The Cycle: Long time, no see
I was surprised when I first heard that the New York Yankees wanted to build a new Yankee Stadium. I know it's all about money-making and skyboxes, but I'm a big believer in the history of the game. A lot of great moments have taken place there.
I had those same bittersweet feelings for other old stadiums that were replaced. The funny thing is that after visiting those new stadiums, I loved them. SBC Park was an improvement over Candlestick Park, and U.S. Cellular Field has an up-to-date look since the White Sox have given it a facelift this year.
Overall, I think they're doing a great job with new stadiums, and the attendance is reflecting that. A lot of thought has gone into their design, and they're much more fan friendly – and are just great places to watch games.
I'm sure there will be lots of pressure to do a good job on the new Yankee Stadium, but I wouldn't anticipate too many drastic changes.
New York Yankees
The Cubs haven't played at Yankee Stadium since the 1938 World Series, which the Yankees swept.
One of the interesting things about interleague play is that you get to see good batter-pitcher matchups. I'll be looking forward to seeing Chicago's Carlos Zambrano against Alex Rodriguez, and New York's Carl Pavano against former Florida teammate Derrek Lee.
Who's hot: Aramis Ramirez. The Cubs third baseman is hitting .500 over the past week with two home runs and eight RBIs. He's providing protection for Lee, who is still leading all Triple Crown categories in the NL.
Who's not: Bernie Williams. The Yankees outfielder is hitting .188 over the past week with no homers and no RBIs. He has been a steady force throughout the years, but at 36, he's showing signs of slowing down.
Marquee matchup: Carlos Zambrano (4-3, 3.19) vs. Carl Pavano (4-5, 4.17) on Friday. Both pitchers have ace-caliber stuff and are trying to get on a roll.
Prediction: Cubs win two out of three games.
Coming out of spring training, I didn't think these teams had a chance at making the postseason. However, both have played very hard and find themselves in a good position.
Texas has gotten what it can from its undermanned pitching staff, and I give a lot of credit to pitching coach Orel Hershiser. Going into Thursday's games, the Rangers were ranked 11th in the AL in team ERA (4.57), but their offense, led by Mark Teixeira and Alfonso Soriano, were first in runs scored (358) and fourth in batting average (.273) in the league. Washington, on the other hand, has gotten great pitching, especially from ace Livian Hernandez (9-2, 3.43).
Who's hot: Chad Cordero. The Nationals closer has converted his last 18 save opportunities and leads the NL with 21 saves.
Who's not: Vinny Castilla. A pretty important bat in the Nationals' lineup, the third baseman is hitting just .154 over the past week with no homers and one RBI.
Marquee matchup: Esteban Loaiza (2-5, 3.87) vs. Chris Young (6-3, 2.78) on Sunday. Loaiza is capable of pitching like an All-Star. Chris Young is pitching well, having won three of his last four decisions.
Prediction: Nationals win two out of three games.
These are two teams that are probably playoff-bound, although San Diego is slumping. The Padres were just swept by Detroit, and now they face a Twins team that is 19-13 at home.
San Diego is going to have an extra bat (the DH) in an already potent lineup that features Phil Nevin and Ryan Klesko. Minnesota, which has relied on great pitching the last few years, is no different this year as it led the AL in team ERA until Thursday.
Who's hot: Khalil Greene. The Padres shortstop is hitting better than .400 the past week, going 10-for-25.
Who's not: Geoff Blum. The Padres second baseman is hitless in his last six games, going 0-for-18.
Marquee matchup: Jake Peavy (5-2, 2.79) vs. Johan Santana (7-2, 3.32) on Sunday. These are two of the finest young pitchers in baseball today. Santana just dominates in the strike zone with a hard-biting breaking ball.
Prediction: Twins win all three games.
Florida has begun playing better with Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo starting to get on base. Both are base-stealing threats who distract pitchers.
The Angels are still leading the AL West, but even with Vladimir Guerrero back in the lineup, they're not playing as well as they had hoped. They haven't gotten consistent efforts from their pitching and hitting, but they could get hot at anytime.
Who's hot: Miguel Cabrera. The Marlins left fielder might be the most feared hitter in Florida's lineup. He's having an All-Star type season and he's on a tear, having hit .370 and driven in eight runs over the past week.
Who's not: Chone Figgins. The Angels' stolen-base threat is hitting .111 (2 for 18) with three runs scored and no steals in his last five games.
Marquee matchup: Dontrelle Willis (11-2, 2.06) vs. John Lackey (5-2, 3.99) on Saturday. Willis is the leading candidate to be the NL's All-Star game starter. He has his velocity back and throws at multiple angles, which creates a lot of movement on the ball. He's also effectively wild. Not only do you not know where his arm slot will be, but you also don't know whether the ball will be up or down.
Prediction: Angels win two out of three games.