1. Philadelphia Phillies (1)
For periods of time this season Charlie Manuel didn’t have Ryan Madson, Jose Contreres and Brad Lidge. That time is now history. The Phillies finally have the fully healthy pen that they dreamed of during the offseason to go along with their rock solid rotation. The runaway may have just begun as they have opened up a 6 game lead in the NL East. You do have to wonder about Cliff Lee. While he has showed his flashes of vintage Lee brilliance, overall he has been rather mediocre. Is Lee bored as we enter the dog days?
2. Boston Red Sox (2)
Despite their loss on Monday to the lowly Royals the Sox have been dominant for the last month. They are 16-4 in the month of July and have maintained a lead over the Yankees in the AL East. Carl Crawford is back and healthy and is finally starting to show you why Theo Epstein showed him the money during the off season. Who would have thought that the iron man in their rotation would be Josh Beckett? Boston has to keep their fingers crossed Beckett that continues to hold up.
3. New York Yankees (3)
The Yankees have coped well without Alex Rodriguez and it’s not only the fill in Eduardo Nunez as the reason why. How about what Derek Jeter has done since A-Rod got hurt and he collected his 3000th hit? His batting avg is up over .270 and he has 7 RBI’s in his last 4 games. From a pitching standpoint Bartolo Colon relaxed anyone who thought his 1st half was a fluke, with back to back solid outings after he struggled against Tampa Bay and Toronto in mid July. As we hit the deadline ask yourself this…is there really any starting pitcher realistically out there that’s better than what the Yankees already have? The answer is…no, not really.
4. San Francisco Giants (5)
A lot of us keep asking the same question…can the Giants really continue to rattle off wins despite having no semblance of an offense? Sure why the heck not, with pitching like this. It’s not just the obvious with Lincecum and Cain, but Ryan Vogelsong is just not slowing down and Madison Bumgarner has won back to back starts. I still think they need to add a bat before Sunday (Carlos Beltran remains PERFECT) but is anyone a real threat to them in the NL West even if they don’t make any moves? Probably not, but to get by the Phillies or even Atlanta in October they can’t rely on another Cody Ross power show.
5. Atlanta Braves (4)
The good news for Atlanta is no one will challenge them for the NL Wild Card spot. The bad news is they can’t hang with Philadelphia. Despite going on a run during July when they won 14 of 17, they ended up being cooled off by the Phils and sit 6 games back. The Braves have two worries as they head towards what will in all likelihood be their 2nd straight October visit as the wild card. Can their pen hold up? O’Flaherty, Kimbrel and Venters have been great but they are piling up the innings. And can they score enough? Yes, Chipper is healthy again (for now), but it would behoove them to add a bat in the next few days.
6. Texas Rangers (7)
The Rangers fit the “hottest team in baseball” category right now, but let’s keep things in perspective. Yes, they won 12 in a row and, yes, they just put up 20 runs against Minnesota, BUT the big winning streak was against Baltimore, Oakland and Seattle. Not exactly an impressive list. They also have not put THAT much distance between themselves and the Angels. In fact their long winning streak ending with back to back losses to the Angels who have hung tough in the AL West.
7. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (8)
At 31-36 on June 12th this looked like another disappointing season for the Angels, but that has turned around over the last month and a half. As we mentioned above they were the team that cooled off Texas by winning 2 of 3 against them, and they hold one huge advantage over Texas as this race gets kicked into high gear. The top of the rotation…Jered Weaver and Dan Haren are as solid as any top 2 this side of Halladay and Lee.
8. Detroit Tigers (10)
Despite being outscored this season the Tigers have maintained a slight lead over the Indians in the AL Central. The baseball world seems to be waiting for the Indians to go away and the Twins to get real hot, but neither has happened. Detroit’s trade deadline focus is pitching. Hiroki Kuroda would be OK, BUT if Tampa Bay is really thinking about dealing James Shields, the Tigers should do whatever it takes to get him. Adding Shields would put them right with the top teams because of a stellar 1-2 punch.
9. Pittsburgh Pirates (9)
The Pirates hold on to that 9th spot for the second straight week despite losing 2 of 3 to the Cardinals over the weekend. Pittsburgh showed fight by not getting swept AND defeated Tim Hudson and the Braves on Monday. You look at this roster and you wonder how is this happening. When you compare the Pirates to the main NL Central rivals their roster is a mismatch. Yet Clint Hurdle has this team believing and PITCHING.
10. Tampa Bay Rays (6)
In what may well be their final appearance on the top 10 list, the Rays are sinking and they are sinking fast. They are also talking about breaking up the team AGAIN. I get dealing BJ Upton, a guy who has great talent but has not been able to put it all together, but trading James Shields is a major sign of concession for more than just this year. But the Rays biggest failure is their geography. They are good enough to compete in just about every division, but not in the AL East.
Have a take on the Top 10? Leave your comment below.