Mt. Vernon Register-News

July 16, 2013

Hines Sight: Baseball's second half holds intrigue

BY PAUL HINES
paul.hines@register-news.com

MT. VERNON —

The back half of the baseball season doesn't start until Friday, but I'm already looking ahead.

For those who think this is the time of year where the baseball season drags through the dog days of August, you're wrong. Others might be counting down the days until the NFL starts and while yes I can be counted in that category, baseball still has a lot intrigue left.

As always you have those guys that have put up near ridiculous first-half numbers.

Miguel Cabrera hasn't stopped ripping the cover off the ball for the Tigers. He won the Triple Crown last season. Cabrera was the first player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to claim the highest hitting honor.

He's put himself in excellent position to go back-to-back this year. He leads the league in average and RBI. He trails Chris Davis in homers, the only other category that factors into the Triple Crown.

Oddly enough, the award has been won in back-to-back season before just not by the same player. It was even won by a guy named Paul Hines way back in 1878.

The quest for 20 wins from a starting pitcher is also one of baseball's benchmarks. Detroit's Max Scherzer and Tampa Bay's Matt Moore led the charge into the All-Star break with 13 victories. St. Louis' Adam Wainwright was tied at the top of the National League with a dozen.

The quest for 20 wins is always an intriguing late-season spectacle.

Another possible spectacle could form around the previously mentioned Davis.

He tied the previous first-half mark in a single baseball season with 37. The number equaled Reggie Jackson's achievement from decades ago. The problem is the long ball has become synonymous with steroids in the eyes of some fans.

We've evolved into a very callous bunch. Since the superhero days of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds we now stop and wonder whenever what we're seeing is pure.

Bonds holds the current single season record for homers with 73 in 2001. If you're wondering Sosa and McGwire account for the next four top seasons before Roger Maris rings in with his 61 blast in 1961.

Davis has 66 games left after the break to knock 36 homers to tie the Bonds record. I'll definitely be surprised if it happens, but there's no way I would mind it. Bonds was a notoriously surly fellow even when he was trying to charm the media. Plus he played during the heart of the Steroid Era. In my mind a vast majority of what those players did can be questioned.

Even outside the individual statistics, there should be a couple cool pennant races.

The battle between the Cardinals and Pirates and even throw in the Reds should be dramatic. The American League East is extremely competitive. The Blue Jays are the only team with a losing record, and it's not by much.

So for those people already drifting towards the allure of upcoming NFL training camps, there's still some interesting things to come in the world of baseball.

 

Paul Hines is the sports editor at the Register-News.