First things first. You may be aware that Devil Rays 2B is putting the finishing touches on an excellent season. Then again, you may not, as Cantu is the 2nd baseman on the Devil Rays and really, nobody pays attention to them. But outside perhaps of Jeff Kent, no second sacker in the league has been better offensively than Cantu. While you (and I) weren’t paying attention, he’s managed to pile up 28 homes, 115 RBI, a .289 BA, .503 SLG, and .803 OPS. The only real knock against him is his 18 walks translate into a .313 OBP. Not quite Christian Guzman, but still that number should be higher. To think these guys were planning on playing Robbie Alomar at the beginning of the year.
Add Cantu to Carl Crawford, Scott Kazmir, Jonny Gomes, Joey Gathright, Justin Upton, Delmon Young, a returning Rocco Baldelli, a great trade chip in Aubrey Huff, and Mark Hendrickson (every baseball team needs a guy who can dunk), and the Devil Rays have a bright future, evidenced by their 2nd half performance. Of course, we all said the same thing going into this season, after the Rays had a good 2nd half in ’04.
Other guys who have had great years that have flown under the radar: Garrett Atkins and Matt Holliday for Colorado, Bill Hall for Milwaukee, Oakland’s Mark Ellis and Dan Johnson. Jessie Crain has been incredible for the Twins, Solomon Torres has been very effective out of the bullpen for Pittsburgh, and Arizona’s Chad Tracy. There are plenty of others, especially on bad teams. It’s another post for another day.
NL WEST UPDATE: I’d congratulate the Padres for nearly clinching the division, but I don’t think anything that comes out of there deserves praise.
AL WEST UPDATE: I love the Angels. While they started the season with more talent than the Dodgers, and by all rights should be where they are, comparing the two LA teams is like night and day. The Angels have dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness from stars (hello, Steve Finley), yet kept it together. They watched the A’s catch them, but instead of folding, they kept playing. I’m a huge fan of Dodgers manager Jim Tracy, but the Angels under Mike Scioscia have played much like the Cardinals this season (or the Dodgers last year). No matter what happens, it’s the team on the field that has to perform. No excuses. The Dodgers can’t say that, though much of the blame goes to GM Paul DePodesta for the team he constructed.
NL CENTRAL UPDATE: The Cards wrapped it up weeks ago, because they’re awesome. Thought I’d throw that out there.
Finally, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the Indians and White Sox. Not just because I said the Indians would win the Central, and that the Yanks wouldn’t make the playoffs (a prediction made in midseason, in the interests of full disclosure), but because the offseason is so much more fun when George Steinbrenner is angry.