We reach the portion of the season where we separate the good teams from the bad, the buyers from the sellers, and Jeffrey Loria from his conscience.
The rankings (records through Wednesday's games):
1. New York Yankees (59-39; Previous: 1) – The last time a Yankee bowed so deeply to Mariners fans, A-Rod had taken a purpose pitch to the cup.
2. Texas Rangers (58-39; Previous: 2) – Rangers love Josh Hamilton's philanthropic side, apparently draw the line at giving away at-bats.
3. Washington Nationals (58-39; Previous: 4) – Stephen Strasburg celebrates 24th birthday. Nats limit him to three gifts.
4. Cincinnati Reds (58-40; Previous: 7) – U.S. Postal Service introduces All-Star Forever stamps. Dusty Baker, of course, furious there aren't more Reds to be licked.
5. San Francisco Giants (55-43; Previous: 10) – Melky Cabrera accused by Braves of "lewd hacking gesture," which is exactly the sort of thing that led to WikiLeaks.
6. Pittsburgh Pirates (55-42; Previous: 6) – Pirates have difficult time acquiring players at deadline, fearful opposing clubs take mascot name too literally.
7. Los Angeles Angels (54-45; Previous: 3) – Angels in market for starting pitching, bullpen help, and maybe some of that peanut brittle Mike Scioscia loves.
8. Atlanta Braves (54-44; Previous: 8) – The whole Ryan Dempster thing has Braves feeling squishy about themselves. I mean, we're pretty, right?
9. Oakland Athletics (53-44; Previous: 17) – A's like to think of themselves as Subway's Jared of American League; a different hero every day. And, man, are they dying for a slice of pizza.
10. Detroit Tigers (53-45; Previous: 15) – If things get serious, Justin Verlander decides against taking Kate Upton's name, because then everyone in Arizona would boo him.
11. Chicago White Sox (53-45; Previous: 5) – In annual trading deadline tradition that never gets old, Kenny Williams storms into farm director's office, screams, "Say hello to my little friend!" and brandishes Rolodex.
12. Los Angeles Dodgers (53-46; Previous: 9) – A little spray paint, some bling, a tweak here and there and – boom! – it's Hanley-wood!
13. Tampa Bay Rays (51-47; Previous: 11) – Fan favorite returns from disabled list. Or, as the team wished it had said in its press release: "Sam back in Fuld."
14. Baltimore Orioles (51-47; Previous: 12) – O's acquire Quintanilla. Later admit privately they thought they were getting Quentin with a flourish.
15. St. Louis Cardinals (52-46; Previous: 14) – If Carlos Beltran ever gets a statue at Busch, it should be 60 feet, 6 inches from Adam Wainwright's.
16. Arizona Diamondbacks (49-49; Previous: 18) – D-backs trade away Ryan Roberts, team photo gets a lot less colorful.
17. Cleveland Indians (49-49; Previous: 16) – Roberto Hernandez returns to Indians after identity and age scandal. Teammates demand explanation through all subterfuge: Seriously, you had all those options and you went for "Fausto"?
18. Boston Red Sox (49-50; Previous: 20) – Carl Crawford may be slugging .241, but consoles himself with knowledge he's potentially one of the better 7-hole hitters in game.
19. Toronto Blue Jays (48-49; Previous: 19) – Brett Lawrie injures calf. Hey, it was blocking the plate.
20. New York Mets (47-51; Previous: 13) – Snooki attends game, Mets remain the bigger second-half boobs.
21. Philadelphia Phillies (45-54; Previous: 24) – Dombrowski: "I got Anibal!" Colletti: "I got Hanley!" Cashman: "I got Ichiro!" Amaro: "I got Cole."
22. Miami Marlins (45-53; Previous: 21) – Golden era in Miami lasts four months, or about the time between Jose Reyes haircuts.
23. Seattle Mariners (43-57; Previous: 26) – Said Jay Buhner, on his reaction had M's signed Ichiro to long-term extension: "I'd vomit." To be fair, he does vomit a lot.
24. Milwaukee Brewers (44-53; Previous: 22) – Brewers lose series at Philadelphia, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6. Take solace knowing they're not so good on grass, but excellent on clay.
25. San Diego Padres (42-58; Previous: 27) – Ever the upstanding gentlemen, Padres mind own business at raucous trading deadline.
26. Chicago Cubs (40-57; Previous: 28) – Cubs honor Ron Santo with synchronized "heel click" entering field Sunday. Three Cubs land awkwardly and are placed on DL.
27. Kansas City Royals (41-56; Previous: 23) – Royals, headed toward another losing season, implore Will Smith to flashy-thing them.
28. Minnesota Twins (40-58; Previous: 25) – After awful start in Chicago, Twins find buyers somewhat leery, ya know?
29. Colorado Rockies (37-60; Previous: 29) – Citing security issues as paper bags proliferate at Coors Field, Rockies ban all face coverings. Leaves catchers and plate umpires in bit of a quandary.
30. Houston Astros (34-65; Previous: 30) – Astros seek to establish new identity. So far, looks like it'll be the Blue Jays'.
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