We’re past baseball’s All Star Game and headed into the stretch run for the 15ish teams with a shot at the playoffs. The perfect time for a musical interlude. Here then, a theme song for every contender within spitting distance of their division or a wild card berth as they push toward October:
Baltimore Orioles—Puddle of Mudd “She Hates Me”
With 68 games remaining, the Orioles’ first 23 are against plus-.500 clubs, including a post-All Star-break run against the AL West’s top tier. They’re four games up in a shitty division, so it’s not all bad, but the MLB’s schedule-maker truly hates the Os.
Toronto Blue Jays—Madeline Khan “I’m Tired”
The Jays set the AL East on fire through June, leading the division for 48 straight games at one point. But after bumbling to an 8-17 finish before the break, can’t you see this team is tired? Injuries, catcher Josh Thole’s rag doll, please-steal-second arm and a suddenly quiet offense mean Toronto is basically kaput.
New York Yankees—Jay Z “Fade to Black”
Like Jay’s overwrought retirement tour with the Black Album, Yankee Shortstop Derek Jeter’s bloated farewell will be sweetest when it finally ends, probably in September. No more tips of the cap to someone “classy” enough to stay with the one organization willing to overpay for his talents for two decades. No more giddily scribbled Valentine soft-focus tributes from men 20 years his senior on Fox broadcasts. The Yanks are five games behind Baltimore in the division and 3.5 behind in the wild card yet they’re sucking air with ace pitcher Masahiro Tanka sidelined for at least a month with arm trouble. Unless every opposing pitcher in the league decides to groove throw Jeter belt-high fastballs the rest of the season, we can finally kiss the last vestige of the 90s Yankees goodbye.
Detroit Tigers—George Thorogood and the Destroyers “I Drink Alone”
Yeah, with nobody else. In the Central, the Tigers essentially drink alone. Their successes and failures are entirely dependent on a world-class offense, potential-packed, results-stunted staff and manic bullpen. They’re 22-16 versus the rest of their middling-to-terrible division and during a month stretch in May and June excelled tremendously at beating themselves without assistance from opposing clubs. This is their division to lose.
Kansas City Royals—Smokey Robinson “Tracks of My Tears”
Nobody made heartbreak nearly as fun (and danceable!) as Smokey did in this classic track. The Royals are trying to duplicate the effort. They had the Tigers by the tail, literally, going 2 games up at one point in the first half before looking down for what seemed like 10 seconds and then looking up to see themselves in a 6.5 game hole. Their pitching is fantastically broken and third baseman Mike Moustakas, while certainly Greek, is far from a god, hitting .219 with runners on.
Cleveland Indians—Weird Al Yankovic “Close but no Cigar”
Like Weird Al’s love interest, the Indians have a lot of good things going for them. All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley has a .901 OBP and has already knocked in 63 runs. Lonnie Chisenhall is finally getting a chance to play a rock-solid third base full-time and is a monster at the plate. From afar, the Tribe looks like a hottie. But the staff is riddled with some penicillin-resistant disease, and aside from Chisenhall the infield handles grounders with all the care of frozen McRibs in the back of your local gut bomb factory.
Oakland Athletics—ACDC “For Those about to Rock (We Salute You)”
Stand up and be counted for what you are about to receive/we are the dealers/we’ll give you everything you need.
Noted asshole and Oakland owner Lew Wolff and destitute man’s Brad Pitt Billy Beane have given A’s fans what they need to succeed in the AL and possibly all of baseball this year. For with the addition of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs, the A’s are ready to rock into the postseason. They’ve now the pitching to complement bats like Josh Donaldson (20 HR and 65 RBI) and Brandon Moss (21 HR, 66 RBI) on a staff that was already 23 games above .500. The ALCS will go through Oakland.
Anaheim Angels—Aretha Franklin “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”
What’s a team gotta do to turn some heads in the AL West? The Angels are 1.5 games behind the A’s—the best team in baseball—and are in the process of reanimating the corpse of Josh Hamilton, who helped key a five-game winning streak heading into the break. Mike Trout continues to play like baseball Jesus with his 22 HR and 73 RBI and Albert Pujols is slugging a full hundred points higher than the league average while smacking 20 HR to this point. Garrett Richards and CJ Wilson are strikeout machines—the A’s take their foot off the gas at their own peril.
Los Angeles Dodgers—Ozzy Osbourne “Crazy Train”
The Dodgers are probably (definitely) going off the rails at some point in the second half, they’ll just do it in a spectacular manner. Clayton Kershaw and Zach Grienke will do their best to keep the engine chugging what with their 12 and 10 Ks per game, respectively, while Yasiel Puig and Dee Gordon continue to play some of the best defense in baseball. But here’s Josh Beckett blowing out just before the break, and there’s Puig’s power numbers barely matching Gordon’s over the last two months, and here’s Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford notching just 30 HR between them, and Donny Baseball’s negative reinforcement can only work so many times. The explosion will be epic.
San Francisco Giants—Charlie Murphy (as Stinky) “F*ck It”
What else do you say when you cough up a 9.5 game lead in the course of a month? The Giants hang their offense on catcher Buster Posey, who has hung Kurt Suzuki-lite numbers this summer—his .378 slugging percentage trails the league. There’s a core concept misunderstanding when your middle-of-the-order slugger is hitting like a 7-holer, leading a team-wide power outage from Memorial Day onward. Madison Bumgarner strikes out nearly everyone but seems to walks the rest and Matt Cain’s every venture beyond the 5th inning is tantamount to swimming off the Farallons with an open wound. Tim Lincecum is coming back nicely with four strong starts before the break, though, and Hunter Pence continues to play like his hair is on fire. A devil-may-care attitude could catch the Dodgers.
Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinatti Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates—Al Green “Let’s Stay Together”
The entire Central, save the Cubs (I wasted time typing that second clause and typing this explanation) is locked in a race for the division championship. Pittsburgh is the furthest back at 3.5 games, and since June they’ve been baseball’s hottest team right alongside the Reds. The Brewers imploded, losing 10 of 11, just before the break while the Cards surged. If for no other reason than arguments over who brews the best shitty domestic beer and whose stadium looks best astride a strip-mine befouled river, these four need to stay close together ‘til the bitter end.
Washington Nationals—Eminem “Talkin’ 2 Myself”
But instead of feeling sorry for yourself do something ‘bout it/ admit you got a problem/ your brain is clouded/ you pouted long enough/ it isn’t them it’s you you fucking baby/ quit worrying about what they do and do Shady Nats’ outfielder needs to take Eminem’s post-addiction words to heart while trying to get back into the groove after a pretty rotten (by his lofty standards) first half. Harper logged just 137 plate appearances and missed much of the season’s first stanza due to injury. Since he’s been back, he can’t seem to find his stride at the plate, and being the Nats’ sole source of power from the left side of the plate (other lefty regulars combined for 13 HRs in the first half), that’s a big problem. He strikes out roughly a third of the time for an injury-ravaged team that has managed a first-place tie with the Braves through this point of the season. Cut those numbers down and turn on the power and “the new me’s back to the old me” and you’ll see Washington in October.
Atlanta Braves –Warren G. Feat Nate Dogg “Regulate”
The Braves’ anemic offense desperately needs some handy bat to step in and regulate. BJ Upton, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Anyone, Bueller, Bueller…? A stellar bullpen and a workhorse group of starters are begging for somebody besides catcher Evan Gattis and outfielder Justin Upton—who have a quarter of the team’s HRs and RBIs combined—to literally step up to the plate.