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Monday, July 10, 2006
Updated: July 12, 12:51 PM ET
Midseason report ... Tigers style

By Jonah Keri
Special to Page 2

We continue the Page 2 midseason baseball report by assigning each team -- instead of the letter grade you see in every other midseason report -- a member of the 1984 World Series champion Detroit Tigers, in honor of Detroit posting the majors' best first-half record.

Click here for the American League.

NL EAST

New York Mets (53-36): Willie Hernandez

David Wright
With 20 HRs and 74 RBI, David Wright has been receiving plenty of congrats from teammates.

Oh for the days when closers threw 140-plus innings and carried a team for weeks at a time. The AL's Cy Young and MVP winner in '84 was actually a reasonable choice for both awards, given his lights-out performance and huge workload. The Mets have likewise laid waste to the rest of the NL East. Wright and Reyes look like cornerstone players, and Pedro and Beltran have been the kind of top-quality free agents that often work out better than the midsalaried Eric Miltons of the world. It must be doubly sweet for the Amazins' this year, knowing they'd be a .480 team in the AL.

Philadelphia Phillies (40-47): Roger Craig

Craig had huge success as a pitching coach, but broke even (738-737) as a manager. The Phillies look like world-beaters every year on paper, but produce middle-of-the-road results every year on the field. You hear more different theories about the Phillies' problems than you do claims to the best cheesesteaks in the city. (I'm a heathen. I like Rick's in Reading Terminal Market over Pat's or Gino's -- thin, flat slabs of meat instead of all chopped up). One theory that doesn't hold water: Bobby Abreu being the source of the team's woes. You put up a .400-plus OBP eight of the last nine years and you're helping your team in a big way, even if you're kneecapping the third baseman during batting practice and using a thimble to catch fly balls.

Atlanta Braves (40-49): Lance Parrish

Parrish was a great player, but this wasn't his year. Could we finally be saying that about the Braves, after one of the longest winning runs in sports history? Not just yet. The Braves have made some stirring comebacks in the past, and the current NL wild-card leader is the Dodgers, just four games over .500. The pitching's full of holes, but Edgar Renteria and Brian McCann look like vintage Gant and Justice at the plate. If John Schuerholz can finagle a front-line pitcher at the deadline, they've got a real shot.

Florida Marlins (38-48): Ruppert Jones

The Padres gave up on him after a lousy 1983 season, but Jones stormed back in 1984 with the Tigers, raising his OPS 163 points and adding power to a strong bench. Few expected the Marlins to be respectable this year either. Then again, only Dan Uggla's mom could have predicted this kind of monster season for the rookie second baseman. The Marlins looked dead in the water after Wayne Huizenga strip-mined the team following the 1997 World Series win, only to rally back six years later and win it all again. Fish in '09?

Washington Nationals (38-52): Barbaro Garbey

Forgettable player, forgettable team, at least for now. The best news Nats fans got all season was the arrival of a stable ownership group after being wards of the state following the move down from Montreal. Stan Kasten is saying nice things about Jim Bowden now, but the Nationals' GM has a lot to prove if he wants to stick around long-term. When you get the toolsy outfielder you crave in Alfonso Soriano, watch him crush the ball on a nightly basis, and still see your team in the cellar, where do you go from there? It's going to take a long time to repair a farm system left bare after years of neglect.

NL CENTRAL

St. Louis Cardinals (48-39), Chet Lemon

Jim Edmonds
The Cards are in first, but Jim Edmonds is having his worst season since '99.

A great fielder and excellent but underrated hitter in his prime, Lemon was a poor man's Jim Edmonds. The Real McCoy may finally be succumbing to years of kamikaze outfield dives and the aging process; that's hurt the Cards this season. Scott Rolen has shaken off injuries to fill the void left by Edmonds' decline, but this is a team that has nothing resembling offensive balance. Over the years, GM Walt Jocketty has acquired Mark McGwire, Will Clark and Larry Walker for peanuts. Another heist wouldn't hurt. Or the Cards could just keep watching the Reds trot out Joe Mays every fifth day and giggle.

Cincinnati Reds (45-44): Juan Berenguer

Good performance, but maybe not sustainable. Berenguer's '84 season was one of the best of his career -- the next year his ERA ballooned by more than two runs. Bronson Arroyo has been one of the biggest pleasant surprises anywhere, with Brandon Phillips not far behind. But new GM Wayne Krivsky's efforts to patch the team's holes have been … umm, interesting. The Reds have picked up cast-off Twins disasters Mays and Juan Castro. They just picked up Eddie Guardado. Mariners fans who watched him pitch this year know he's earned his "Everyday Eddie" nickname. Every day he gives up two homers.

Milwaukee Brewers (44-46): Aurelio Lopez

Buy or sell? The Brewers face a tough, but happy dilemma as they project the rest of the season. A hot streak (before losing three straight over the weekend) propelled them into the thick of the NL Central and wild-card chases. Everyone and their dog wants Carlos Lee. Does the Brew Crew sell him, hold him, or get some drapes and end tables and try to spruce up the place? Either way, building blocks like Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks aren't going anywhere, a good sign for the team's future, as well as its present. If the Brewers don't knock off the Cardinals this season, there's a good chance it happens in '07.

