The 'Winter Series' And 3 MLB Teams Struggling To Meet The Hype


The MLB season is nearly halfway done, and a few of the biggest favorites headed into the spring haven’t quite hit the mark the way they were supposed to. When the page turns on a new season, and the hype dies down from the winter paycheck season, the picture does not always paint itself the way it was designed. (Ed's note: I find it intriguing that I have a real hate for all three of these teams. As a Braves fan, I hate these teams for the following reasons: NL East rival, screw them. The infield fly rule, screw them. Toronto beat Philadelphia in the 1993 World Series. Atlanta was better than Philly in 1993. Screw them both.)

Here are three teams that came into the season with a world of expectations but have more or less spent the season on the sideline, trying to get back into the mix. If they are going to do so, there are a few clear things that have to be done … and fast. (Oh, and the three GIFs waiting for you after the break are kind of awesome.)

Washington Nationals (38-38, second place NL East)

Remember when they won the World Series in January? Next to perhaps the Blue Jays, they were the club that seemed the most logical to take the next step to the big stage after winning 98 games a year ago and having as good a mixture of established and emerging stars, as well as quality additions, as anyone. Fast-forward to June and they are struggling to gain ground on even being over .500 after a sluggish start, fueled by injuries and what appears to be a case of drinking their own Kool-Aid.

What has to happen: The fix here isn’t to go out and add anything or to wait to get completely healthy. Really, they just have to play better. They have scored the second fewest runs in baseball and have the third worst team batting average. This shouldn’t happen on a team with Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche, among many others. Their pitching is strong again, but elite teams are not made doing half the job. If the bats don’t come around, they may need to worry more about the Phillies catching them than catching the Braves themselves.

San Francisco Giants (38-38, second place NL West)

The defending champs haven’t played bad, but they haven’t been exactly good either. They have sat in the middle of the West for much of the year, biting at the Diamondbacks' heels but not quite shoving them out of the way. Health has been an issue, with injuries to Marco Scutaro, Ryan Vogelsong, Pablo Sandoval and Angel Pagan all factoring in to a mostly makeshift season. It’s far from a lost cause but also not quite what would be expected from a World Series champ that returned 20 players from a year ago, including all nine everyday players.

What has to happen: The Giants are a team that wins by swarming. Despite having Buster Posey to produce around, they are a team that wins with a complete effort in waves of hits, total staff pitching and brick-wall defense. They have to get healthy to have a chance, because they are not a spectacularly deep club, and every piece plays a vital role in them getting to the top. While the pitching staff could do a bit better (particularly Matt Cain and his 5-4 record and over 4.50 ERA), there’s no one part that turns this club around on its own.

Toronto Blue Jays (38-38, fourth place AL East)

No team showed up with more buzz to break through than the Jays, but despite this, they’ve spent just as much time at the bottom of the AL East as they did before they broke off just over $41 million to resurrect themselves from that exact place. While their fortunes have changed recently, they’re still in the midst of the toughest division in all of sports, and that’s not the type of land that is usually too welcoming for making big mid-season comebacks.

What has to happen: Despite these challenges, the Jays have begun to resurrect themselves and be who they were supposed to be. Their season-best 11-game win streak was snapped on Monday, and Jose Reyes will return today after being out for nearly two months with a broken ankle. But consistency is their enemy. With all of those things considered, that nearly two-week-long streak only pulled them up one slot in the only division with no teams under .500. It’s going to take another one, if not two, long runs of that sort to get back even in the Wild Card picture, where three other AL East teams are ahead of them currently for the last spot in.

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