Midseason grades

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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - With a little more than half the season complete in Major League Baseball, there are several teams with eye-opening records to this point. There is a lot to reflect on from the first half of the season, from Randy Johnson's perfect game to the firing of Bob Brenly. And that's just the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team that has been decimated with injuries this season and has seen wholesale changes.

Johnson could have an impact for a contending team in the second half of the season. Other clubs who weren't expected to be in contention for the playoffs at this point, like the Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds or Milwaukee Brewers, may face tough decisions before the July 31st non-waiver trading deadline to become buyers or sellers. With this in mind, let's gauge where each team is at this point in the season and what may happen for the remainder of the year. AMERICAN LEAGUE ANAHEIM ANGELS - Arte Moreno's team is right on track. Vladimir Guerrero is proving into the best off-season acquisition and the Angels are right where they need to be in the AL West, considering Bartolo Colon has looked awful after Anaheim committed $51 million to him over four years. Disgruntled ex- starter Ramon Ortiz will likely be shown the door in a trade. GRADE: B- BALTIMORE ORIOLES - Last winter club vice president Mike Flanagan and executive VP Jim Beattie said they wanted the Orioles to contend more in the AL East. The team responded by signing Miguel Tejada, Javy Lopez and Sidney Ponson to contracts totaling $117 million. What has happened this year though is a total disaster. Tejada and Lopez have had good seasons and David Newhan is a pleasant surprise, but Ponson(3-12) and the rest of Baltimore's pitching staff have been brutal. The woes for the O's is their arms as they have a collective 5.08 ERA, third worst in the majors. GRADE: F BOSTON RED SOX - Simply put, Terry Francona needs to be tougher on his players or he'll be run out of town. The Sox have one of the best offensive lineups in the AL, and the production is finally starting to take shape with an incredible week leading to the All-Star break. Derek Lowe needs to pitch better. The Big Unit coming to Boston is a longshot at best. GRADE: C+ CHICAGO WHITE SOX - Ozzie Guillen's first year as skipper almost turned into a boiling tea pot right before the All-Star break. He exploded during a game versus Anaheim on July 8, a contest in which the White Sox rallied for a 9-8 victory, scoring four times over the final two innings. It may have been worse had the Sox lost that day. Nevertheless, the Sox have a big hurdle to overcome with Frank Thomas on the DL and Magglio Ordonez in his early return stage from an injury. Still, Guillen has his team going in the right direction and the acquisition of Freddy Garcia can only help. GRADE: B+ CLEVELAND INDIANS - There were some views at the beginning of the season that the Indians may be on a quicker road to rebuilding than first thought. Scrap that idea of rebuilding altogether. Catcher Victor Martinez, second baseman Ronnie Belliard, outfielder Matt Lawton and pitchers C.C. Sabathia and Jake Westbrook were all named to the All-Star team. Cliff Lee (9-1) wasn't. If they are in contention close to the trading deadline, expect the Tribe to acquire some help for their bullpen, which is the worst in the American League. GRADE: B- DETROIT TIGERS - There is no way the Detroit Tigers would be close to .500 (42-45) at the All-Star break had it not been for Ivan Rodriguez. Detroit finished last season 43-119, one loss short of the major league record established by the 1962 New York Mets. Pudge is the biggest reason for Detroit's turn-around this season with shortstop Carlos Guillen a close second. Now if only the pitching (fifth worst ERA in majors) could improve.... Let's take this year-by-year. GRADE: A- KANSAS CITY ROYALS - Tony Pena was named AL Manager of the Year in 2003 after helping KC from 100 losses in 2002 to 83 victories last season. However with the second-worst ERA in the majors and a .254 team batting average, the Royals are going nowhere fast in 2004. Juan Gonzalez is likely on his way out. GRADE: F MINNESOTA TWINS - The Twins are just a pesky team without superstars that seems to get the job done each year under Ron Gardenhire and now they are once again contenders in the AL Central going for a third straight division title. GRADE: A- NEW YORK YANKEES - The slow start by the Yankees (8-11) was a mirage as far as the offense is concerned. Derek Jeter has hiked