Monday, July 30, 2012

MLB 'Rivalry Week' Delivers

While many of our nation's top athletes are competing in the 2012 London Olympics across the pond, there is plenty of action to be had stateside America's pastime is in the midst of rivalry weekend.

Going at each other are the following foes:

Cardinals @ Cubs
Red Sox @ Yankees
Dodgers @ Giants
and for good measure, two division leaders in the White Sox @ Rangers.

Even when you have a team at the bottom of the standings (cough cough cubs cough cough), rivalry games are still pretty exciting to watch. Plus, who needs Olympics Opening Ceremonies when you can spend the same four hours watching a regular season Sox/Yanks game?

Of this weekend's series, some are more meaningful than others in terms of impact in the standings. The Cubbies are a bazillion games back (okay,18.5 behind the division-leading Reds, but you get the point) and the Cards are a steep 7.5 games back of Cincy. But as last season's magical run proved, it ain't over till the fat lady sings and 7.5 games back in July isn't a death sentence.

Instead using one of the league's worst teams as a punching bag and logging easy wins, the Cards dropped two of three against the Cubbies. St. Louis squandered a good opportunity to chip away at Cincinnati's lead in the division.

Despite being regarded as the best rivalry in the history of baseball, the Red Sox vs. Yankees series isn't as meaningful as one would expect this time of year as New York has a 10.5-game lead over Boston in the AL East. Again, as history has proven on rare occasion, a division lead of that size is not untouchable at this point in the season.

The Red Sox have been all over the map in a season filled with turmoil surrounding everything from injuries, to crappy pitching to new manager Bobby Valentine. More than a boost in the standings, Boston could use a confidence boost with a few wins over the Yanks in the Bronx.

Meanwhile, the Rangers/White Sox series is quite meaningful as Chicago has regained the lead in a the competitive AL Central. Chicago hopes to keep the train moving as the Tigers are right on their heels, only two games back with the Indians still within range at six games back. The Rangers, having dropped two straight to Chicago, find themselves in an interesting spot after Nolan Ryan publicly criticized star slugger Josh Hamilton. Texas still leads the AL West by four games, and although I would be shocked if Oakland managed to close that gap, it's still way too close for comfort.

The most meaningful rivalry series of the weened is the battle in the Bay between the hometown Giants and visiting Dodgers.

The Dodgers got off to the best start in baseball before MVP runner up Matt Kemp missed time with an injury, while the Giants had an opposite turnaround, starting the season poorly before winning tons of games to take the division lead.

This is a pivotal series, especially for the Dodgers as they acquired Hanley Ramirez from the Marlins in a trade. This guy has been mesmerizing in Dodger Blue thus far, immediately re-igniting the team. The Dodgers won the first two games of the series in San Francisco, the first win coming in 10 innings and the second, by a whopping sore of 10-0, pulling L.A. within one game of the Giants.

Not only is an exciting series between these two teams great on a micro level, but a nail-biting race between the Dodgers and Giants to win the division would be wonderful for the National League and baseball in general.

Should you need a break from the Olympics tape-delay debacle, watching baseball rivalry games in real time is a great alternative.

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