DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The best players in major league baseball take the field tonight in New York. Fans voted for their favorites in the American and National Leagues. The All-Star game is an exhibition - or mostly an exhibition - and there is a real prize. The winner gets home-field advantage during the World Series. The game also offers a chance to check on how teams are doing midway through the season.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Here to talk all things baseball is NPR's Mike Pesca. Good morning.
MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Hi. So here I am on 42nd Street, where the New York studios are. There is a red carpet on 42nd Street, like for a mile in the middle of 42nd Street.
MONTAGNE: Red carpet.
PESCA: I mean I'm all for baseball but traffic is a nightmare.
MONTAGNE: Well, I'm wondering what they're going to be wearing. No. I won't say that.
PESCA: They're going to be wearing trucks, actually.
PESCA: The players are parading down in trucks. Municipality do weird things when it comes to pro sports, often against their own self interests. Anyway.
MONTAGNE: OK. So let's talk teams though, here while we have a few minutes.
MONTAGNE: I guess the most surprising team has to be the Pittsburgh Pirates. And they're surprising because I think 20 straight losing seasons, but it seems to be finally Pittsburgh's year.
PESCA: It does seem that way. They are 19 games above 500, although, the last year at one point, there were 16 games above 500 and they still, as you say, lost that year - as they have for so many. So with Pittsburgh fans, usually when a team is having a great year, they beg me as a sports reporter hey, you got to talk about them. Pittsburgh fans are little muted, like let's make sure they had a winning season, get to the playoffs and then we'll start talking about their league best ERA and great young hitters. But I do think this is the year they at least have a winning season.
MONTAGNE: On the losing side, the defending champions, San Francisco Giants are currently eight games under 500. And here in Los Angeles, the Dodgers aren't faring much better.
PESCA: Yeah, that's true. The Giants have, you know, we can pinpoint their problems as pitching and hitting. They've had a really bad year this year and I don't know if they're going to have a much better second half. The Dodgers have been disappointing, just because they have the second-highest payroll in baseball. The Yankees have the highest payroll in baseball and they've been somewhat disappointing. People expected that. A lot of the Yankees payroll is dead money and players who are hurt, like A-Rod and Derek Jeter.
Another kind of disappointing team, also a Los Angeles, are the Angels of Anaheim, and they seem to land the biggest slugging free agents and pay them the most money. Guys like Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton and those guys have just not contributed well offensively. They also land guys who aren't the biggest free agents but pay them a lot of money - pitchers like Joe Blanton who have been awful. So down there in California there are a few bad and disappointing baseball teams.
MONTAGNE: Well, let's spend the next minute talking about the players. Last year, the Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera was the first player to win the Triple Crown in 45 years. How is his encore season going?
PESCA: I mean, so well. He's leading the league in batting. He's doing it with power. And he would be tops in Triple Crown categories, but for this guy on the Orioles, Chris Davis who has 37 home runs. It's the most home runs in the American League before the All-Star break - ever. So Cabrera is having an excellent season, but let's also point out that Davis is doing really well too.
MONTAGNE: So you have 25 seconds worth of predictions for the second half of the season?
PESCA: Yeah. I do. A lot of years there are teams that seem to be over performing. Their record is, you know, a lot better than it should be, if you look at things like run differential. Not so much this year, but the Yankees actually have been getting a little lucky, but they are getting Derek Jeter back, perhaps, a young pitcher like Michael Pineda will help and contribute. And I do think, I'll throw this out there, the Colorado Rockies might do a little bit better in the second half, they have exciting young players. And I just feel like I talk about the Yankees too much sometimes, so let us talk of the Colorado Rockies and perhaps a chance to make the playoffs.
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MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Mike Pesca. He'll be at tonight's All-Star baseball game at Citi Field in New York. And Mike, thanks.
PESCA: You're welcome.
MONTAGNE: You're listening to NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.