up his sub .200 average from earlier this year and the team is basically an All-Star squad of its own. Starting pitching problems, combined with an injury to Kevin Brown begs the question, "Will Steinbrenner land the Big Unit?" Whatever George wants, George gets. Money can buy division championships and the Yankees will prove that again in the AL East. GRADE: B+ OAKLAND ATHLETICS - While the return of Eric Chavez from the DL and the continued strong pitching of Mark Mulder should help in the drive for the AL West title, there are a few questions surrounding the A's. Will Arthur Rhodes be traded now that he's fallen out of favor? Will the real Octavio Dotel please stand up? The healthy return of Tim Hudson and a resurgence from Barry Zito could help the A's. GRADE: C SEATTLE MARINERS - Nearly everyone has thrown gasoline onto the fire that is the Seattle Mariners. Their season has gone entirely up in flames. For the most part, they haven't been able to hit (.256 AVG, .380 SLG) or pitch (4.62 ERA) and being buried in last place could mean the departure of Jamie Moyer, John Olerud or even Bret Boone. GRADE: F TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS - Lou Piniella asked for ownership to spend money on the D'Rays if they were in contention for the wild card spot. Good try, but fat chance the team will up the ante. However, a 12-game winning streak and great seasons so far from Rocco Baldelli, Carl Crawford, Toby Hall and Victor Zambrano have made teams notice Tampa Bay may not finish in last for the first time in franchise history. GRADE: B+ TEXAS RANGERS - Buck Showalter wasn't given much to work with pitching-wise this year, but for the team to have an ERA not in the bottom third of the majors is already an accomplishment. Being in first place in the AL West is a shock, but now the Rangers must not fall by the wayside and should acquire a starter a la Kris Benson. The young lineup in the post Alex Rodriguez era is a good one with Hank Blalock, Alfonso Soriano and Michael Young. GRADE: A TORONTO BLUE JAYS - Already written off from contending for the playoffs, the Blue Jays may now focus on trading the centerpiece of their team - Carlos Delgado. Miguel Batista could also be trade bait as the Jays move into a rebuilding mode. GRADE: D NATIONAL LEAGUE ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS - With more than a dozen players having spent time this season on the DL, the year has been a disaster for the D'Backs. Al Pedrique is now picking up the pieces. The next big decision is in the hands of Jerry Colangelo and Joe Garigiola Jr. if they want to part with the Big Unit and/or Steve Finley to sacrifice the take at the gate now for the future of the franchise. GRADE: F ATLANTA BRAVES - Johnny Estrada has been a huge asset to the team this year as he took over for Javy Lopez. Bobby Cox and Leo Mazzone continue to work their magic, even with a different pitching staff as Atlanta is a game out of first place in the NL East. However, don't expect the Braves to be spenders at the trading deadline, even if they are trying for a 13th straight division title. GRADE: A- CHICAGO CUBS - If Kerry Wood and Mark Prior had been together all season in the rotation and not injured, the Cubs may have been in first place in the NL Central. Dusty Baker's squad has a lot of ground to make up on the Cardinals, but with Sammy Sosa and Derrek Lee leading the way, don't be surprised to see the Cubs run off a long winning streak. If the bullpen can overcome the loss of Joe Borowski, the Cubs should be in good shape come September. Acquiring shortstop Orlando Cabrera from the Expos would help their cause. GRADE: C+ CINCINNATI REDS - Dave Miley's team started out this season like gangbusters, and at one point the Reds were as many as 12 games over .500. Unfortunately, the injury bug has bit again and Ken Griffey Jr. is in familiar a place - on the disabled list along with first baseman Sean Casey. Somehow, Paul Wilson has nine victories this season and the Reds are still in the thick of the wild card chase, mostly due to Danny Graves and his major league-best 33 saves. GRADE: B COLORADO ROCKIES - Everyone knew at the start of the season the Rockies would struggle with their pitching and true to form, they have the worst ERA in the majors, and not just because they play at Coors Field. Their 4.81 ERA on the road is third-worst in baseball. GRADE: D FLORIDA MARLINS - Can Jack McKeon pull another rabbit out of the hat? Inconsistency has been the big word for nearly every NL East team, including the Marlins, who are reeling now and in fourth place in the division. A trade for catcher Jason Kendall may help their cause, but