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Trade rumors push
Johnson-Schilling reunion

Jul 13, 2004 7:01 AM

Baseball’s trading deadline is two weeks away and sports sections will be filled with the rumors concerning which big name players may be headed elsewhere for the season’s final couple of months.

The most prominent name that’s being mentioned: Arizona’s ace Randy Johnson. A number of rumors have the Big Unit headed towards either the New York Yankees or the Anaheim Angels. Wouldn’t it be interesting though if he joined former teammate Curt Schilling in Boston as part of a trio that would include Pedro Martinez?

A rotation of Johnson, Schilling and Martinez in the playoffs would be tough to beat. Realistically, Boston’s best chance of making the postseason is through the wild card. The Yankees have a fairly comfortable lead in the AL East but Boston must contend with several other teams for the AL wild card. The acquisition of Johnson would make the Sox strong favorites to get another chance at the Yankees in the ALCS in October.

The next couple of weeks should be very interesting.

At the All Star break the New York Yankees have the best record in baseball and St Louis has the best record in the NL. There certainly is a lot of baseball history in a Yankees vs. Cardinals World Series but there is still much baseball to be played. Both teams hold solid seven game leads in their respective Divisions.

In the AL, Boston trails the Yankees in the East with the Red Sox 6½ games clear of third place Tampa Bay. The Chicago White Sox hold a slim half game lead over Minnesota in the Central with Detroit and Cleveland just 5½ games back despite having losing records. There still is a three-team race in the West where Texas begins recess with a two game lead over Oakland. Anaheim is just a half game further behind.

Boston is a game ahead of Oakland in the wild card chase, with Anaheim and Minnesota each just a half game further back. Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Detroit (each 42-45) are still in the wild card race, just 6½ games behind the BoSox.

The NL is very competitive across the board with the exception of the seven-game St. Louis lead in the Central. Twelve of the 16 teams are playing at least .500 baseball more than halfway through the season. In the East, Philadelphia is just a game ahead of surging Atlanta. Florida is just a half game behind the Braves with the Mets a half game behind the Marlins.

In the Central, there are just 3½ games separating the four teams that trail the Cardinals. The Cubs are second, pressed by Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Houston. In the West there is a three-team race with Los Angeles a half game ahead of San Francisco. San Diego is just two games out.

The Giants hold a one game edge over the Cubs in the wild card race, although both teams are tied in losses. Just 4½ games separate the nine contenders. The Astros are still very much in contention despite trailing eight teams in that race.

Through the All Star break, home teams are winning at a healthy 55.3 percent, which is slightly higher than home team success in 2003. The key to winning pennants is the ability to win on the road. It’s no surprise that most teams have losing records on the road even if they play extremely well at home.

Just six teams have winning records on the road and just one (St. Louis at 26-15) has won at least three more road games than they have lost. It can only be conjectured how far in front the Cards might be if they did not struggle at home during the season’s first months. The New York Yankees are an ordinary 22-19 on road but boast baseball’s best home record at 33-12.

There has been absolutely no bias whatsoever in "overs" and "unders" this season. The "under" holds a scant 622-621 edge with 55 games pushing. Kudos to the linesmaker for those results.

Play resumes on Thursday with a dozen four-game series and a trio of three-game series. Note that the three days of rest will allow many managers to reshuffle their starting rotations for the second half of the season. Here are the best matchups.

Phillies at Mets: The teams split a four game series in Philly last week with the Phillies taking a pair of one run games and the Mets winning more convincingly. New York has he edge in pitching while the Phils are better offensively. The Mets have improved at the plate over the last month and would be playable as home underdogs in any game.

Philly may be also played as an underdog but must be at least +130 against either Tom Glavine or Al Leiter. The Mets have won six of nine meetings in the series with five going "under" the posted total. The "under" is preferred at 9 or higher.

Brewers at Cubs: These division rivals met for just the first time this season last week with Milwaukee sweeping all three games at home. Each contest went "under" and this series should similarly be low scoring. Neither team is hitting well at the break and both have gotten solid starting pitching.

Kerry Wood was sharp in Sunday night’s return. Although the winds will dictate the totals at Wrigley Field, the "under" is preferred in all games. If Ben Sheets is on the mound as an underdog, the Brewers will be an attractive play. Doug Davis and Vic Santos also pitched brilliantly in wins last week and may be backed as a +140 underdog.

White Sox at A’s: Oakland won the two earlier meetings this season in early June in Chicago. Both teams are battling for the playoffs with each having a shot at winning their division or wild card. Both have solid starting pitching but we will look to play the "over" at 9 or less and "under" if 10 or higher.

Oakland’s Barry Zito has struggled much of the season and the White Sox will be an attractive play as an underdog. Oakland will be playable as dogs against Mark Buehrle, Esteban Loaiza or Freddy Garcia. The White Sox would be playable in any game as +140 underdogs regardless of who starts.

Red Sox at Angels: Anaheim won the previous two meetings this season played in Boston in early June. Both were high scoring games that went "over" and this series should also be high scoring. Both teams are healthier at the plate than six weeks ago. The two Boston aces (Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling) have combined for more "overs" this season. Play the "over" at 9 or less.

Anaheim will be worth a play as underdogs against either Martinez or Schilling. The Red Sox can be played as dogs against any Anaheim starter. Against either Jarrod Washburn or John Lackey, the BoSox should be getting at least +120.