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With the Midsummer Classic now in the books, it's time to take a glimpse toward baseball's more exciting half. Or maybe it's baseball's less exciting half if you think about it; we are forced into watching out-of-shape men sweating entirely too much for mine, or anybody's liking during the dog days of summer. Which reminds me; why did the creation of a Dog Day sound appealing to even the most passionate dog lover? Who wants to pay money to dog-sit a squirming, drooling monster for 3 hours in the hot summer sun?
>-Hey Doug, where were you? You missed the other two Marlins' fans at this game being ejected for eating obnoxiously. It was awesome!
-Why do I always miss the best part of the game? I had to go clean up Marley's shit in the 11th row. It was equally awesome though.
Don't ask me why, but out of curiosity I looked up when Dog Day was for certain organizations, and it turns out it's Dog Days. Plural. As in there are multiple Dog Days to attend. I don't understand people sometimes.
Here are 11 things that could happen in baseball's hot and sweaty second half (Just think Bartolo Colon post workout, if there's such a thing, to get the necessary visual).
Miguel Cabrera will win his second consecutive Triple Crown
Unless Cabrera forgets how to hit, he's going to win the batting title as he currently sits 43 points above Mike Trout. As for the home run and RBI departments, Chris Davis is being a real thorn in the side of Miggy. Miguel does hold a 2 RBI advantage over Davis but has a 7 home run deficit to make up in the final 70 or so games. While I don't think Davis is going to fall off the face of the Earth, I do believe his numbers will level off some. The batting average has been the first thing to show signs of regression, as he's hitting just .200 in 13 July games as the league may be making an adjustment finally. You could see the power numbers naturally flatten in the near future unless Davis is doing this unnaturally, if you catch my drift. As for Cabrera, going back to last season, he hit 8 more home runs post All-Star break than he did in the first half of 2012. By all accounts, he's having an even better year this season and his consistency could drive Davis, in his quest to become the home run champion, to new levels of insanity.
The Dodgers will ride their current hot streak to an NL West championship
This is easily the least bold of my predictions but I want to include it anyway. When a team gets as hot as the Dodgers have been, you often see an extended losing streak ensue. We have seen it as recently as last month with the Blue Jays and Royals, who both reeled off an impressive amount of games to reach .500, following that with a return to their losing ways. I don't know if it's the fact that it takes so much energy to get back to a .500 record that you don't have anything left in the tank or if it is the result of relaxing your mentality because you feel a sense of relief once you have gotten your record back to a manageable mark. I don't see this happening with the Dodgers. They trail Arizona by just 2.5 games, and with a front end of Kershaw and Greinke, LA can count on at least 2 wins every 5 games. Getting a win from any of the other three means they are playing .600 baseball which would result in a division crown. As for Arizona, I think they'll continue to play as they have been but that probably won't be enough to hold off the surging Los Angeles Puigs.
The White Sox will do their best to single handedly spoil Detroit's season
With 15 of their 18 scheduled meetings still to be played in the second half, Detroit and Chicago will essentially be rooming together over the next few months. If you're thinking to yourself Two division rivals seeing each other often over the next few months could lead to some bad blood, well, you'd be right. In fact, they displayed signs of being sick of each other after just the third game when Alexei Ramirez took exception to a pitch behind him. He took an intimidating two steps toward the mound and probably threatened to rip the pitchers arm off because Alexei is a 90 pound fighting machine. Tension is going to rise and Chicago would love nothing more than to play spoiler during this lost season. And they will. Bad teams take entirely too much pride in being annoying and they magically discover how to play well toward the end of the season. It's just what bad teams do. So now you're thinking this means Cleveland has an opportunity to sneak into first. Wrong. THE KANSAS CITY ROYALS WILL WIN THE DIVISION. Okay, I won't go that far but I do think they will have an opportunity in the final weeks to overtake Detroit. I just can't trust Cleveland's pitching after seeing it falter the last two years, and with Verlander showing signs of fatigue from previous seasons and a lack of a closer for Detroit, now is the Royals' time to strike. The rotation is stronger than it has ever been, the bullpen is consistent and with Hosmer finally showing signs of life, they will catch fire in the second half and make Detroit sweat it out until the final days of the regular season.
Hawk Harrelson will spend 30 days in jail after assaulting Steve Stone
Speaking of the White Sox lost season, this is something Hawk could not afford to happen. First, if you aren't sure what Hawk-isms are, familiarize yourself. Hawk is an absolute homer who, when things don't go his team's way, will throw a tantrum, or he will choose to just not say anything to avoid disciplinary action from the league...again. And the man who has to deal with this on a daily basis is the poor soul that is Steve Stone. Stone usually opts to let Hawk rant until he enters the not talking anymore phase, but occasionally Stone Pony sticks up for his, and everyone who's listening, sake. It's coming though. We are currently in the quiet before the storm as Hawk hasn't blown his top for a month. Stoney is going to say one wrong thing and Hawk will have had enough of it. The fight will instantly be a YouTube classic because you won't be able to see how any of the skirmish goes down. The camera will remain fixated on the game and we will be left listening to two men, whose expiration dates were 2008, quietly grunting under their breathe while grappling each other by the neck. You will hear someone enter the room to break it up only to be eliminated by a swift right hook by the Hawk himself. Harrelson has an old school toughness while Stone is more of a crafty individual, so I see Stone taking the play dead approach in this situation. From there, Hawk is unpredictable and can only be taken down by a barrage of untimely White Sox errors.
