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  THE MIDSEASON MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PROGRESS REPORT.  
   
   
 

The Major League Baseball season is half over, and even though people are still talking about steroids, the game is still as beautiful and wacky as ever. Here's a midseason report card on all major league teams, as well as postseason predictions, all of which are guaranteed to be wrong.

 

 
       
 

 

 
     

Boston Red Sox

The season for the Red Sox so far still has the feel of a hangover. The entire Red Sox nation still seems a little stunned by the goings-on last

 
 

October, and matters that might have had the frat denizens of Beantown all a-twitter in the past - Dale Sveum's flipper arms, Curt Schilling's gimpy ankle, Kevin Millar's Queer Eye-related belly flop - simply has everyone sighing, shaking their head and saying, "eh, whaddya gonna do?" It's bizarre, actually, to see Red Sox fans so sedate; it weirds us out, certainly. But yet here they are, in first place at the midpoint; this is the only way the Red Sox could do anything quietly. But quiet is the way general manager wonderboy Theo Epstein likes it: The Red Sox are already in considerably better shape than they were last year at this time. And now Schilling might be a closer. Watch out. Grade: B+

 

 
     

Baltimore Orioles

It's difficult to understand why Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli is continuously under so much fire in Baltimore. He's only in his second season, he has a flimsy (at best) starting rotation, Sammy Sosa is

 
 

about as beefy as Iggy Pop these days and the team Mazzilli took over hasn't been relevant in about a decade. And he had the team in first place in baseball's toughest division for much of the first half of the season. Sure, the team is falling back to the pack now, and the Yankees look they're about to catch them (if they haven't already; it takes a long time to write these things). Still. The Orioles have mattered this season for the first time since Jeffrey Meier - who's gotta be, like, 40 now - was interfering in playoff games. For only a second year on the job, that's impressive, right? We'll see if anyone remembers when the Orioles are fighting for third place - again - at the end of the year. Grade: A-

 

 
     

New York Yankees

Honestly, we don't really have much to contribute that hasn't been said, repeatedly, in every newspaper in the country, particularly the ones in our beloved home of New York, which has covered

 
 

the Yankees' roller coaster season like it was some HUGE story, like it's some kind of Karl-Rove-commits-treason-by-outing-a-secret-CIA-agent type of thing. (THAT'S the type of thing people cover like crazy. Right? Right???!!) The details are easily verified and hardly indisputable: The Yankees are old, the Yankees are overpaid, the Yankees are past their prime, the Yankees are a disgrace to all that is good about America and our troops (except for Pat Tillman). But the Yanks are still hanging around in the AL East, and you know they're just one stretch from zipping into the lead and giving us another one of those Red Sox-Yankees September series that we just don't have the energy for anymore. Hopefully the Yankees will continue to choke, because after last year, a White Sox-Angels ALCS will be just fine, thank you. Grade: C-

 

 
     

Toronto Blue Jays

We should get a lot more excited about Roy Halladay, shouldn't we? The guy has already won one Cy Young and certainly seems poised to win his second this year. He's big, he's tall, he even

 
 

has a good, white-bread, rancher name: Roy. Who's the last soccer player you saw named Roy, eh? Take that, pink pants! Like Mrs. Burghoff's wife, Halladay remains under the Radar, partly because he pitches in Toronto and partly because nobody can figure out why we don't get a day off for his last name. The Blue Jays are setting a nice little foundation for the future, and it's kind of cute that they've hung around for as long as they have so far, but they're still in Toronto, and everyone knows Toronto is only good for making movies on the cheap and coming up with possibilities of what Tonto's hairier, more masculine older brother's name might have been. Grade: B.

 

 
     

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Our favorite sight in sports might be when Lou Pinella throws a base. First off, it seems strange that the bases aren't more set in the ground than that. We know the grounds crew has to change

 
 

them every game, so you can't cement them in or anything, but Lou Pinella is an old man who smokes and needs four assistants to pry him into his uniform every game. If he can pick them up and throw them, well, you're just not trying hard enough. Pinella hasn't had much gumption to throw bases this year; he just sits in the dugout, plays with his hat, adjusts his jock, wonders if he could work for George Steinbrenner next year and muses on the feasibility of solar power for the future of his children, and his children's children. Grade: D-.

