The Major League Baseball season has reached the quarter pole, so it’s a good time to look at how each of the divisions have unfolded so far and sort out the pretenders from the contenders. (All standings as of yesterday)

NL East – Atlanta leads New York by half a game. Last year gave all of us who are sick of the Braves hope that we wouldn’t have to deal with them for awhile, but here they are again. Edgar Renteria is doing what he does best- playing great in a town where no one cares, and Tim Hudson is returning to his Oakland form. Mets fans can hang their hat on two things: 1) David Wright is finally starting to look like David Wright and, 2) They’re playing .700 ball on the road. Then again, John Maine’s on a pace to win 20 games. The State of Maine stands a better chance of ranking 20th in taxes at the end of the year. This race will stay tight down to the wire.

NL Central– Milwaukee leads Houston by 5 games, Chicago by 6. The Brewers, the preseason darlings, are actually exceeding the hype, though they’re starting to come back to earth. J.J. Hardy and Prince Fielder are emerging as stars.

It’s hard to imagine the Astros, Cubs or Cardinals not making a run at them at some point, but the Brewers pitching is good enough to hang on in a mediocre division.

NL West – Los Angeles leads Arizona and San Diego by 3 games, San Francisco by 4. The Dodgers have been very consistent (12-8 at home, 12-8 on the road), and they have the deepest starting rotation in the division. But Grady Little’s running the show, so I’m not giving them anything yet. San Diego has Jake Peavy, who’s been so good he makes Josh Beckett look like Julian Tavarez in comparison. Arizona is hanging around despite a pretty weak offense. If they get the bats and Randy Johnson going, they’ll be a factor.

AL West – Los Angeles leads Seattle and Oakland by 1 game. Who can figure out the Angels? They’re the most enigmatic team in baseball. If they add a bat before the trading deadline, they could be tough to beat. The Mariners have stayed close despite not having Felix Hernandez for a month. The A’s have been banged up but still have the best pitching in the division, although they just lost Houston Street for awhile to right ulnar nerve irritation, which just sounds bad.

How bad are the Rangers that they’re already 6 games out in this crummy division?

AL Central — Detroit leads Cleveland by 1 game, Chicago by 4. If Johan Santana and the Twins get straightened out, this could end up being a great race. If not, the Tigers could run away with it. Cleveland’s going to fade unless it finds someone other than Joe Borowski to close games. The White Sox’ offense has just been pathetic so far.

AL East – Boston leads New York by 8 games. The Red Sox aren’t this good, the Yankees aren’t this bad. Sorry. Josh Beckett’s hurt and Tim Wakefield is, surprise, a .500 pitcher again. The holes in the offense will be exposed.

The Yankees offense, fortunately, is starting to look overrated, and I don’t care how many big names they have in the rotation, it’s still suspect. The Sox will win out, but by August, fans will be pining for the comfort of an eight-game cushion.


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