|Ever since their late-April callups, Trout and Harper have been surrounded by big-league buzz. (Getty Images)|
We're halfway through the season. The All-Star break is generally referred to as the end of the first half, but 81 games is a half season and most teams have now played either 80 or 81 games.
We've seen the Orioles, White Sox, Mets and Pirates exceed expectations. The Nationals have arrived a year early, while the Royals have not. The Red Sox and Marlins have been circus acts at different points in the season, while also providing huge peaks and valleys. The Tigers are disappointing while the Angels were for just a bit before joining the elite. The Dodgers went from world-beaters to beaten down rather quickly. The Phillies are flailing while the Giants are surging.
Between the five no-hitters, the emergence of several young stars (this is where I'm required to mention the names Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, lest I be in violation of baseball code for this season), the pleasant surprises, the disappointments and the significant rise in attendance, 2012 has been a brilliant season for baseball.
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And we're only halfway home.
With the introduction of a second wild card to each league, there are only four teams in all of baseball facing a double-digit deficit to a playoff spot at this point -- Astros, Padres, Rockies and Cubs. At least 20 teams feel like legitimate playoff contenders, too. I count around 23. The Oakland Athletics are only four games out of the second AL wild card, for example.
Man, this is going to be an incredible second half.
To wrap up the first half, let's run with a most valuable "player" and least valuable "player" for every team. These are all in good fun, some tongue-in-cheek, some very sarcastic, so if it's not an actual player, don't worry about it, OK? It's more like most and least valuable "thing," but MVT would look stupid.
Rankings, comments and stats are through Tuesday. Feel free to contact me via email with comments: firstname.lastname@example.org