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OK, I propose a free throw contest to determine who gets home field advantage in the World Series. Makes just as much sense as letting it ride on the fiasco that is the MLB All Star Game. Actually the one I have heard that makes the most sense is giving home field to the league that wins the most inter-league games overall during the season. Anyway, on to my real thoughts ...

-- B --

After all the fury and surprise of the first half of the season, the enamoration with the Nat Kids on the Block, and Florida's shock and awe pitching staff, look where we are. Florida is on the bottom looking up (granted, put them in almost any other division and they'd be second or third). The team formerly known as Pedro Martinez is showing why it takes more than one good starting pitcher to find success in baseball's toughest division. Philadelphia appears to be headed for their second straight year of falling short of expectations. The Nats are fading fast.

And ... as usual ... the Braves have found their way back to the top of the division. Admittedly, as I write, Atlanta, 6-4 in their last ten games is still a half game back of Washington, 2-8 over their last 10. You do the math, then add in the fact that Chipper Jones has just returned to the Braves lineup swinging a furious stick.

And so it appears the routine may continue. At the beginning of the season there is much talk about how invincible the other teams have become, and how many key pieces the Braves lost (and each year they seem to lose plenty), and then comes the grim foretelling of the end of the Atlanta dynasty. Then in September, just as routinely, we begin to realize that Atlanta has done just what they needed to do to fill their holes and we watch them take their place at the head of the pack. Slice it and dice it on paper all you want - I'll take the Braves, if for no other reason than that they're the Braves.

Some will smugly point out that just as routinely, the Braves exit the post-season early. Yeah. Shameful compared to all those other teams that have won their division 13 162-game seasons in a row.

-- B --

After all the fury and surprise of the first half of the season, the enamoration with Boston reveling in its first Pennant in ions, all the defiant cries that the curse has ended, and Sammy Sosa ready to transfer all the success that he created as a Cub to Baltimore, (and that's pretty much where it ends - top to bottom the AL East isn't nearly as impressive as the NL East) look where we are.

Baltimore is hanging in right now, although Sosa's value appears to be all in what he might still be able to fetch in a trade. And Boston, having just dropped 3 of 4 to the Yankees at Fenway, has ceded first place to their white-hot with black pinstriped rivals.

The curse is over? Yeah right. How many Sox fans do you figure are thinking, "Not again!" right now? 90% or 95%? Nothing like dropping three, including a brief pounding of your emotional icon Curt Shelling, at home to bring that curse right back to front and center.

-- B --

This is simply to say that the world order might not be as new as many thought back in May when the Yanks were struggling, Chipper was on the D.L. and Steinbrenner was reaching for his checkbook. Will New York and Atlanta come out of the east in their respective leagues? Too soon to tell. One has to be especially concerned with the Yanks' tendency to give up double-digit runs every night. No pitching staff has the right to expect their bats to dig them out of that kind of hole every night.

Point is, the roads to October lead through New York and Atlanta, despite what you may have heard.


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