The Pirates will suffer another second half tail spin but cling to the final wildcard
You don't know how badly I want this to be Pittsburgh's year. I want it worse than I want my last prediction to come true but I'm afraid the all-too-familiar August and September fade will be very close to happening yet again. I think this is easily the best of the Pittsburgh teams but their rotation, which has undeniably carried them, is one big lump of over-achievement; it's good, but not this good. The rebirth of Francisco Liriano is something no one thought possible at this stage and I don't think he can replicate his 2.00 ERA in the second half. On top of that, he is always an injury waiting to happen so temper expectations on that front. A.J. Burnett, who has also been injured, has the best ERA of his career at 3.06. Yeah, you read that right. It's his best ERA in his 15th major league season. It's been suggested that the reason is because of his perceived comfort level in a smaller city like Pittsburgh, but I'm just not buying that he is about to have his best season EVER in his 15th year. Jeff Locke has been an unexpected ace at 8-2 with a 2.15 ERA but this is the same guy who has a 3.60 career minor league ERA and a guy who pitched to a 5.50 ERA last season with Pittsburgh. I can accept that maybe he has continued his development, but it doesn't happen this dramatically. As for Gerrit Cole, he's a rookie who could hit the much talked about rookie wall towards the end. Taking all of this into account, you have a really good rotation that is a prime regression candidate. They have built themselves a nice playoff cushion with their tremendous first half though, so I think they'll cling to the final wild card spot like there are hungry sharks waiting below, except instead of hungry sharks, it's paranoid Pirate fans who will burn down the city at the first sign of a collapse.
It's really hard to believe that the Braves have built a 6 game advantage over the Nats when you consider the Braves have holes everywhere in their lineup. Uggla, Simmons, Heyward and the Upton brothers just don't hit. A strong rotation has carried them into first, but if they don't start hitting, the pressure on the pitchers will mount and could result in another September collapse. Washington now has Harper healthy and may have solved their second base issue with Rendon and with the ability to pitch Strasburg, Gonzalez and Zimmerman consecutively, they have the opportunity to sustain lengthy win streaks. I see Washington finally living up to the preseason hype and tracking down Atlanta rather easily.
The Blue Jays will become the most intriguing seller by the trade deadline
If only there was a way that the Blue Jays could have known that acquiring a core of Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, and Jose Reyes wouldn't translate to contention. Wait, they could've just asked the Marlins. All kidding aside, I also thought that Toronto had become the biggest threat in the East but it hasn't worked out other than a single 10-game stretch of success. Toronto can choose to be stubborn and fool themselves into thinking they can still make a run at the division this year and in the future with the current team, or they can salvage their players' remaining value and hit the restart button. I like the second option. I know it doesn't look good for Alex Anthopoulos, but move on. Toronto has really interesting players all over the diamond that they could deal and restore the farm system that they depleted in an attempt to win now, which clearly hasn't happened.
The Mariners will be surprise buyers at the deadline
And by this, I do not mean that I think they are going to play themselves back into contention this year. Instead, they will try to buy veterans who have controllable contracts over the next few years in a conservative effort to win in the near future. They already have a young core with an exciting future, and if they can add some cheap veteran pieces around them, it could speed up the maturation process. They have a few guys such as Ibanez that they could deal this year, but overall, look for them to be seeking players rather than selling players.
Puig's numbers will plummet followed by another historic hot streak
As I've been saying for a while now, his swing is so expansive that you have to expect advanced scouting to discover a hole to consistently attack and we've already begun to see that in the form of a dropping average and rising strikeout totals. I see this getting much worse before it gets better, but it will get better. I fully expect him to struggle mightily for a 2 or 3 week span, but he'll turn it around quickly if he can readjust slightly. As the summer months wear on, most MLB players face fatigue and you hear many pitchers facing dead arm which is the fancy way of saying I pitched a lot and now my arm is tired. However, Puig is in such great physical condition that I have to assume his endurance is greater than that of your average MLB player. While the pitchers he's facing get tired, he will thrive in the final weeks of the season when the ball is jumping out of stadiums, and everyone will become captivated with Puigmania once again.
Bobby Valentine will change his name to Robby Valentino and be managing a major league team by season's end
Okay, obviously Bobby Valentine is not getting anymore managerial jobs in the near future but Robby Valentino might. That's the name he will go by, and after he brings back the fake mustache that apparently makes him look like a different man completely, he'll be back in the dugout. My guess is that the Marlins hire Robby and when his mustache accidentally detaches itself in the dugout, mayhem will be unleashed and his limbs are ripped off on the field by Giancarlo Stanton and Giancarlo Stanton only. Stanton's really just searching for a reason to be banned from Miami altogether and this is a prime opportunity to strike.
