SPORTS w/The Jock 7/14/11

by Tom Weppel
Now that the All-Star break has come and gone, we can take a look at the way things are shaping up for the rest of the season…
In four of the six Divisions (including all three American League sets), first and second place are only separated by a game or less! Nothing wrong with that, as it should make for some interesting ball-playing. In the AL East, once again we see the Yankees and Red Sox going at it, with Boston currently on top. They lead the League in batting average and in runs scored, while the Yankees are #1 in home runs. They should finish 1-2 in the Division, and you can look for both to get into the playoffs.
In the AL Central, Detroit and Cleveland are leading the Division and should challenge one another for that title. The White Sox are below .500 right now and don‘t have the juice to emerge, while the Twins have simply struggled too long to be able to make a dramatic turnaround.
Meanwhile out West, the Angels and Rangers will go head-to-head for the rest of the season, and it should be interesting to see who will beat the other out for this Division. I think either team is capable of pulling this one out. Look for one or both of them to make a trade to add to their roster.
In the National League, the Philadelphia Phillies have clearly shown they are the best team in the League, carrying the best record into the All-Star break. They have a fantastic starting pitching staff that has done a masterful job. Their starters registered eleven complete game outings so far this season, which is head and shoulders above the rest of the NL! Look for them to continue their winning ways. They have the roster to go all the way.
Interestingly enough, though, the Atlanta Braves have played good ball as well, and would be leading either of the other two Divisions, if that were the case. The Braves have played good ball, and I look for them to be the wild card going into the playoffs.
In the Central, we see the Cardinals and Brewers tied at the top of the Division. Both have done a solid job, all things considered, including dealing with multiple injuries on both rosters. Milwaukee looked to add to their pitching by trading for Mets closer Frankie Rodriguez. We’ll see how things shake out.
In the meantime, the Pirates have been the story of the season so far in that Division, and they are only one game behind the Milwaukee and St. Louis. We’ll see if Pittsburgh can keep it all together and even challenge to make the postseason.
Out West, the Giants have played souncly so far, putting them at the top. They don’t seem to have the complete pop they carried last season. Maybe we just think that because we haven’t seen them much on national TV. Arizona has made a slight challenge, but it looks as though San Francisco will win the Division once again. Colorado, L.A., and San Diego all are under .500, and the Dodgers simply aren’t going to amount to anything. Their team and franchise are a complete mess, in all ways. Look for multiple changes there after the season, in all sorts of ways, on and off the field.
The next two weeks give teams a chance to make trades if desired, either to add to their roster, or to let go of high-priced vets who they don’t want to keep around. It always makes for interesting fare. Look for at least a few changes amongst teams either looking to get stronger, or simply bail out.
The British Open is being played this weekend in Sandwich, England at Royal St. George’s Golf Course. The area supposedly was founded in the Fourth Century! It is a true links course within its’ set up, as you will see. It can be a very difficult layout, with deep pot bunkers and tall, wispy rough to avert. The conditions almost always seem to play a huge part in what can and cannot be done, with the wind making things that much tougher.
No American has won this tournament in the last five years. I don’t know whether that is a good or a bad thing. I also don’t know if any Americans are offended or not by the fact. What I do know is that it is a tournament with an international playing field of players. There is no question it pays to know how to play these types of courses, especially if the playing conditions become varied. It is easy for a little wind or rain to kick up on this territory, making it that much more difficult for the players to score well…and THAT is what viewers want to see!
Once again, people are talking about the fact of Tiger Woods NOT participating, as he is still doing his rehab. It is quite obvious he still carries a lot of weight and prowess in popularity. And while fans certainly warmed to Rory McIlroy winning the U.S. Open, he will need to do more to attain a top-shelf status.
Luke Donald, who is currently ranked #1 in the world, won the Scottish Open last week, so we’ll see how he does this week. Phil Mickelson has not played well at all in this event, causing a degree of frustration within himself.
There is no true favorite to win this thing this weekend. It is interesting how the stage is completely set for someone to come up, come out, and pull off a nice victory. We’ll see what happens across the pond…