Monday, August 13, 2012

Rangers still team to beat in the American League? Maybe...maybe not...

Three straight AL crowns for Texas?
The Major League Baseball season is a marathon and not a sprint.  Even the best teams have struggles that can last for weeks.  Back on May 14, I posted a message stating that I thought the Texas Rangers were the team to beat in the American League. Since then, they have remained in first place in their division and have the second best record in the league, but they have wobbled some.

At this point, the Rangers lead the Western Division by 6.5 games and have withstood serious surges from the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics. After a slow start, Albert Pujols (24 home runs, 76 RBI) has been scorching for the Angels, plus the emergence of rookie phenom Mike Trout (.344 average, 21 home runs, 36 stolen bases) has made them an exciting team to watch. Couple that with the A’s remarkable run in July that saw them go from having a losing record to being in the thick of the wild card race and the division has become hotly contested. Also, during this time, the Rangers struggled some. Their inconsistency was mirrored by the sputtering of their best player Josh Hamilton. After a strong start that saw him land on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Hamilton cooled off in June and July.  He hit below .200 during that time, but now appears to be breaking out of his funk. Though the Rangers still are the team to beat in the division, expect it to be quite saucy going down the stretch.
As I mentioned back on May 14, I bought into the Detroit Tigers in the preseason. With their pitching and sluggers Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, the pieces appeared to be in place. The pieces are still there, but they remain slightly behind the Chicago White Sox in the Central Division. I still believe the Tigers will win this division. There is just too much firepower there. However, both the Tigers and White Sox will make the playoffs.  The second place team will nab one of the American League's two wildcard berths.
In the Eastern Division, the New York Yankees continue to lead, and I do not foresee anybody getting in their way. Yes, I understand the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays continue to hang around. The Yankees have actually struggled somewhat since July 1 (20-16 record), but I do not see a Red Sox/Braves type collapse heading down the stretch.  Simply too much offense for the Pinstripers.
So, are the Rangers still the team to beat in the American League?  I think so, but not as strongly as I felt in May. I cannot shake my Tigers' fixation.  I am sticking with the Rangers right now, but I could flip flop at any time.

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