After playing 86 games, the Red Sox are 53-33 at the All Star break; an impressive first half indeed. That means 76 games remain in the season's second half.
If the Red Sox suddenly went cold, perhaps suffering another injury in their starting rotation, and played just .500 ball the rest of the way, they'd still finish the year with 91 wins. In past years, that likely would have earned a Wild Card berth.
Not this year. With the Tigers (59-29) and the White Sox (57-31) playing lights out ball in the AL Central, it would require a catastrophic meltdown of historic proportions for any other team to win the Wild Card. That means the Red Sox will have to maintain their torrid pace, and win the AL East for the first time since 1995, to make it back to the post season again.
What's disturbing is that the Yankees, despite a rash of injuries, have hung tough in second place and remain just 3 games back in the standings. And the Blue Jays, minus their big offseason free agent acquisition A.J. Burnett for most of the first half, remain within striking distance at just five games out.
Without a doubt, the second half will be both interesting and exciting.
Playoff contenders in both leagues will be fishing in the same small pool of worthwhile trade bait, and most will be looking for pitching -- as always. Low supply, coupled with high demand, will equal high prices.
While it's difficult to imagine the Red Sox, a team of savvy veterans and talented youngsters, falling apart in the second half, they will be hard pressed to continue winning at a .616 clip. But the heat will be on, and at this point waiting for a Yankees collapse is a fool's game. After all, they've won nine of the last ten AL East titles.
The Red Sox will have their work cut out for them, but at this point they have to be considered the favorite in the East.
Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.