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Nov 16, 2012 9:10pm
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(Sports Network) – - Major League Baseballs first half is now in the books. Jake Long Jersey . So, while the All-Stars
converge on Kansas City, lets take a look back at some of the top stories
through the first part of the season. In no particular order and without further
ado: PITTSBURGH PIRATES The Pittsburgh Pirates were one of the best stories in
baseball at last years All-Star break, but things went horribly wrong for them
after that and the team stumbled to a North American sports-record 19th
consecutive losing season. This year, the Bucs find themselves 11 games over
.500 and hold a one-game lead over the Cincinnati Reds in the National League
Central. Andrew McCutchen is blossoming into one of the best players in the game
and A.J. Burnett is pitching like the right-hander the New York Yankees gave
$80-plus million to before the 2009 season. Im not sure if the Pirates have
enough to make the postseason, but they will be fun to watch, as they take aim
at their first winning season since 1992. NEW YORK METS Speaking of first-half
surprises, how about the New York Mets. An offseason punch line in most circles,
some people thought the Mets were going to lose well over 100 games. Not only
are the Mets six games over .500, but they are right in the thick of things in
the NL East. When you look at their lineup, its actually amazing the Mets are in
this position. That is a credit to manager Terry Collins. R.A. Dickeys story has
been amazing and Johan Santanas comeback from shoulder surgery was complete when
he tossed the first no-hitter in team history on June 1. How Santana holds up
for them down the stretch may go a long way in deciding their postseason fate.
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES As good as New York and Pittsburgh have been, the biggest
disappointment in baseball has to be the Philadelphia Phillies. The five-time
defending NL East champions had to deal with injuries to Roy Halladay,
Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, while Cliff Lee just picked up his first win of the
season on July 4. The bullpen has been abysmal and the Phils seem to be headed
toward a 90-loss season. Still, they could be the team to watch in the second
half. Why? Well they have perhaps the biggest trade commodity on the market in
lefty Cole Hamels, who can become a free agent at seasons end. EXIT SANDMAN?
Before the start of the season, New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera said he
had already known if this was going to be his last year or not. Well, that all
changed on May 3 in Kansas City when the future Hall of Famer tore his ACL
shagging fly balls before a game. Rivera has already stated that he will be back
next year, but coming off knee surgery and the fact that hell be 43 in November,
you have to wonder if weve seen the last of the great Rivera. OZZIE GUILLEN
COMMENTS Well, it didnt take Ozzie Guillen long to leave his mark on South
Beach, although I think hed have preferred to do it a different way. Guillen
created a firestorm in Miami with his comments in Time Magazine, praising Cuban
leader Fidel Castro. The Marlins suspended him five games, but there are still
some who think he should have been fired. The Marlins can have 20 straight
losing seasons and nobody cares. But say something like that in Miami of all
places and there is going to be trouble. Compounding the situation is the fact
the Marlins are among the leagues biggest underachievers following an offseason
that saw owner Jeffrey Loria dole out close to $200 million. LINCECUM STRUGGLES
Perhaps the most baffling story of the first half is what has become of
Tim Lincecum. The two-time NL Cy Young winner fell to 3-10 on Sunday and saw his
ERA rise to 6.42. His WHIP is at 1.58 and he has been one of the worst pitchers
in baseball all season. So whats wrong? Everyone says there is no injury, but
his fastball isnt popping anymore and that devastating change-up isnt fooling
anyone. I know this, though: If Lincecum somehow gets it together in the second
half, the already impressive Giants may be tap dancing their way to a second
title in three years. That seems like a big if at the moment. JOSH HAMILTON When
he is firing on all cylinders, is there a better player in baseball than
Josh Hamilton? Following an offseason that saw him slip up with alcohol,
Hamilton has been magnificent for the American League West-leading Rangers,
hitting .308 with 27 home runs and 75 RBI. Injuries always seem to rear their
ugly head with him, but he is a legitimate Triple Crown talent when healthy.
YOUKILIS SAYS GOODBYE TO RED SOX Kevin Youkilis time with the Red Sox
essentially ended in April when new manager Bobby Valentine questioned his
commitment to the team. You can probably say a lot of things about Youkilis, but
questioning his desire to play? The damage was done. Then to make matters worse,
rookie Wil Middlebrooks emerged while Youkilis was hurt and the trade talk
really started to heat up. Youk was finally shipped to the Chicago White Sox,
but not before getting a proper sendoff from the Fenway crowd following a triple
in his final at-bat with the team. Youkilis was removed after the hit, signaling
a trade was near and he left to a standing ovation. For anyone wondering,
Youkilis is hitting .347 since the trade and his three home runs in 13 games for
the Pale Hose are one less than he hit in 42 games for the BoSox. ANGELS SLOW
START The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were clearly the winners of the
offseason. With the free agent signings of slugger Albert Pujols and left-hander
C.J. Wilson, most predictions had them reclaiming the AL West from the two-time
defending champion Rangers. But the Angels stumbled badly out of the gates and
were 6-14 after 20 games. And Pujols was a big reason why. Maybe he was trying
to hard to live up to his $254 million contract, but he hit .217 in April and
didnt homer until May 6. The Angels, though, have turned it around and now head
into the break 48-38 and four games back of the Rangers. So what brought on this
turnaround? THE EMERGENCE OF MIKE TROUT Well, if you want to try and put your
finger on what exactly got the Angels going, look no further than April 28, or
the season debut of outfielder Mike Trout. The 20-year-old phenom has come up
and has been the AL MVP through the first half. In 64 games, he has 12 home
runs, 15 doubles and 40 RBI to go along with 26 stolen bases. He has also played
Gold Glove-caliber defense. And, oh yes, he leads the AL with a .343 batting
average. BRYCE HARPER ARRIVES Trout wasnt the only rookie who stole headlines in
the first half. Bryce Harper made his long-awaited debut for Washington. Its
hard to believe Harper is only 19 because it seems we have been hearing about
him forever. But, the kid came up and has produced for the NL East-leading
Nationals. Washington is in first place because of their pitching, but Harper
has played well above his age and is an integral part of that lineup. Karlos Dansby Jersey . Petrell had four goals
and five assists in 60 games for the Oilers last season. It was his first year
in the National Hockey League after spending the previous seven seasons with
HIFK Helsinki-Finland in the SM-liiga league. Reggie Bush Jersey .5-million, two-year
contract. Nix batted .250 with a career-high 16 home runs and 44 RBIs in 124
games for the Washington Nationals last season. http://www.dolphinsteamstore.com/dan-marino-jerseys
. Joey Elliott will replace Alex Brink under centre for the Bombers when they
play host to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats this Thursday. Cameron Wake Jersey . The Chargers said
Sunday that Tomlinson, who was the NFL MVP in 2006 with San Diego and is the
fifth-leading rusher in league history, will re-sign with the team on Monday and
then announce his retirement.