Go ahead, try to make sense of this zany first half of the baseball season, and when you do, feel free to slap us silly for even trying to figure it out.
Everything that looked so rational back in March looks so absurd in July.
Then again, everything that looked so logical three weeks ago looks idiotic now.
The San Francisco Giants looked like they could have bought the champagne, set their playoff rotation and ordered ticker-tape for their Bay Bridge World Series three weeks ago. Now, they look like someone stole their party favors, losing 15 of 19 games since June 9, watching their 9 1/2 game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers erased. Sunday, they squandered the final game of their advantage, got swept in a four-game series for the first time ever at AT&T Park, and even demoted closer Sergio Romo.
The Detroit Tigers were the best team in the American League for two months, then looked like the worst team in the league for two weeks as the torch of AL Central supremacy passed to the Kansas City Royals. That lasted, oh, about a half-day. The Royals, who looked like the worst team for two months and the best team for two weeks, again are looking up in the standings at the Tigers.
All but four teams have crossed the 81-game mark. The next 81 couldn't possibly be more unpredictable.
"I think when people try to project the season," Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin tells USA TODAY Sports, perhaps trying to make us feel better, "it's more difficult today.
"They try to do run differential. They try to do wins against replacement. You have all of these sabermetric and analytical things, and while there's a spot for that in our game, you have to weigh that with the physical skills and the development of players.
"Sometimes, it just comes down to a matter of health. The injuries in this game can be devastating to a club. We always felt that if we were healthy, and the key players are playing well, we like our ballclub."
With that, say hello to the team tied with the most victories in all of baseball, with five players producing at least 40 RBI, a catcher (Jonathan Lucroy) who might not make the All-Star team but could be the MVP favorite, and an unheralded starting rotation that has missed one start.
Yep, the Brewers, 51-33, who have the biggest division lead in baseball.
The Brewers, who finished 23 games out of first a year ago at 74-88, posted the best first half in franchise history while sitting in first all but four days this season.
"You can look back at baseball every year," Melvin says, "and something always unexpected happens."
Just when we started counting on the Tampa Bay Rays to be a fixture every October, they morph into those ugly Devil Rays of old, possessing the worst record in baseball, with the only drama left wondering what team lands David Price.
Everyone picked the Toronto Blue Jays to finish first a year ago, only for them to finish last. Now, with everyone picking them last, they are in first in the AL East.
OK, so maybe everything that could go right did last year for the Boston Red Sox en route to their World Series championship. Who knew everything could suddenly go so wrong, finishing the first 81 games with a sub-.500 record for the first time since 1997, ranking 27th in runs, while counting on a 21-year-old named Mookie Betts to save their season?
Who thought the best free agent signing of the offseason would happen in the spring? There are 29 other teams now wishing they had dipped into their pockets for $8million and signed Nelson Cruz, who is leading the major leagues with 66 RBI and tied for the home run lead with 25 for the Baltimore Orioles. And yes, he's a free agent again in four months.
Close your eyes and fantasize, but the Houston Astros are on pace to end their three-year streak of 100-loss seasons, and GM Jeff Luhnow's dream of a 2017 Astros-Chicago Cubs World Series no longer seems so absurd.
Who could have envisioned two wild-card berths in the AL coming from the West? The Los Angeles Angels have a three-game lead and the Seattle Mariners are clinging to the second spot. The last time those two teams made the playoffs the same year? Uh, never.
And, as long as we're at it, who could have imagined that Melvin's eccentric idea to change baseball's playoff landscape makes perfect sense for the future?
While Melvin is hardly advocating a work stoppage that caused baseball to have two half-seasons like in 1981, he loves the idea of Major League Baseball stealing the minor leagues' concept. While baseball plays nearly twice as many games as the NBA or NHL, why not break the 162-game season into two halves, Melvin says, giving clubs a chance to hit the reset button?
"I know this would not go over with the traditional baseball people,'' Melvin says, "but I could see it as a point of discussion at some point. Think about it. It could give your fan base new hope if you have a rough first half, you get two trade deadlines which people love, it helps the development of young players, and it might give teams a chance to recover from devastating injuries.
"The season is so long, and there are so many injuries.
"I love our ballclub, but as a GM, you live in fear with injuries.''
Melvin watched in disbelief Saturday when shortstop Jean Segura left the game in the sixth inning with a leg cramp, and was replaced by Elian Herrera, who had played only three innings at the position in his big-league career. An inning later, center fielder Carlos Gomez left the game after colliding with Ryan Braun, prompting Braun to move to center for the first time in his career.
And, of course, the Brewers won their fourth consecutive game.
"Sometimes,'' Melvin says, "things just happen that don't make a lot of sense.''
Welcome to the second half of the 2014 season.
If we learned anything from what happened the first half, well, we can say safely say we have absolutely no idea what will happen now.
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