During a Southwest Airlines flight to Seattle this week, my daughter Katie inadvertently brought a large pair of scissors in her carry-on bag. The fine TSA folks operating the x-ray gear didn't detect the sharp implement. Obviously, though, Katie isn't a terrorist. I mean, it's not as if she tried to sneak a 4-ounce bottle of shampoo on the plane!
While contemplating all of that, I'll fire off a baker's dozen thoughts about baseball at the break ...
1. Smart GMs of losing teams will do what Kenny Williams did last year (in acquiring Alex Rios) and add talented players for future seasons. It's one thing to throw away one bad season; why let it ruin an entire decade?
2. Aramis Ramirez, Faux Mr. Clutch, is at it again. Now that his Cubs are hopelessly out of the race - and with him having the right to opt out of his contract at season's end - he finally is hitting the way a cleanup hitter making monster money should. He did the same thing in 2006, getting hot just in time to get himself a huge new deal but not in time to keep Dusty Baker from getting fired.
3. It will be interesting to see which NL Central frontrunner, Cincinnati or St. Louis, will overcome major bullpen issues to take the division. Reds GM Walt Jocketty would love nothing more than to add a couple of the same quality arms the Cards no doubt want. Jocketty was great at making deadline deals before he was run out of St. Louis. Meanwhile, in the always-entertaining game within the games, it's Dusty vs. Tony - just as it was in '03 (with Dusty prevailing) and '04 (with Tony dominating).
4. The most overrated player in baseball in the season's first half: Joe Mauer in a landslide. The Twins can't afford to have their highest-paid player ever hit like Brian Harper.
5. If they can get reasonably healthy by mid-August and if they can hang close in the race, the Phillies will win the NL East again.
6. "This time it counts"? Yeah, but not in the ratings. Sorry, Bud, it's still an exhibition game. That's what happens when nearly 10 percent of the league's players are deemed All-Stars. It's pro sports. Everybody doesn't need to win a trophy.
7. The Padres authored the best story of the first half and I gotta admit that I'm rooting for them to hold on. It's pretty cool that even as management tries like hell to lose, the players just won't let it happen.
8. The Pirates should have to move out of PNC Park until they have a winning season. No team that bad should get to play in such a cool ballpark.
9. Ditto for the Orioles regarding Camden Yards.
10. Is it still Milton Bradley's fault that the Cubs suck?
11. Fear the Rockies.
12. Stephen Strasburg is the most-hyped 6-inning pitcher ever. Or at least since Greg Maddux returned to the Cubs in 2004. (And speaking of hyped, remember when Maddux was going to help teach Cra-Z Zambrano how to be more professional?)
13. Predicted playoff teams: Yankees, White Sox, Rangers, Rays (wild card), Phillies, Cardinals, Rockies, Dodgers (wild card). One more prediction: This is Lou Piniella's last season in Cubbieland but Jim Hendry will be around for one more try in 2011. For better or worse on both accounts.