Sideline View by Dale McKee

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According to John Adams, signer of the Constitution, the Fourth of July is a day that should be fun. We should delight in playing games, having parades, enjoying picnics and shooting fireworks all across this great country in grand celebration. Another American tradition on this holiday is that baseball fans take a look at Major League baseball standings to see who is in first place to predict what is ahead in the second half of the season.

The MLB playoff format now includes two wild card teams and a daily schedule of interleague play. Back when I was a child, the Fourth of July was a benchmark of the season. Statistics showed that approximately 80 percent of the time, teams in first place on the Fourth stayed there.

A quick look at the American League has Cleveland, Houston and either New York or Boston leading the divisions. The Yankees and the Red Sox are swapping places in the standings almost daily.Wildcard teams as of the Fourth of July are Seattle and either New York or Boston. Cleveland holds the biggest lead on the Fourth while New York, Boston, Houston and Seattle are playing above .600 for the year. The American League races are mostly over for this regular season.

The National League has a trio of surprise teams -- Atlanta, Milwaukee and Arizona -- leading the divisions along with the Chicago Cubs and another shocker in Philadelphia as the wildcard teams at this point. The L.A. Dodgers, Washington, St. Louis and San Francisco all have hope of taking part in the playoffs this year while everyone else has little hope.

The Braves hold a slim lead over Philadelphia and Washington in the National League east on July 4th. The Braves have not won a division title since 2005, although they made the one-game playoff game (2012) in its first year of existence. Remember the famous infield fly call against the St. Louis Cardinals. That ump should have been tarred and feathered.

Washington worries me a little bit because they have not had a hot streak all year. So they are ready for a good run that could make things a little more interesting than they have been through the first half. Washington has the most talented rookie in several years in Juan Soto. The 19-year-old has hit .336 with eight homers and 21 RBIs in his first 116 career at-bats. The Nationals’ best player for the last several seasons is Bryce Harper and he is only hitting .221 through the weekend. If he gets hot, the Nationals could give the Braves a run for the money.The Braves struggled against a couple of last place teams in Baltimore and Cincinnati recently but went into St. Louis and swept the Cardinals this past weekend. Atlanta is led by a couple veterans in Freddie Freeman (.317) and Nick Markakis (.323) and a solid pitching staff.

Baseball old timers are talking about all the strikeouts in the majors these days. Here is one stat for today’s young guns: Chipper Jones played almost two decades and never struck out over 100 times in a year.

Big NBA News
The big news in basketball is the L.A. Lakers’ signing of LeBron James to a four-year, $150 million contract.

Special Shout Out
It would not be right not to wish my oldest sister a happy 60th birthday (July 7). Proud of you, Dr. Suzanne M. Waddell! Sister taught at both Mississippi State in Meridian and USM in Hattiesburg. She is semi-retired as she has the pleasure of keeping up with her two grandsons.

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