 

 
       
     
     

Chicago White Sox

Ozzie Guillen is the type of guy sportswriters love to write about, mainly because he, as they say, "shoots from the hip." (As opposed to most athletes, who just "shoot at the club.") We take this

 
 

to mean that he curses a lot. Which he does. Ozzie Guillen curses all the time. He curses at Magglio Ordonez, he curses at Orlando Hernandez, he curses at the little people who float around his head and foil his attempts to steal their Lucky Charms. We'd find it refreshing, but it's very possible that Ozzie Guillen is bat-shit crazy, and, in the last year of his recently extended contract, he will be found trying to chew through the fatty gristle of what's left of Frank Thomas' carcass. Nice start for the Sox, though. Grade: A.

 

 
     

Minnesota Twins

We say this every time we write one of these, but it bears repeating: We find it impossible to get excited about the Minnesota Twins. We know, we know: They're a low-budget team that manages to

 
 

contend every season. Johan Santana is amazing, even if he is named Johan. Someday someone's going to suffocate on the center field fence. We understand all that. But the Twins always leave us cold, anyway. The Twins need a player who doesn't believe in dinosaurs, or someone who throws firecrackers at children, or someone who says he dreams of having sex with Skip Bayless' rotting skull. Something. You know? Grade: B+

 

 
     

Cleveland Indians

The Indians are red-hot right now, and they're becoming the kind of team that sneaks up out of nowhere and freaks out the whole system, man, late in the season, i.e., the Angels circa 2002. We

 
 

sometimes confuse the actual Indians with the Indians from Major League, which, if you haven't noticed, stars network regulars from "24," "Two and a Half Men," "Into the West" and, of course, "Mr. Belvedere." Unlike those Indians, however, these Indians hold onto their own land and sell cigarettes at their regularly labeled price. They do, however, still scalp and "woo-hoo" like all our pop culture Indians, which is reassuring, normal and regular. Grade: A-.

 

 
     

Detroit Tigers

Did you realize that Tom Selleck is actually a Tigers fan? We didn't think that was possible; we just thought it was an affectation they gave Magnum, P.I. so he would seem like a normal,

 
 

regular guy. But nope. Selleck has always rooted for the team (along with semi-automatic weapons and marriage amendments). Can you imagine what this must have been like for a young Tom Selleck, then known mostly for bit parts in Coma and Myra Breckinridge, to lobby for his character to wear the hat of his favorite team? That took a lot of cojones for a struggling actor, if you ask us. Grade: C+.

 

 
     

Kansas City Royals

Kansas City has always seemed to be a more interesting town that it necessarily has much right to be. It is the home of not only a jazz museum, but also the Negro Leagues baseball museum; it

 
 

was the focus of a Robert Altman film, for crying out loud. And the Royals, for such a "small market" team, have their fair share of history, including a couple World Series wins, the great Pine Tar game and a proportionally high number of stat nerds who grew up rooting for them (Bill James, Rob Neyer). But now? Now Kansas City is a red-state nightmare, a glorified truck stop. Only Kansas City could make St. Louis look urbane and cultured. Grade: F.

 

 
       
     
     

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Ignore the name for a second: We know it makes no sense, and there's no particular need to rehash that here. And let's try to avoid any O.C. jokes, except to say that we believe Peter Gallagher's

 
 

eyebrows were used in the design of the ivy at Wrigley Field. The Angels, as mentioned here before, have guys with names like "Garret," "Dallas," "Jarrod" and "Chone." This isn't a baseball team; this is "Falcon Crest," at the tail end of its run, when Carla Gugino and Rod Taylor were in the cast. We love the idea of grizzled Mike Scioscia barking out the lineup each day. "Garret, you're behind Dallas! Watch for the slider!" Grade: B+.

