I think at this point even the most devout and hopeful Indians fans have packed it in. I usually don’t give up on the boys until late in the season, but even I can understand that this season wasn’t just meant to be. With that being said, let’s take a look at the division.
1. Detroit Tigers (63-56) – Detroit has the fewest amount of wins for any team currently leading a division. As a matter of fact, the other two division leaders in the American League have over 70 wins. The fewest wins for any division leader other than Detroit is 68, by the defending world champion Philadelphia Phillies, and the St. Louis Cardinals. Detroit holds a slim lead in what is widely considered the weakest division in baseball, but the pitching has kept the Tigers in the race for the pennant. Justin Verlander returning to form has greatly influenced the Tiger staff; one that has a 4.14 ERA, 2nd best in the AL. Verlander has paced the Tigers with a 13-6 record, 3.28 ERA, and 194 strikeouts. The youngster Rick Porcello has come on to take a prominent role in the Detroit staff with a 10-7 record. Porcello also established himself as a true ‘team player’ when throwing at Boston’s Victor Martinez and Kevin Youkilis. Miguel Cabrera continues to pace the offense as he leads the team in average (.334), home runs (24), and RBIs (72). If this team heats up at the right time, they may be a force in the postseason.
2. Chicago White Sox (62-59, 2 games back) – Ozzie Guillen always has his Southsiders playing at maximum potential. A team generally known for small ball tactics and great pitching is actually 6th in the majors with a team total of 144 home runs. They also share a team ERA of 4.14 with the division leading Tigers. Mark Buehrle’s perfecto certainly highlights the White Sox season thus far, but a playoff appearance is a definite reality with this team trailing Detroit by a minute, two games. Buehrle, John Danks, and Gavin Floyd have all gathered in 10 wins. Jermaine Dye, Paul Konerko, and the ageless Jim Thome have all knocked out 20+ homers. Ironically, each has exactly 71 RBIs. This team might just be one more Guillen tirade away from overtaking the Tigers.
3. Minnesota Twins (57-62, 6 games back) – This team just cannot heat up. Ron Gardenhire’s teams are generally known for their consistency. The Twins aren’t always the flashiest team, highest-scoring team, etc…I can go on…etc…but they are ALWAYS competitive within the division. This is Gardenhire’s 8th year, and he has led the team to four division titles (plus a tie last year), an ALCS appearance, and has suffered only one losing season. Needless to say, a sub-.500 record this year would not be something familiar for the Twins’ faithful. Enough about that, though…this team is definitely paced by the M & M boys: Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Mauer leads the AL in batting at .383, and has 25 home runs and 77 RBIs. Mauer is also a frontrunner for the AL MVP Award. Morneau, known more for his power, only has three more than Mauer with 28. Morneau is batting at a .298 clip and has added in 94 RBIs. This team’s faint playoff hopes rest on the shoulders of these two.
4. Cleveland Indians (51-68, 12 games back) – Honestly, the story of this team is the mass exodus of proven stars…well, maybe just proven, reliable players. An underlying story is how Eric Wedge still has a job. A team this far under .500 should probably be more than 12 games out of first. Either way, Matt LaPorta was called up about thirty minutes ago, and will probably have little influence on this season. Needless to say, this news still qualifies as a highlight. Grady Sizemore has spiraled downward a bit, statistically speaking, but can at least blame that on injuries. Fausto Carmona went wild…again. The team’s lone all-star, Victor Martinez, is now trying to push Boston into the postseason. The 2008 Cy Young Award winner, Cliff Lee, is now raking in wins (and complete games) for the Phillies…another contender. Ryan Garko and Ben Francisco have also departed, and in comes a slew of minor league pitching prospects. At this point in the season, names aren’t really that important. Next season, the Indians’ fate will, however, rest squarely on the shoulders of the new arms.
5. Kansas City Royals (47-73, 16.5 games back) – Sitting in last in the American League Central is not something to be proud of. Many fans and writers thought Trey Hillman could take the Royals places. The team is young and talented, but obviously too young and not talented enough…at this point. The definite highlight for KC is Zack Greinke, Cy Young hopeful. The last place Royals have still given the fanbase in the revamped Kauffman Stadium reason to cheer, mainly due to Greinke. Despite an 11-7 record, Greinke has a 2.33 ERA and 174 strikeouts against only 37 walks. If the young bats can mature, namely Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, and Mike Aviles, this team can have something in store for next season.