Who is baseball's biggest surprise and will they hold on?
In 1979, the Pirates and Orioles met in the World Series. If the playoffs started today, both would make the postseason. The Pirates haven't had a winning season since 1992 — Barry Bonds' last season in the 'Burgh. The Buccos sit in first place in the NL Central. The Orioles, barely clinging to the second wild-card spot in the AL, haven't been to the playoffs since 1997.
Answer: The O's have been a nice story, but they're showing signs of fading. Last season on July 19 the Pirates were seven games over .500 and in first place. Then the bottom dropped out and the Bucs ended up losing 90 games. They're much better this season, but if they don't give Andrew McCutchen (the NL MVP so far) some help, the Pirates might not have enough offense to win the division. They need to make a deal.
Who is the biggest disappointment and will they turn it around?
The Rays certainly are scuffling, partly because of injuries, and haven't resembled the team many picked to get to the World Series. But at least they have a winning record. The Phillies have had some injuries (Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Roy Halladay), but that's not a good enough excuse for being a whopping 14 games out of first place.
Answer: The Rays, Red Sox and Marlins should be better. But at last year's All-Star break, the Phils were 23 games over .500. Now they're 13 under. They are, by far, baseball's most disappointing team and are so far out of it that they're talking about being sellers at the trade deadline.
Who is baseball's most disappointing player and why?
From 2008 to '10, Tim Lincecum of the Giants went 49-22 and won two Cy Youngs. Since the start of last season he is 16-24, including 3-10 with a 6.42 ERA this season. His 10 losses and 69 earned runs allowed are the most in the National League.
Answer: No one has the first clue to what's wrong. Lincecum appears healthy, but he has suffered a drop in velocity. What's stunning is the Giants are only a half-game out of first place.
Who's better, Bryce Harper or Mike Trout?
So far, the best debate of the season is who is better: the Nationals' 19-year-old rookie Bryce Harper (.282 with eight homers, 25 RBIs, 10 stolen bases) or Angels' 20-year-old rookie Mike Trout (.341 with 12 homers, 40 RBIs, 26 steals and, perhaps, the catch of the year in the outfield). The good news is we might have 20 years to figure out the answer.
Answer: In five years, I think Harper will be the best player in baseball. But right now, you have to take Trout. He might be the American League MVP.
Who is baseball's best team and who will win it all?
Based simply on record, the Yankees are at the top with a 52-33 record. While the Yankees have had injuries to their pitching staff (starters CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte, and closer Mariano Rivera), their lethal lineup has remained, for the most part, healthy. You wonder if A-Rod and Derek Jeter can stay healthy in the second half.
Answer: How cool would it be to see the up-and-coming (some might say "here-and-now'') Nationals win the whole shebang. But we're going with a Rangers team that is first in the AL in batting average, first in runs and third in team ERA. Plus, after losing the past two World Series, the third time is a charm, right?
tom jones' two cents
With the All-Star Game tonight in Kansas City, Mo., Major League Baseball has reached the recognized halfway point of the season. Here are some questions that have come out of the first half, along with some answers for the second half.