There is tension in Boston thanks to the Red Sox winning percentage fluctuating like Oprah Winfrey's weight. There has been a fire sale in Philadelphia thanks to the Phillies hitting rock bottom. The Mets have floundered after making a brief run. The Marlins and Blue Jays, who came into the season with a certain amount of promise, have fallen on hard times. Even upstart squads like the Orioles and Rays cannot decide if they are in the race or out of it.
Outside of the Yankees, Nationals, and Braves, the 2012 season has been a tough one for baseball fans in the East. But don't worry my carpet-bagging friends, there is a simple cure for that.
We're packing our bags and heading West.
That's right folks, there are plenty of other bandwagons to jump aboard. We're going to steam on toward the West Coast and make numerous stops along the way.
Our first stop can be in Pittsburgh. Sure, they are still technically in the East, but they were on the way so why not stop and check in. The Pirates have a 3.5 game lead in the NL Wild Card standings are 15 games above .500 as we cross into August. That means that in order for them to finish with their first winning season since 1992, the Pirates need to close out the season by playing 22-35. I have a feeling that the way James McDonald, Andrew McCutchen (you're NL MVP!), Neil Walker, AJ Burnett, and Wandy Rodriguez are going to do everything they can to finish strong.
And hey, if you aren't happy in Pittsburgh, we'll make another stop just over the river in Cincinnati. The Reds are sporting baseball's best record (much to the chagrin of the Pirates), despite the loss of Joey Votto. Brandon Phillips, Mat Latos, Drew Stubbs, Ryan Ludwick, Aroldis Chapman, and Johnny Cueto have rallied around their fallen star and driven the team to the best run of any team in baseball all season. If they can sustain the success once Votto comes back, this is truly a team to reckon with in October.
We'll make our next stop just after passing through the gateway to the West; St. Louis. The defending champion Cardinals have learned to live life just fine without Albert Pujols. Unfortunately, they are overshadowed right now by both the Reds and Pirates. However, they trail in the wild card by just 3.5 games and if the Pirates falter, the Cardinals are ready to pounce behind the bats of Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, and David Freese. If hitting is not quite your thing, maybe the Cardinals have the 5th best ERA of any starting rotation in baseball, behind the arms of Kyle Lohse, Adam Wainwright, Jake Westbrook, and Lance Lynn.
From there we're turning South and heading to Arlington, TX, home to the two-time World Series runner-up Rangers. As has become commonplace at this time of the year, the Rangers are leading the AL West and after a convincing series against the rival Angels, they don't look like they want to give it up either. Josh Hamilton may be scuffling, but the Rangers are still getting big time hitting out of Mike Napoli, Adrian Beltre, and Ian Kinsler. They recently promoted uber-prospect Mike Olt and added Ryan Dempster for the pennant push. Maybe the third time is the charm.
Before we head to California, we'd be remiss not to stop off in Arizona, where the Diamondbacks just won't go away in the NL West, sitting 2.0 games behind the division-leading Giants. Juston Upton was on the block if they fell out of contention, but with Upton still in town, it is a sign that the D-Backs are still hungry for the playoffs. The D-Backs are lead by the bats of Paul Goldschmidt, Aaron Hill, and Jason Kubel, and the pitching is falling into place once again as Ian Kennedy gets back into form and Wade Miley has been outstanding.
Now we head to California, where we have a figurative smorgasbord of viable bandwagon options to choose from. We'll split the caravan up into two groups, one heading North to the Bay Area and one heading South toward Hollywood.
The group heading North will love the pitching riches in either San Francisco or Oakland. The Giants's staff lead by Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong, and Madison Bumgarner, has overcome the ineffectiveness of ace Tim Lincecum and the loss of closer Brian Wilson, and now they have a live bat in Hunter Pence to pair with Melky Cabrera to provide them some offense. They've charged past the Dodgers, holding a .5 game lead in the NL West.
Meanwhile, the Oakland Athletics started the season left for dead. However, someone forgot to tell them that, as they entered play on Saturday with a .5 game lead in the AL Wild Card and were sitting nine games over .500 on the season. They have the best pitching staff in all of baseball and the tandem of Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes, in addition to an almost nightly hero among the other cast of unknowns, have put them in a position many felt they would be years from.
For those who like the glitz and glam of Hollywood, we have a downright battle for Los Angeles, even if one of the teams isn't really in Los Angeles.
The Dodgers came out of the gate strong, but injuries to Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier have taken some of the shine off of the quick start. Still, the Dodgers are in the mix thanks to a starting rotations that's top four members all have ERAs under 4.00 (Clayton Kershaw, Chris Capuano, Chad Billingsley, and Aaron Harang). The Dodgers made some big moves in the last week, adding Brandon League, Shane Victorino, and Joe Blanton in hopes of pushing themselves to the forefront of a tight divisional race.
Just over the Anaheim border, lays the Angels and star center fielder Mike Trout. Trout has breathed life into the Angels's offense, which struggled to get started despite adding Albert Pujols over the winter. With Trout at the top of the order, the Angels have become an offensive juggernaut and Trout an MVP and Rookie of the Year candidate. Pitching was the biggest issue though, so the Angels made the biggest splash at the trade deadline, picking up Zack Greinke from Milwaukee and making sure he didn't go to the rival Rangers in Texas. They'll hope that he and a healthier Dan Haren will be enough to get them past the Rangers and Athletics in the American League West.
So folks, as you can see, we have quite a choice in front of us. But we have a long way to go and for trips starting in Boston, Philadelphia, and other Eastern points, we have a lot of driving to do along the way.
So which bandwagon should I put your name down for?
On a side note, I want to apologize for missing my turn in the batting order yesterday. The week caught up to me fast and I didn't realize it had become Friday until that morning. Unfortunately, it caught me in a way that I was unable to put my post to paper before I knew what happened and then couldn't find the time to do so as the day went on. That said, please accept this late post as my apology!