By Keith Antigiovanni
The defending AL champion Texas Rangers continue to lead the AL West in their attempt to return to the postseason this year. The Anaheim Angels trail the Rangers by one game after an inconsistent first three months of the season. Both Texas and the Anaheim are anxious to return to the playoffs. Texas wants to prove they were not a fluke in 2010 and get a second chance at a World Series title while Anaheim wants to prove 2010 was a fluke for them when they missed the playoffs.
The small market KC Royals are in last place in the AL Central at 37-54 and appear to be going nowhere. The once proud Royals have had not a winning season since 2003 and not win a division title since 1985.
Another small market franchise, the Tampa Bay Rays are holding strong in the AL East at 49-41 but are also financially disadvantaged and will have to go 51-21 after the break to get to 100 wins which is not a guarantee to make the playoffs out of the division.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are still 3 games back but continue to play hard under manager Kirk Gibson. The Colorado Rockies are treading water in third place but could still make 2007 like playoff run. The Dodgers are now in fourth place (41-51) after a sweep of the Padres (40-52). Both teams continue to struggle in the front office.
St Louis is tied for lead in the NL Central was able to get Pujols back as the team won its' recent two games before the All Star break. Meanwhile the Houston Astros are also going thru an ownership transition and are 19 games back in the NL Central. The Astros have been a solidly winning franchise in the 1980's, 1990's and 2000's but are having their worst season since they were an expansion club in the 1960's.
The Atlanta Braves (54-38) are in second place in the NL East but are in good shape and if they continue to win will be in good shape for a Wild Card berth. The Braves dropped 2 of 3 to the Phillies just before the break but have gone 5-4 against them and have no fear of their overhyped rival.
The Florida Marlins were the second place team in the NL East until a collapse in June and now reside in last place but have played better of late and are at 43-48. The Marlins won the 1997 and 2003 World Series championships but Marlins' fans were not expecting a third championship this year as veteran manager Jack McKeon tries to right the ship for the remainder of the year.