The winds of change in baseball have blown strongly this season. As the post All-Star break of the schedule begins Friday night, none of the teams who were leading their divisions at the All-Star break last year are leading now.
Last year, from east to west, the leaders were Washington, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles in the National League and New York, Chicago and Texas in the American League.
Your new leaders are Atlanta, St. Louis and Arizona in the NL and Boston, Detroit and Oakland in the American League.
Ten things to watch for in the second half:
1. PEDs or bust(ed)
Major leagues’ investigation of players involved in Biogenesis. Expect suspensions – and just as many appeals. Nobody loses time this season.
2. The chase for Maris begins anew
Baltimore first baseman Chris Davis is bidding for home-run immortality. He has 37 now. The American League record still is Roger Maris’ 61. Davis says he considers that to be the real big-league mark, too.
3. Plank-walking Buccos?
Will the Pittsburgh Pirates avoid a third straight second-half collapse? They not only will finish above 500, they will make the playoffs.
4. The comeback trail
Will Chris Carpenter ever again pitch for the Cardinals? If he makes it through several rehab starts without incident, he will. But there are no guarantees of that.
5. Yasiel Puig
Fact or fiction? Division teams will be seeing young Dodgers slugger for a second, third and fourth time.
6. Under the Rays-dar
The Tampa Bay Rays are the best team every year that nobody pays attention to. David Price is healthy again to help fuel a rotation of young guns.
7. Yankees clipped
When they get some of their injured regulars back, will they be good enough? They’ll probably finish fourth out of five in stacked AL East.
8. No tears in these Sox
As good a story as Pittsburgh has been, the Boston Red Sox may be a better one as they have spent their money much more wisely than they used to.
9. No Chicago fire
Is there any hope for either Chicago team? Depending on how many players each team trades, Cubs and Sox could finish last in same season. The only time it’s happened is 1948.
10. The Cardinals
Can they make the playoffs before the last out of the season is recorded? They should. They’re 10 games clear of Washington, which has the third best wild-card mark.