We have already seen quite a few dust ups in the early going so you can anticipate as the weather gets hotter and the players crankier, tempers will flare. Remember when Miguel Montero gave Puig that weird little finger wag after tagging him out at home plate? In the early months Puig simply walks away as he did, but in the dog days, Puig would instead choose to kidnap Montero, bring him into the LA dugout, and eat his heart as an example to all other Diamondback players looking for trouble. If you're one who still believes fighting in baseball is a negative, please read this article by Bill Simmons and change your mind. Regardless of what you think because I don't care, here are a few prime candidates to mix it up in the coming weeks with a few individual battles to keep an eye on.
•White Sox vs. Tigers- As I previously mentioned, these two will be spending way too much time together and they have already shown disdain toward one another. The Tigers will be beyond annoyed by the White Sox thorn-like qualities and Alexei Ramirez is more than willing to challenge any Tiger to a brawl. Going back to Simmons' article, Ramirez definitely looks like the kind of guy who would utilize the helmet toss and I could certainly see Sale and Verlander engaging in the highest stakes rock fight ever witnessed, with the loser missing a leg, maybe more. This sets up a potential Prince Fielder Adam Dunn matchup in the first base area that could end in the two picking up bats and having a massive swing off in which Dunn would miss and the Prince would break his bat on Dunn's forehead, only leaving the both of them laughing like best of buddies because they are immortal giants- Side note: Perfect opportunity for the Hawk to ambush Stoney. Security will be dealing with the on-field issues and Hawk would only need to craft a story as to why Steve Stone hasn't shown up for the last 37 games. •
Pirates vs. Cardinals- This fight becomes possible when the Pirates are trying to show NL Central royalty St. Louis that they aren't backing down this year. Does that sound familiar? That's because the Reds did exactly that to the Cardinals two years ago when Johnny Cueto was cornered into the net behind home plate like a raccoon and he began viciously cleating everything that looked at him funny. Another example of this was the Rays almost strategic brawl with the Yankees in a meaningless Spring Training game during the Rays initial breakout season. This could begin when Garrett Jones realizes that he can't hit Adam Wainwright's curveball leading him to spear his bat at Wainwright like a heat seeking missile in attempts to end his life. Andrew McCutchen would begin vigorously swinging his dreads at people, blinding them in a flash and Mark "Shark" Melancon would be running around getting on everyone's nerves by pretending to be a shark while humming the Jaws theme song until teammate Russell Martin slaps him with his shin guard. Underrated matchup- Jason Grilli's wet hair vs. Jason Motte's dry beard. •
Blue Jays vs. Red Sox- To put it simply, every Blue Jay is just sick of being in Canada and need to take their aggression out somewhere. The Red Sox are a prime choice because they stole John Farrell from Toronto and the Red Sox seem to get involved in a lot of these brawls. There's no doubt in my mind that Youkilis still instigates this fight somehow. It could just be from a Red Sox player flashing a picture of Youkilis and his baldness toward the Jays dugout. That would be enough to get even the great Mariano frustrated. Dustin Pedroia and Emilio Bonifacio instantly become a logical matchup as you'd probably see a huge cloud of dust go up with a lot of commotion, yet you should expect nothing to happen in terms of injury. Edge: Pedroia due to his pure scrappiness. Altogether, this fight would stay controlled as the Red Sox would become enamored by Munenori Kawasaki's ability to keep his sense of humor during such a serious situation but you need to keep tabs on Johnny Gomes regardless. He's one guy who may remain unimpressed by Kawasaki's jokes which puts poor Munenori in great danger because Johnny Gomes is synonymous with Attila the Hun. •
Dodgers vs. Dodgers- It begins with a Puig home run and escalates when he refuses to give any high fives in the dugout. Juan Uribe is the kind of veteran who would take exception to this and confront the issue. Puig would turn and give Juan a half smile then blitz him into the Gatorade cooler, eliminating Juan from the picture entirely. Zack Greinke finds himself about to put the rookie in his place when his collarbone begins to hurt as if it is Harry Potter's scar and he falls unconscious. Puig and Kemp stare into each other's eyes like they are boxer's weighing in then Kemp slowly backpedals while nodding awkwardly and everybody carries on. The only way this escalates into a full blown dugout brawl is if Beckett emerges from the locker room drunk and calls Puig ugly. •
Astros vs. anybody willing- The Astros are the most dangerous team in all of baseball right now. I bet you didn't think you'd say that this year. Not dangerously good, physically dangerous. They suck and they know it, yet they still have to find a way to keep themselves entertained for the next 2 and 1/2 months. And they have nothing to lose. What's more dangerous than a team that's bored, frustrated, and doesn't give a shit? Expect the Astros to throw a feeler out there at the beginning of each series. You should see a fastball directed at the head of the leadoff hitter to commence the first game of every series just to see if the other team will join them in there quest for a duel. Don't anticipate much of a fight from Houston either. They're simply looking to start a brawl so they can sacrifice their suffering souls to the baseball gods. Unfortunately, only Jose Altuve ascends to the pearly gates of baseball heaven while the remaining are reincarnated as miserable human beings who spend their entire lives in Cleveland, dying a much worse death; slow, painful and filled with even more losing.