After going 74-88 last year, Oakland lost Josh Willingham to free agency and traded away three All-Star pitchers: Andrew Bailey (to Boston), Trevor Cahill (to Arizona) and Gio Gonzalez (to Washington). Who knew the returns would be this good this soon? The A's went 16-2 to open July with big help from players they received from Arizona (Jarrod Parker, Ryan Cook), Washington (Tommy Milone) and Boston (Josh Reddick).Boston burnout
This could be Boston's third consecutive season without making the playoffs. Outfielder Carl Crawford looks like he will need Tommy John surgery this fall. Josh Beckett and Jon Lester need a change of scenery. Including last September's collapse, the Red Sox are 16-32 in the past 48 games started by Beckett or Lester, so the public's blame falls to them.Signs of life in Philly
Nobody would have predicted the Cardinals winning last year's World Series when they were 10 1/2 games back in the wild-card standings Aug. 24, so don't count out the Phillies. They were 41-54 before winning four consecutive games in their final at-bat. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are back, and instead of trading Cole Hamels, they gave him a $144 million contract. With 254 consecutive sellouts at Citizens Bank Park, they owe it to their fans to keep fighting.