Houston Astros (43-46): Doug Bair

Showing signs of aging, but might not be done yet. The Bagwell era's over, and Craig Biggio's a complementary player at this stage. Do the Astros have enough in Berkman, Ensberg and a killer 1-2 punch in Clemens and Oswalt to get back to the playoffs yet again? Will Clemens ever get any run support? Does Preston Wilson see Phil Garner's facial hair as a personal challenge? Maybe, probably, and you bet your sweet Astro.

Chicago Cubs (34-54): Carl Willis

Combine Willis' 7.31 ERA in '84 with the Indians' pitching struggles this season with Willis as their pitching coach and you're still just scratching the surface of the Cubs' lost season. Long-time Dusty Baker supporters have finally turned on him, wondering if the pitch-count police had reason to yell all along. The offense is the worst in MLB. Even the Blackhawks are making fun of the Cubs lately.

Pittsburgh Pirates (30-60): Doug Baker

Punchless, and not likely to improve anytime soon. Even the Pirates' good-looking pitching prospects have come down with acne and club feet. Zach Duke and Paul Maholm have struggled after great partial-season stints last year in their debut years, and Oliver Perez has been exiled to "The Island of Dr. Moreau." Jason Bay's great and Freddy Sanchez has made the Joe Randa signing look pointless, but the farm system lacks high-impact hitting prospects. At least the Cubs are down here slumming too. GM Dave Littlefield can show Cubs GM Jim Hendry all the best dive bars and hot dog joints.

NL WEST

San Diego Padres (48-40): Darrell Evans

Jake Peavy
Jake Peavy is just 4-8 with a 4.46 ERA after going 13-7 with a 2.88 ERA in '05.

Better than you'd think at this stage in their run. The Pads were one of the most flawed division-winning teams in recent memory last year; Evans hit .232 and was relegated to DH duty at age 37 in 1984. But San Diego has proven its worth again, just as Evans did with his 77 walks that year. Jake Peavy's pitching shoulder could decide the race. If he's dealing, the Pads control their own destiny. If he's reeling, the Dodgers have the young talent and the cash to rip it away.

Los Angeles Dodgers (46-42): Bill Scherrer

Who? The anonymous Tiger reliever led the staff with a 1.89 ERA over 19.3 innings in '84. Fans outside L.A. may not know much about Russ Martin, Matt Kemp and Takashi Saito. But the Dodgers' Kiddie Corps has been a revelation for new GM Ned Colletti, especially after an offseason filled with veteran acquisitions. Speaking of, how about Nomar Garciaparra, hitting .358/.426/.578 in one of the toughest parks for hitters anywhere. The one-year, $6 million contract he signed over the winter was the biggest bargain of the Hot Stove League. The best team in the division and the favorite to win it.

Colorado Rockies (44-43): Dave Bergman

The Tigers' first baseman no one remembers actually held his own in '84, his .351 OBP hovering in the same zip code as Whitaker, Evans and Lemon. The Rockies haven't commanded much respect this season either. But they're just a game and half behind the Dodgers in the wild-card standings. Matt Holliday and Brad Hawpe both sport road numbers that have negated talk of Coors inflation. And how about Jamey Carroll? The Little Expo Utilityman That Could has found a home as the everyday second baseman in Denver. Has Carroll been a home-and-road threat too? Not so much -- a .383 average at Coors, .256 on the road.

San Francisco Giants (45-44): Sid Monge

In the last year of his career, doing it on guile at this point, but still contributing to a contender. Barry Bonds … or Sid Monge? The '84 season was the last of Monge's career, a year in which he played for both league pennant winners. Bonds isn't hitting homers at nearly the obscene rate he did a few years ago, but his .474 OBP has helped keep the Giants in the race, bad knees, nonexistent defense and all. The Braves get all the ink for their resilience every year. But the Giants are the Methuselah of Major League Baseball, refusing to say die even when logic dictates they should be 20 feet under by now. As wide open as this division is, a vintage Brian Sabean deadline move could make a big difference.

Arizona Diamondbacks (43-45): Tom Brookens

Brookens wasn't as erratic and didn't strike out as spectacularly as Howard Johnson did, prompting Sparky to play the older, less talented Brookens more often than he should have. It was an error in judgment, but one that didn't end up hurting the '84 Tigers. Jason Grimsley, the Diamondbacks' relief pitcher who drew a 50-game suspension for admitting to the use of performance-enhancing drugs, also didn't cause the D-Backs' downfall. Arizona simply wasn't good enough to contend this year; if their inevitable slump didn't happen immediately after Grimsley's suspension, it would have happened some other time. GM Josh Byrnes and a sharp front office have plenty of reasons for optimism anyway. Brandon Webb, Conor Jackson, Carlos Quentin, Chris Young and others form one of the best young cores in the game.

Jonah Keri is a regular contributor to Page 2 and the editor and co-author of "Baseball Between the Numbers." You can reach him at jonahkeri@gmail.com.