 

 
     

Texas Rangers

Buck Showalter is notorious as the manager that you fire right before you win the World Series; right after both the Yankees and the Diamondbacks canned him, they took off. This isn't necessarily

 
 

fair to Showalter, but he's kind of becoming the Doug Collins of baseball, minus the perm, though imagining Buck Showalter with a perm makes us very, very happy. We're going to avoid any Kenny Rogers as The Gambler jokes here, except to say that if the real Kenny Rogers would have acted like that when someone put a camera on him, we would have never had Six Pack or various episodes of "The Muppet Show," and that would have been a fucking shame. Grade: B-

 

 
     

Oakland Athletics

This was always supposed to be a rebuilding year for Billy Beane and his A's, which didn't spare them the glee of locker room jockeys (usually with the shape, build and penile dimensions of Mike Lupica)

 
 

when their season started off so disastrously. They've turned it around since then, though, and by the time you read this, they could be back above the .500 mark. (Of course, by the time you read this, we could all be speaking German. Or something like that.) The A's are likely to miss the playoffs for the second season in a row, but appear set for the future. Also set for the future? LeVar Burton. With Reading Rainbow royalties, that dude's gotta be rolling in it. Grade: C+.

 

 
     

Seattle Mariners

When he was released by the Mariners last week, second baseman Bret Boone cried like a little girl. This was similar to his brother, Aaron Boone, who bawled when the Reds traded him to the Yankees

 
 

a couple of years ago. The Boones' father was Bob Boone, a former catcher and manager in the major leagues, known for his respect for the game and his ability to keep his temper and his sense of humor, no matter how much opponents would try to provoke him. Considering how his whiny kids turned out, we think it's pretty clear he beat the shit out of them when they were younger. Or at least withheld their allowance from time to time, usually when they forgot to leave the seat down for Ma Boone. That pisses the old lady off. Grade: D+.

 

 
       
     
     

Washington Nationals

Much has been made of the Nationals' rather shocking start to the season -- they have the third best record in baseball -- and their propensity to win close games and home games with remarkable

 
 

consistency. Manager Frank Robinson, an old-school baseball man who despite being one of the most heralded men in baseball history still seems underrated somehow, has pulled all of the right strings, which is impressive, considering the difficulty of being a puppeteer in this wintry economic climate. Many believe the Nationals will fade in the second half, but people said that about reality television too, and right now some guy is milking a goat with his mouth on my television screen. Grade: A.

 

 
     

Atlanta Braves

Bobby Cox, despite being a confessed wife-beater, is beloved throughout baseball, and he has somehow kept the Braves' heads above water this season, probably because they're not his wife.

 
 

Atlanta has won the National League East every year since 1992, which is ridiculous and boring, because the Braves have so few real fans that we secretly think the Braves installed a Beat Season Ticket Holders With A Polo Mallet policy around 1997. Which, frankly, for doing the Tomahawk Chop, they kind of deserved. It probably didn't come out in the press because all the fans showed up for work the next day saying that they "fell down the stairs" while knowing, deep down, it was really their fault all along, that they shouldn't pressure the Braves like that with so many questions when the Braves get home from work where they're busy PUTTING A ROOF OVER THE HEADS OF THIS FAMILY! Grade: A-.

 

 
     

Florida Marlins

We would call the Marlins the "Braves South," except Atlanta is already considered the South and that just makes matters confusing. But there are similarities. Both teams have had substantial

 
 

success despite having a small fan base that would rather be out watching Nascar/selling cocaine. The Marlins are almost certainly the most talented team in the division, but they haven't been able to put it together yet. They'll either sprint to the wild-card in the second half -- in which case they'll tick off everyone by winning the World Series -- or they'll tank and move to Las Vegas, where their uniforms will be changed to sparkly one-pieces with frilly skirt things and tall, uncomfortable boots. Grade: C.

