By Ryne Sandberg, Yahoo Sports
August 22, 2005
In the American League, the A's have been the best team since the All-Star break, but the AL wild-card leaders have faltered a bit, losing seven of their last nine games. The Yankees are going to compete with Oakland the rest of the season, thanks to a pitching staff that is patching itself together.
In the NL, every team in the NL East still has a shot to make the playoffs. The Mets might have the toughest road as they are currently 6½ games behind Atlanta and play 17 of their next 20 games on the road. The Marlins are still playing well and I believe they have the best chance to win the NL wild card because of their superior starting pitching.
THE TOP 10
1. St. Louis Cardinals (78-46) – It's going to hurt them not having Scott Rolen for the rest of the season. They'll have to count on bigger offensive numbers from Jim Edmonds, Larry Walker and So Taguchi.
4. Atlanta Braves (70-54) – Bobby Cox is doing it again with a different mix of talent. Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann lead a group of homegrown talent. The Braves still have solid pitching (John Smoltz, Mike Hampton, Tim Hudson), but they seem to have more athleticism than past Braves teams.
5. Los Angeles Angels (71-53) – They have jumped out to a 2½-game lead over the A's and are looking good. They're led by solid pitching (3.66 team ERA) and have a solid bat in the middle of the lineup in Vladimir Guerrero.
6. Oakland Athletics (68-55) – They're going to have to step it up if they want to stay ahead of the Yankees. What scares me about the A's is that, at times, their offense goes south. They have a good pitching staff, but often have trouble scoring runs.
7. New York Yankees (67-55) – Things are looking good for the Yankees after taking two of three from the White Sox in Chicago. If healthy, New York has a very good team and its veteran experience will help during the stretch run.
9. Philadelphia Phillies (67-58) – They have a one-game wild-card lead over Florida, but I'm not sure they'll be able to hold onto it. I really like Philly's bullpen, but its starting pitching doesn't do much for me.
10. Cleveland Indians (68-56) – What a great story. The Indians were a sub-.500 team last season, but they're in the running for a playoff spot this year. It's a great experience for a young team with a young manager.
ON THE RISE
Milwaukee Brewers (61-64) – This isn't because they've played great lately (they're only 5-5 in their last 10 games). It's just a great time to be a Brewers fan. Milwaukee has young talent and the opportunity to be good for several years. It might take a few more arms to get into the playoff race next year. It's time for management to spend some money.
ON THE DECLINE
Texas Rangers (57-66) – They were in the race for a while, but the hot Texas summer appears to have got the best of them. They still haven't figured out that pitching wins. The Rangers' staff ERA of 5.14 is only better than Tampa Bay (5.41) and Kansas City (5.55) in the AL.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
26. Pittsburgh Pirates (53-71) – They've done a bad job this year, but it's not their fault. Anybody that starts playing better, they have to get rid of because they can't afford him. How would Zach Duke look in a Red Sox uniform?
27. Seattle Mariners (53-70) – They're very bad within their division (12-21) … and they play 17 division games in September.
28. Tampa Bay Devil Rays (51-73) – They're starting to play better, having won eight of their last nine games.
29. Kansas City Royals (40-82) – Congrats on ending the losing streak.
30. Colorado Rockies (47-77) – They're the worst team in the NL. However, they were good enough to take two out of three from the Cubs over the weekend.
Updated on Monday, Aug 22, 2005 8:10 pm, EDT