Surprise! The major league baseball season is half over. Of course, with 30 teams, hundreds of players and thousands of games, any baseball season is full of surprises. Here are some of the big surprises in the first half of the 2004 season.
Old Pitchers: Pitching is tough. Lots of pitchers hurt their arms throwing the fastballs and breaking stuff needed to be a major league starter. So it is always a surprise when anyone can be a good starting pitcher after age 35.
This year some of the best starters are the old guys. Roger Clemens (age 41) was ready to retire last season after winning 300-plus games in his Hall of Fame-worthy career. Well, the Rocket is back. Clemens has a 10-2 record for the Houston Astros and might start in the All-Star Game.
Randy Johnson (age 40) is going strong, too. The Big Unit became only the 17th major leaguer to throw a perfect game. Johnson sat down 27 straight Atlanta Braves batters earlier this season.
Don't forget Curt Schilling (age 37) of the Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets' Tom Glavine (age 38). Schilling entered last night's game with a 11-4 record, while Glavine has one of the best earned run averages in the National League.
New Teams: Everyone laughed when Manager Lou Piniella said that his Tampa Bay Devil Rays would not finish last in the American League East -- as they have for the last six years. No one is laughing now. The Rays are in third place, having passed the disappointing Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles.
The Texas Rangers are another surprise team. The Rangers traded superstar Alex "A-Rod" Rodriguez to the New York Yankees and . . . got better! How? They found a surprise ace in pitcher Kenny Rogers. The late-blooming (age 39) lefty is 12-2. And the Rangers have the best young infield around with first baseman Mark Teixeira, second baseman Alfonso Soriano, shortstop Michael Young and third baseman Hank Blalock. Who needs A-Rod?
Barry Bonds: The great San Francisco Giants slugger is still setting records. But surprise! The records are not for home runs. Sure, Bonds has slugged 23 dingers, but he's making most of his headlines just for walking to first base. Pitchers have walked Bonds more than 120 times in the first half of the season. More than 65 times the walk has been intentional. Bonds set the record for most walks in a career last week and at this pace will shatter the mark for most walks in a single season. (Bonds already holds the record: 198 walks in the 2002 season.)
The Yankees: No, it's not a surprise that the Yankees have the best record in baseball. The Bronx Bombers have baseball's biggest payroll and an all-star at almost every position.
But does that mean the Yanks are a shoo-in to win the World Series? Not necessarily. The Yanks' starting pitching is suddenly suspect with Kevin Brown hurt and Mike Mussina, Jon Lieber and Jose Contreras looking shaky. Who knows? The Yanks might tank.
Remember, baseball is full of surprises.
Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's Friday sports column and is the author of sports novels for kids.