The baseball All-Star break is generally considered the halfway point of the Major League Baseball season, even if all teams have already played more than 81 games in a 162-game schedule.
The break came this year with both Los Angeles teams leading their divisions.
The Dodgers, who have tormented their fans with their up-and-down play most of the season, are leading the Giants by 4 ½ games.
The Angels, who have trailed the Astros most of the year, went on a tear recently while the Astros went into a slump. That allowed the Angels to slip past the Astros July 12 for a half-game lead at the break.
The Angels have survived clubhouse turmoil that stemmed from a rift between former general manager Jerry DiPoto and manager Mike Scioscia. It ended with DiPoto resigning at the end of June, which coincidentally or not, was when the Angels surge began.
With Mike Trout and Albert Pujols leading the offense, the Angels have enough punch to maintain their division lead in the second half.
If pitcher Jeff Weaver rebounds from a hip injury enough to solidify the starting rotation, the Angels should have enough arms to win their second straight American League Western Division title.
The Dodgers have been an enigma all year. The most expensive team in baseball, they should be playing better than .567 baseball, their current winning percentage.
They need more out of outfielder Yasiel Puig, the biggest enigma on the team. Rookie center fielder Joc Pederson has been better than expected, even if he strikes out too much and the rest of the starting lineup has fulfilled expectations.
Ace Clayton Kershaw is only 6-6 at the break and can expect a better second half, if the Dodgers would start hitting when he pitches. Zack Greinke has been the ace the first half of the season and since he is pitching for a big contract in the off-season — he can opt out of the last three years of his contract after the season if he so desires — you can expect him to keep putting up zeroes for the opposition when he pitches.
The biggest weakness the Dodgers have is — again — their bullpen. No one has been able to consistently get the Dodgers through the seventh and eighth innings and get close games to closer Kenley Janssen.
Rookies Yimi Garcia and Adam Liberatore had early success, but have struggled lately (Garcia was recently demoted to Oklahoma City). Veterans Joel Peralta and Chris Hatcher have both spent time on the disabled list and neither one has been particularly effective when (if?) healthy.
The Dodgers may have enough to stay ahead of the Giants in the National League Western Division, but if the bullpen doesn’t improve, they are going to have another disappointing October.
All-state center fielders: When Mike Trout came up the Angeles at the end of the 2011 season, Matt Kemp was having a most valuable player-type season for the Dodgers. At the time, I thought both teams were set in center field for the next decade.
Kemp then spent most of the next two seasons fighting injuries and after last season his bad attitude was shipped south to San Diego for catcher Yasmani Grandal.
That created room in an overcrowded outfield for Joc Pederson, who made the all-star team with 20 first half home runs and almost as many stellar defensive plays in center field. With Trout still patrolling center field in Anaheim, it looks like both teams are set in center field for another 10 years. Check back for an update in 2018.
ANOTHER SERENA SLAM: Serena Williams’ victory at Wimbledon makes her the current champion of all four tennis majors for the second time. The first time she achieved that accomplishment she called it “the Serena Slam.”
She can make it a complete grand slam in September by winning the U.S. Open, which would mark the first time anyone has won all four majors in the same year since Steffi Graf did it in 1988. Steffi did Serena one better that year: she also won an Olympic gold medal in tennis in 1988,
THE BRITISH OPEN: Speaking of grand slam events, golf’s third major of the year begins July 16 with the British Open (I refuse to call it simply The Open as the network carrying the event this weekend does). A golf grand slam is possible this year since Jordan Spieth has captured the Masters and U.S. Open already.
Spieth is like Tiger Woods used to be. Anytime he is playing it is must-see television.
Tiger is also at St. Andrew’s in Scotland this week, trying to win on that course for the third time. It would be nice to see a Woods-Spieth shootout on Sunday, but I like Spieth’s chances of being there better than Tiger’s.
NEWS AND NOTES: Beyond the Bell, an after-school program conducted by the Los Angeles Unified School District, had scheduled a fund-raising golf tournament in November at Trump National Golf Course in Rancho Palos Verdes, but canceled the tournament in the wake of Donald Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants. Even though the tournament is still more than four months away, course officials refused to return the district’s $7,500 deposit.
Wetzel’s Pretzels and developer Rick Caruso each donated $7,500 to the district to cover the loss and give the program a financial boost. …
The World Special Olympics is coming to Los Angeles July 25. Among the thousands of athletes with disabilities who will take part in the competition that will be spread out all over the region is Caelyn Griffith, 20, a gymnast from Culver City.
Griffith is one of only 37 athletes from California who will be competing in the games. She started in gymnastics more than 10 years ago and says the floor routine is her favorite event.
She will be competing in the full gymnastics event rotation during the competition, which will take place July 30 and 31 in the John Wooden Center on the UCLA campus.
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