do the Marlins want to invest money in a player who has a $40 million contract through 2007? GRADE: C+ HOUSTON ASTROS - The combination of Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte were supposed to help bring Houston a World Series title. The Rocket has held up his end of the bargain, but Pettitte has been hurt and the rest of the team is falling apart at the seams. Carlos Beltran was brought in to try and help out Jimy Williams' team from going on life-support. GRADE: D- LOS ANGELES DODGERS - Last season the Dodgers struggled offensively. This year with Adrian Beltre and Paul Lo Duca leading the way, Jim Tracy's team has performed much better at the plate, but they could use some pitching help, especially with Hideo Nomo and Odalis Perez on the DL. If not for Kazuhisa Ishii or Jose Lima, the Dodgers would not be in first place in the NL West. GRADE: B+ MILWAUKEE BREWERS - Although the Brewers aren't likely to win the NL Central or even get the wild card, it's incredible to believe how, with one of the lowest payrolls in the majors, Ned Yost has been able to transform his team into a winning club. With almost an entire new infield following the Richie Sexson trade in the offseason, Yost's team has been playing incredible ball with first baseman Lyle Overbay leading the way with a team-best .344 average. GRADE: A- MONTREAL EXPOS - Earlier this season the Expos went through a ridiculous offensive drought and currently Frank Robinson's team is still last in the majors in several categories (.238 AVG, 290 RUNS, .298 OBP, .370 SLG). Livan Hernandez has improved since a five-game losing streak, although he may not be around much longer for the Expos as he could be traded. GRADE: C- NEW YORK METS - Richard Hidalgo has made an immediate impact for the Mets, who have made a huge turnaround from last season and are threatening to take over the division lead in the NL East. Tom Glavine, Steve Trachsel and Al Leiter have all looked solid, but the Mets need to make a deal to get another starter. Jae Seo and Matt Ginter simply aren't good enough to be in Art Howe's rotation. GRADE: B+ PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES - Inconsistent hitting and a pitching staff in desperate need of a lift have hampered Larry Bowa's team this season, yet the Phillies are still in first place in the NL East. Jim Thome continues to shine and Bobby Abreu is having the best year of his career. The Phillies have the potential to blow away the competition in the division. Ed Wade has traditionally not made a move in season as GM of the Phillies, but he has to in order bring life back into the rotation, as Kevin Millwood and Brett Myers are struggling. GRADE: C PITTSBURGH PIRATES - A 10-game winning streak put the Pirates back on the map, but Lloyd McClendon's team will be sellers at the trading deadline. Kris Benson, Kip Wells or even Josh Fogg may be gone before July 31st. Jason Bay is a candidate for NL Rookie of the Year and Jack Wilson is one of the best competitors in the majors and currently leads the NL in hits. GRADE: C ST. LOUIS CARDINALS - Scott Rolen has been the best player in the National League this year when it comes to a combination of hitting and fielding. Albert Pujols is on pace for another great season and Tony Womack has been a bright spot offensively at second base. The big surprise has to go to the pitching staff, which has the fourth-best ERA in the majors. Jeff Suppan, Chris Carpenter, Matt Morris and Jason Marquis are all knocking on the door already to double-digit victories. The question is how long can the Cardinals keep this up? GRADE: A SAN DIEGO PADRES - Armed with the third-best ERA in the National League, Bruce Bochy's squad has hung around the top spot in the NL West most of the season. Brian Lawrence and Jake Peavy are strong in the rotation and if David Wells can have a resurgence in the second half it may be tough to beat the Padres on a consistent basis. Mark Loretta has been an incredible offensive force, while Akinori Otsuka is a mainstay in the bullpen. The team must overcome a devastating injury to Phil Nevin. GRADE: B SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS - Jason Schmidt is the most feared pitching on the mound right now, while nobody wants to pitch to Barry Bonds. The combination has made the Giants tough to beat and Felipe Alou's team went on a big surge in June and now Bonds and Co. are challenging the Dodgers for the NL West lead. The Giants could use more pitching though, as Kirk Rueter and Brett Tomko haven't been stellar this year. Matt Herges has a high ERA (4.89) for a closer. GRADE: B

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