What a difference a year makes. Who would have thought that at the All-Star break the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals would be in first place and the Philadelphia Phillies would be in last place.
That a Los Angeles Angles rookie named Mike Trout would be leading the American League in hitting, while Albert Pujols would need over a month to get on track and Robinson Cano would be the most hated man in Kansas City.
Let's talk about the standings and the teams first, beginning with the A.L. East. The Yankees are in first place, big deal everyone saw that coming, the surprise is that the Baltimore Orioles are in second place and that the Boston Red Sox are in fourth place and traded away their most beloved player in Kevin Youkilis to Chicago.
In the A.L. Central, the Chicago White Sox seemed to have regained their mojo and have taken over the lead, while the Cleveland Indians are a surprising second. The “experts” pick, Detroit Tigers, needed a five game winning streak just before the break to get back above .500. Kansas City and Minnesota are right where everyone said they would be, fourth and fifth.
The A.L. West has pretty much held to form with the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels battling it out for the crown, while Oakland and Seattle look forward to next year's draft.
In the N.L. East, the Nationals have surprised many by holding a four game lead over the ever present Atlanta Braves, while the New York Mets and Phillies have seemingly flip-flopped spots in the standings. In fact, the Phillies are looking more and more like sellers at the trade deadline, rather than buyers. Although, it will help that they did get Ryan Howard and Chase Utley back and will have Roy Halladay back soon.
The defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals are in familiar territory as they are looking up at the very surprising Pirates, who hold a one game lead over the Cincinnati Reds, as the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros seem to be battling it out for who will get the number one pick in next year's draft. In case you are wondering, the Astros currently hold a half game lead on both the Cubs and the Colorado Rockies, but the Mariners are only one game back.
Finally, in the N.L. West, the Los Angeles Dodgers have been resurrected since the Magic Johnson led group bought the team and with Matt Kemp coming back on Friday the news can only get better. The San Francisco Giants are closing in and only sit a half game back and the Arizona Diamondbacks could make some noise in the second half as well. The San Diego Padres and Rockies seem to be going no where and both teams keep fading.
Trout has been phenomenal since his recall in late April and continues to light up the baseball and the base paths, while the Ranger's Josh Hamilton and Blue Jays' Jose Bautista keep trading the lead in home runs.
Angels' pitcher Jared Weaver not only became the first pitcher since Sandy Koufax to reach 10 wins and have an earned run average under 2 in back to back seasons at the All Star break, he also threw a no-hitter against Minnesota and leads the A.L. In ERA at 1.96.
When Pujols left the Cardinals in the off season, the biggest concern was how will St. Louis replace his bat, enter Carlos Beltran. Not only does he lead the N.L. in runs batted in with 65, he is also second in home runs with 20, only four behind Milwaukee Brewers' outfielder Ryan Braun.
On the pitching side, a 37 year-old New York Met named R. A. Dickey leads the majors with 12 wins and his unhittable knuckleball has him second in strikeouts with 123.
Speaking of pitching, this first half has seen two perfect games, White Sox pitcher Phil Humber against the Mariners on April 8th and Giants pitcher Matt Cain against the Astros on June 13th .
There were also three no-hitters thrown, the aforementioned Weaver on May 2nd , the controversial no-hitter that the Mets Johan Santana threw against the Cardinals on June 1st and the combined effort of the Mariners, when six pitchers no-hit the Dodgers on June 8th .
I didn't even mention the Nationals 19 year-old rookie Bryce Harper, or fire baller Stephen Strasburg, that's how crazy this first half has been.
As for Cano and him being the most hated man in Kansas City? Cano had promised to take a home town player for the 2012 Home Run Derby, but instead chose Mark Trumbo of the Angels and Prince Fielder of the Tigers.
During Cano's home run derby at bats, the Kansas City fans booed him unmercifully and cheered every out he made in the derby and in the all star game. Instead choosing to chant Billy Butler's name while Cano was batting. One fan, caught on camera during the derby, said it best when he said “You should have taken Billy like you promised.”
I can't wait to see what the second half brings.