 

 
     

Philadelphia Phillies

Here's an interesting tidbit about Phillies manager Charlie Manuel: He once managed a game with a colostomy bag under his jacket. (That's absolutely true. We swear. Well, we weren't there, but it was

 
 

in Sports Illustrated, and that counts.) We cannot confirm the same about John Kruk, but hey, well, we wouldn't be surprised, we'll say that. The Phillies have had to make do without the services of first baseman Jim Thome, who has been either incompetent or incontinent or just darned hurt all season. In Philadelphia, he can get away with this, because Terrell Owens is pretty much the lead story every day anyway. This is all we have on the Phillies. Pat's or Gino's? Grade: C

 

 
     

New York Mets

The Mets are respectable now, which is why overpaying for the two top free agents on the market will do for you. We actually kind of liked the Mets more when they were terrible but full of

 
 

scandal. Grant Roberts -- busted for steroids earlier this year, incidentally -- taking a huge bong hit on the pages of Newsday. Bobby Valentine wearing glasses in the dugout that made him look like a bespectacled Tom Selleck. Mike Piazza having press conferences to make clear that everybody knew that he liked to touch boobies and stick his pee-pee in hoo-hoos. Those were the days. These Mets are boring. Either Pedro needs to bring back his midget or Carlos Beltran needs to blow a gossip columnist … something. Grade: B.

 

 
       
     
     

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals have the biggest lead in baseball and seem primed to cruise into the postseason, hoping to erase the memories of a wretched 2004 World Series. The team is known for its quartet of

 
 

hitters (Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, Larry Walker), but all four are behind last year's pace. But the Cards still have a better record so far, thanks to the pitching (but no thanks to offseason pickup Mark Mulder, who has been the team's fourth best starter tops). This is the last year for Busch Stadium, where a young boy from Mattoon, Ill., once fell down while trying to catch a flyball in right field. The stadium will be torn down within two weeks of the final game. You think the postseason is tense? Wait until nostalgic fans are a pitch away from the stadium they grew up in being destroyed. Grade: A.

 

 
     

Chicago Cubs

We continue to find it amazing that Steve Bartman has kept his life in obscurity for so long. We know that it's unfair to blame him for the Cubs' loss to the Marlins in the 2003 NLCS, that he was just

 
 

going for the ball the way we all would have, that Alex Gonzalez made the key error, that Dusty Baker left Mark Prior in too long, so on. But come on. The Cubs were five outs away from the WORLD SERIES. Bartman knocks the ball down, and immediately everything collapses. That was as close as the Cubs will be getting to the World Series, it appears, for a very long time. All the things that looked promising about the Cubs (youth, pitching, good karma) are all kind of falling apart now, and the big time looks farther away than it ever did. Is it Bartman's fault? Of course not. But we're still pretty surprised some drunk suburban kid hasn't hunted him down anyway. Grade: C-

 

 
     

Houston Astros

The following paragraph, about the Houston Astros' tendency to have terrible first halves that pundits take as a reason to sell off all their players, before rallying in the second half, is written in the style of

 
 

ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons, just because we've written 20 of these now and are getting a little bored. The Astros are like that friend of yours who has dated the same terrible, screechy, ball-busting woman for years as she's gotten fatter and angrier. You and your buddies all tell him to break up with her, but he says she's going through a tough time, and that it'll all work out eventually. And then, out of nowhere, she drops 25 pounds, gets a boob job and starts wearing slutty outfits all the time. He walks around with a big grin on his face all the time, and the moral of the story is, as always: I'm an idiot. Grade: C+.

 

 
     

Milwaukee Brewers

The Brew Crew. This is an excellent nickname that is unfortunately applied to a perpetually dull franchise. The Brewers are making headway, to be sure; their group of exciting youngsters (J.J.

