By Evan Roberts
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1. Cincinnati Reds
Yes, they are beating up the dregs of the National League. But you play who is on your schedule, and if they weren’t beating up these lousy teams we’d rip them for not beating them! The Reds may have the best balance of any NL contender and the acquisition of Jonathan Broxton (assuming he’s healthy) could remind fans of the Nasty Boys.
2. New York Yankees
No hiding the fact the Yankees are not playing great baseball (hence the ouster from the No. 1 spot) but they still hold a commanding lead in the AL East, plus the AL’s best record. Brian Cashman did a pretty solid job of making them better before the trade deadline. You had the surprise acquisition of Ichiro last week and the addition of a right handed bat that can play the corners in Casey McGehee. But the best addition may be the return of Joba Chamberlain.
3. Washington Nationals
The Nats better not shut down Stephen Strasburg. If they are planning on doing that, Mike Rizzo failed in the pre-7/31 run-up. Ryan Dempster was out there, and he made sense for the Nats to ease the loss of Strasburg. Unlike Atlanta, the Nats did not get better. Will that hurt them come September? Only time will tell…
4. Texas Rangers
Josh Hamilton is getting booed, the lead over Anaheim and Oakland continue to get smaller and the Rangers continue to play lackluster baseball. Throw in the news that Neftali Feliz won’t return and the Rangers needed to do something. They brought in Ryan Dempster who will have to prove he can handle the AL, but it’s worth the risk for Texas. There is no team (including the Yankees) who have more pressure to win it all than Texas.
5. Atlanta Braves
Besides the Reds, there may be no hotter team in the NL than Atlanta. The arrival of Ben Sheets, plus an offense that continues to be much more productive than a year ago are the main reasons why. They’re closer to Washington then they have been in months. The acquisition of lefty Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson from Chicago are small moves that could pay huge dividends.
6. Angels of Anaheim
Though they suffered a brutal loss Wednesday against Texas, the Angels are slowly getting closer in the pursuit of the first place Rangers. The pesky Athletics haven’t gone away yet, but with Albert Pujols mashing and a loaded rotation, we know that Anaheim will play a game 163, but the goal is to avoid a sudden-death one-game playoff.
7. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates continue to close in on that magic No. 81, which will clinch the first winning record for Pittsburgh since Bonds was still patrolling left field. The acquisition of Travis Snider was curious, but I love the pick up of Gaby Sanchez. Gaby has had an awful year but the Pirates picked him up with value down and maybe the spark of a pennant race will get his bat going. The trade for Wandy Rodriguez though could have the biggest impact.
8. Oakland Athletics
Most of us are waiting for the A’s to go away and maybe this past week was a sign that’s in the process of happening. Next weekend against Anaheim will be a major factor in how long they stay afloat. Yes, there were rumors of Billy Beane making a big move, but failing to do anything may be one of the contributing factors in the sinking of the A’s.
9. Baltimore Orioles
Speaking of teams that may go away, how bout them Orioles! They continue to prove us (especially me) wrong on how good they are. Winning two of three in New York against the Yankees was pretty impressive. The most incredible stat about Baltimore is the fact they’ve been outscored by 60 runs this year.
10. Chicago White Sox
The Tigers cooled off and the White Sox are still holding down first place in the AL Central. The Indians seem to be out of the picture so its down to Chicago and Detroit for the division title. Chris Sale was shut down for a start because of a dead arm. He will certainly be one of the keys if the White Sox want to shock everyone and win this division.
What’s your Top 10 look like? Be heard in the comments below!