwhelming NL Central, while the Los Angles Dodgers have surged to the lead in the West, though upstarts Colorado and Arizona are nipping at their heels.
Here are my observations by divisions:
• AL East — I think the Yankees will have staying power, simply because they can outslug teams and they’ll soon have back Aroldis Chapman. The Red Sox are showing signs of waking up. Baltimore doesn’t have enough pitching, Tampa Bay doesn’t have enough talent and Toronto is still trying to recover from a dreadful 2-11 start, though it’s 23-16 since then.
• AL Central — Minnesota is a nice story, but soon the Twins are going to go away. Cleveland is at some point going to realize how much more talent it has than everybody else. The White Sox are in a rebuild and Detroit is looking long in the tooth. Kansas City is preparing for one of a great fire sales in recent baseball memory as five of its top players can walk after this year. My bet is that they’ll unload most of them, though how do you trade Eric Hosmer? The Royals know they can’t afford him, yet what message does that send their fans?
• AL West — Remember a few years back when Houston was woeful but a Sports Illustrated cover story said it would win it all in 2017? How prophetic as the Astros could have the division clinched by Sept. 1. Texas is the only team with a semblance of a chance. The Angels (especially now that Mike Trout is injured), Mariners and A’s are terrible.
• NL East — On paper, Washington always looks to be a World Series team. But it hasn’t been able to translate paper to the field. Sure, the Nationals always make the playoffs, but sputter once they get there and the window is starting to close. The Mets have injury problems with their pitching, and the Braves, Marlins and Phillies are among the worst teams in baseball.
• NL Central – What is going on here? The Cubs were thought to have a chance to win 110 games, but after 50 are just at .500. St. Louis doesn’t resemble the Cardinal teams of the past as they can’t catch or hit. Cincinnati will soon fall off the pace and Pittsburgh’s spirited run of recent years may be over. And that leaves Milwaukee at the top, but just two games over .500. I’ll be shocked if the Brewers are still in first by the Fourth of July.
• NL West — Record-wise, the best division in baseball as the teams are a combined 13 games over .500, and that’s with San Diego as perhaps the worst team in baseball along with Philadelphia. The Rockies and Diamondbacks are nice stories, but they’ll fade. San Francisco’s hopes went down when Madison Bumgarner was lost in an cycle accident, though he’s due to return. I think they’ll make a bit of a run, but 11 1/2 games back is too much to overcome.
Right now, with apologies to Houston, I think the Yankees have the best team in the AL and even though the Cubs are fumbling around, there’s too much talent there for it to remain dormant. Look for them to reel off a huge streak soon and emerge as the NL’s best team.