 
 

Hardy, Prince Fielder, Richie Weeks) are just a couple years away from making this team a real threat in a division with so many teams that three or four have to end of being terrible by pure force of habit. The Brew Crew. We do like that. Shouldn't there be an action series of scurvy overweight cops called that? Grade: C+

 

 
     

Pittsburgh Pirates

This might be because we're listening to REO Speedwagon's "The Hits" right now -- keep pushin', America! -- but we think the Pirates are kind of like the Champaign, Ill.-based band. They were never

 
 

appreciated as one of the great franchises/bands when they were in the heyday, but they were hard-working, persistent and had a blue-collar fan base. (People also liked to slow dance to Willie Stargell just like they did to "One Lonely Night.") But now that heyday is gone, and the Pirates are playing county fairs in Fowlerville, Mich. Hey, those fairs pay good money, the beer's free and you can score cheap meth. Grade: C-

 

 
     

Cincinnati Reds

Did you know that Cincinnati is about to become the home of the Creationism Museum? Called "Answers in Genesis," the museum -- which opens in less than a fortnight -- exists to debunk

 
 

evolution. To quote the Web site,"We desire to train others to develop a biblical worldview and seek to expose the bankruptcy of evolutionary ideas, and its bedfellow, a "millions of years old" earth (and even older universe). AiG teaches that "facts" don't speak for themselves, but must be interpreted. That is, there aren't separate sets of "evidences" for evolution and creation-we all deal with the same evidence (we all live on the same earth, have the same fossils, observe the same animals, etc.). The difference lies in how we interpret what we study. The Bible-the "history book of the universe"-provides a reliable, eye-witness account of the beginning of all things, and can be trusted to tell the truth in all areas it touches on. Therefore, we are able to use it to help us make sense of this present world. When properly understood, the "evidence" confirms the biblical account." This is also why Eric Milton is having such a bad year. Grade: D-

 

 
       
     
     

San Diego Padres

We think it's pretty fantastic that Rickey Henderson, currently plying his trade with the minor-league San Diego Sea Dawgs, plays his team's home games in Tony Gwynn Stadium. Has

 
 

there ever been anything like that before? Imagine Sammy Sosa playing in Mark McGwire Field? Or, better, Liza Minnelli singing at David Gest Park? (Plenty of seating available!) O.J. Simpson golfing at the BTK Open? We could play with this all day. Grade: B+

 

 
     

Arizona Diamondbacks

(It's late and we're getting punchy. So hang in there.) When we were a kid, Travis Bolin had a Diamondback dirty bicycle. We liked Travis Bolin, but once he got that, we hated his guts. The

 
 

Diamondback was the coolest bike; it was green and flashy and big thick tires that kicked up all kinds of rocks when you took off real fast. It was cool for one summer, probably around 1987, and Travis Bolin got Marianne Cox to kiss him, and we hated him for it, we probably always will. Also, Troy Glaus, in addition to looking suspiciously like Black Table editor Eric Gillin, is having a resurgent season for a team that was historically bad last season, just normally bad this one. We bet chicks were all over him in 1987. Grade: C+

 

 
     

Los Angeles Dodgers

People have been quick to criticize general manager Paul DePodesta for the failings of the Dodgers since he made his big Paul LoDuca for Brad Penny and Hee Seop Choi trade and started

 
 

being caricatured as some sort of math dork. But the problems of the Dodgers this year have been of the injury variety; the team has been ravaged all season, culminating in the loss of big free agent pickup J.D. Drew last week. Fortunately, fans only see innings 4-7, so it works out. Grade: C-

 

 
     

San Francisco Giants

Barry Bonds isn't here, and the team is, accordingly, boring and terrible. And old. And doomed for a very, very long time. The good news is, Bonds will likely break Hank Aaron's home run

 
 

record for a last place team when no one is rooting for him. It'll be like watching kittens get strangled, we tell you. Grade: D.

 

 
     

Colorado Rockies

Yeah, we're pretty much done here. Grade: D-

 
 

 

 
       
           
 

American League Divisional Series
Chicago White Sox over Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Boston over Minnesota

American League Championship Series
Boston over Chicago White Sox

National League Divisional Series
St. Louis over Washington
San Diego over Atlanta

National League Championship Series
St. Louis over San Diego

World Series
St. Louis over Boston

 

Will Leitch is a managing editor of The Black Table. His second book, Catch, a novel, comes out in December and is available for pre-order at Amazon.com.