A look at the divisional standings around MLB - June 28, 2012
Taking a look at the standings on this Thursday morning, its apparent that it is much too early to stamp anyone's ticket to the World Series, let alone the playoffs.
Starting with the AL East, the Yankees may hold a 5-game lead over second-place Baltimore, but that division won't be decided until the final month, quite possibly the final week.
Tampa Bay and Boston are tied for 3rd, 6-1/2 games behind the Yanks with an entire summer left to play. Tampa is currently without Evan Longoria, and Boston is waiting for Adrian Gonzalez's bat to heat up.
Baltimore and Toronto may not have the firepower in the pitching staff to keep pace with New York, Boston and Tampa Bay.
In the AL Central, the surprise there is Detroit. Its inconsistent offense lack of pitching depth behind Justin Verlander are crucial to the Tigers record (three games under .500 and 4 games behind Chicago).
The White Sox acquired Kevin Youkilis Monday, and he appears to be a fixture for the South Siders, getting inserted into Robin Ventura's lineup just in front of Adam Dunn. Their pitching rotation doesn't seem to have lost a step with the departure of Mark Buerhle, and the losses of Carlos Quentin, Ozzie Guillen and Scott Walker haven't hindered the Sox as much as some might have thought.
Cleveland had a hot start, but may not have enough to hold on sitting two games behind the ChiSox, and Kansas City has the youth and talent, but the lack of a winning season in quite some time may be detrimental to the Royals success.
And it doesn't look good for Minnesota, sitting 9 1/2 games behind the White Sox with the halfway point of the season approaching. (The Twins are 30-44 at this point).
The funnest two-team battle to watch this summer most definitely goes to the AL West and the race between Texas and the Angels.
Both these teams have the pitching staff and offensive depth to sustain a deep playoff run, but if there is any question regarding either team, it centers around the Angels bullpen and their lack of pitching depth behind the rotation.
The Mariners and Athletics, who always head into the season with dreams and aspirations of snatching the divsion from Texas or Los Angeles have slowly begun to sink. Oakland sits 10 games behind Texas, while the Mariners are looking at a 15-1/2 game deficit in a division they once manhandled for the better part of the 90's.
The NL West may be the funnest battle between two teams to watch all summer, The Giants just completed a sweep of the Dodgers, shutting their longtime nemesis out for three-straight games and forging a tie atop the NL West.
Things don't look good for the Dodgers right now. Andre Ethier joined Matt Kemp on the disabled list, and the magic may be growing thin for the Boys in Blue, as injuries have begun to take a toll on the residents of Chavez Ravine.
Arizona sits 5 games back of the division leaders, with Colorado and San Diego slowly sinking. The Rockies sit 14 games back, while San Diego sits 16 games back. (I picked the Padres to snag one of the Wild Card spots before the season started).
If the Cardinals were thought to lose a beat after losing Albert Pujols and Tony LaRussa, you can admit you were wrong - I will. The defending champs sit in a second-place tie with Pittsburgh, who have started 2012 the same way they began 2011 - and baseball fans can't help but have a sliver of hope the Pirates may be able to clinch their first division title since 1992.
This division, before the season started, was the Reds to lose. Adding Mat Latos to the pitching staff and re-signing Joey Votto was a huge key to the Reds offseason, and the emergence of Todd Frazier with the injury to Scott Rolen may give the Reds the boost through the summer they need.
Houston and Chicago, like the Padres and Rockies, are slowly losing ground in the always competitive NL Central. With this being the last season for the Astros in the NL, things aren't looking good for the 2005 NL Champions.
And Chicago is coming off a 17-1 drubbing at the hands of the New York Mets, something the Wrigley faithful have seen many times before and cringe every time they see it happen.
Quite possibly the most competitive division in baseball right now is the NL East.
With the not-so-surprising Nationals leading the division, the Braves are hot on their tail after nearly leaving New York and Boston with a winning road trip.
Every analyst predicted the Nationals to finish among the top of the division, and the emergence of Bryce Harper added to the lineup in D.C. have given the franchise a strong shot at earning a playoff spot, as early in the year as it may be.
The Braves have shown they can hit with any team in the majors, but at times, the offense has been lethargic. The pitching staff has seen its fare share of ups and downs, especially with injuries, not to mention the season-ending injury to Brandon Beachy.
But the offense has kept the ball club afloat, scoring runs sometimes at will, more-so with the eye-opening month Jason Heyward has had. The Braves are waiting on the bats of Brian McCann and Dan Uggla to heat up in the middle of the lineup and provide the offense everyone knows they can deliver.
The Mets have had a great start, seemingly getting better with the departure of Jose Reyes, and the return of Johan Santana and hot start of R.A. Dickey have helped the Mets keep pace in a division the Phillies have had a stranglehold on over the last few years.
But this season has been one that has tested the fans on Broad Street, as the club has been stricken with injury, limping to a 36-41 record and sitting 9 games behind the Nationals in the division.
Chase Utley's return can only give the Phillies hope that the season is not yet lost.
And it appears the Miami Marlins - new name, new coach, upgraded roster - can't seem to keep themselves from tripping over their own two feet.
Their 9-game division deficit can't be something Ozzie Guillen is happy about, and the signings of Mark Buerhle, Heath Bell and Jose Reyes have not seemed to click just yet in a ballpark that looks more like an amusement park to some.
But everyone knows what can happen in the snap of a finger.
Even one bad weekend can spell doom for any potential postseason hopeful. (Recall the Braves surge heading into a weekend set with the Mets last season, only to have the series postponed due to Hurricane Irene).
But this season isn't called a marathon for nothing. Keep an eye on each division, as it will be another very fun summer jam-packed with baseball.