1. Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays
Yeah, they're on a seven-game skid. Yeah, they can't win on the road. Yeah, they're in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox. But, man, they're fun. I like the fact that they're not afraid of Boston. I like the fact that they're kind of pissed off that no one is giving them a chance. And I especially like the fact that it's going to be August and they're still relevant. This story is far from over and the next three months should be very enjoyable in western Florida.
2. Those Amazin' Mets
Do I think they're going to collapse and lose the NL East again this year? Nah. I'm pretty sure they're going to collapse and blow the NL Wild Card this time. Why not mix it up, eh? It's only a matter of time, isn't it? As a Phillies fan, I'm glad to see Billy Wagner in the news, whether it's blowing saves or blowing up at his teammates. Of course, I think Walkoff Walk has more against him than I do. After watching Dan Uggla show his stuff in the All-Star Game, I don't think they're still arguing Wagner's the worst All-Star selection.
3. Chipper Jones
"Can Chipper hit .400?" How many times did we hear that the first couple of months of the season? Well, the obvious answer is that he's not going to hit .400. I don't even think he's going to hit .350. But the real story is this: How the heck has Chipper turned it around? I mean he's healthy, he's hitting, he's happy - and he's still playing for Atlanta!! I think we all know the answer here. One word: Hooters. Yeah, me thinketh Chipper's back on the (wing) sauce. So what will he end the season with more of - children or hits? This can only help but add to the lore of Chipper!
4. The Yankees
Well, at least the Yankee fans had an All-Star Game to cheer about. I honestly doubt there's anyone outside of the Tri-State area that's feeling sorry for them. Kind of reminds me of the scene in Dumb and Dumber when they're in the apartment talking about how bad their lives are. "Man, we got no pitching, our stars are slumping......WE'RE LOSING TO THE (DEVIL) RAYS!"
5. Yankee Stadium
Yeah, the drama was a bit much the other night. But it is a shame to see it go. I can only imagine the festivities that are planned for the final games. At least they got one more meaningful game in before the old ballpark is torn down. Too bad it was the All-Star Game. How ironic - the last meaningful game in Yankee Stadium is won by a Red Sox manager and the MVP is a Red Sox player. Ouch....
6. Hall of Fame Announcers
On a serious note, if you even remotely like baseball, you owe it to yourself to take the next three months to listen to as many games from some of the once-in-a-lifetime announcers that are still calling games. Yeah, you probably don't like them all, but you can't deny that they're the last remnants of a dying breed. Honestly, I can't imagine that in 30 years our children or grandchildren will be giving the same advice about some of the hacks that are working today. In my opinion, you should start yourself off with a Vin Scully call and then work your way to Harry Kalas (no, NFL Films does not count!). Be sure to include Marty Brennaman and Bob Uecker, too! Do it soon, as they're eventually going to be forced out of the booth or retire. Please, Vin, don't go yet!
7. Los Angeles Angels
Do I really have to call them the Los Angeles Angels? Am I the only one that still has a problem with this? Regardless of my issues, this is the team to watch in the second-half of the season. They're tied for the most wins in the Majors right now and have the best road record in either league. Most (east coast) people haven't heard too much about this crew, but that will change soon. The Angels are putting themselves in a position as the team to beat in '08 and I'm having a hard time arguing with them. Should be interesting to see if they can keep it going. The real question is: Will the Rally Monkey return? Ah, the anticipation.....
8. Chicago Cubs
This is going to be that story that won't go away until it is put to bed by the Cubbies themselves. Can the Cubs get that (non-Rally) monkey off their back? So far, the answer appears to be yes. They're playing well and they've made some moves. If they can continue to get the clutch performances they got in the first half, then it's going to be hard to deny this story. Of course, history tells me that for every Rich Harden trade there's a Steve Bartman waiting in the wings.
OK, let's start the list of all the things I left out.