Second Half Stories to Follow by Chris Cwik July 14, 2011 Tonight’s games officially mark the beginning of the second half of the 2011 baseball season. While the first half provided fans with some great stories — such as Derek Jeter’s quest for 3,000 hits, Jose Bautista hitting like Barry Bonds or the Pittsburgh Pirates march back to respectability — the second half of the season should provide closure to certain stories, while extending the narratives of others. With the second half of the season starting tonight, here — in no particular order — are some of the major stories to follow. What the hell is going to happen to the Los Angeles Dodgers? Fans of both the Dodgers and Major League baseball can only hope there is some sort of progress made here before the season ends. It’s become pretty clear that Frank McCourt has no desire to go quietly into the night, even though his recent attempts to prolong MLB from completely ousting him seem futile at best. Problem is, McCourt is going to do whatever he can to fight MLB for as long as he can, so fans may not see a resolution to the Dodgers’ ownership problems by the time the season ends. As the trade deadline approaches, it’s unclear how the Dodgers are going to proceed with so much uncertainty surrounding the franchise. Andre Ethier is already reportedly fed up with the team’s financial issues, and free agents could shy away from the team if this issue isn’t solved by the time the off-season rolls around. What will Jose Reyes and Albert Pujols get on the free agent market and where will they go? Due to his strong play during the first half, Jose Reyes’ contract has been a major topic of conversation recently. Lost in the shuffle — perhaps due to his injury — is Albert Pujols, who is also set to be a free agent once the season ends. While Reyes has grabbed the spotlight more recently, Pujols has been the best player in baseball over the last decade and should be in line for a major payday once the season ends. These two players will likely be the premier free agents on the market this Summer, and it will be interesting to see the rumors start to fly as the season reaches it’s end. Who is the real AL MVP? Through the first half of the 2011 season, Jose Bautista was easily the best player in baseball. Eric Seidman told you as much earlier today when he outlined Bautista’s dominance over his competition. For some reason, though, Adrian Gonzalez continues to gain supporters despite being worth nearly two wins less than Bautista. This issue will be another test of old-school vs new-school statistics, as Gonzalez’s case seems to be built around his team’s performance, RBI and other fun traditional stats that he has little control over. Let me make one thing clear though — the only way I’m voting for Gonzalez is if he ends up leading the league in OPSBIs. Other stories that may just interest me. – How will the borderline contenders — Cleveland, LA Angels, Pittsburgh and Arizona — proceed going forward? Who will go for broke at the trade deadline? Who will re-evaluate? – Will the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds finally live up to their lofty pre-season expectations? – How many wins will Jose Bautista actually be worth once the season ends? We could be in for a ridiculous number. – How many 30-30 players will we have at the end of the year? Right now, Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun, B.J. Upton and Curtis Granderson are all on pace to reach the mark; while Ian Kinsler, Andrew McCutchen, Justin Upton, Carlos Gonzalez and Chris Young all have an outside shot at reaching the milestone with strong second halves. – Will a starting pitcher post a sub-2 ERA? Jair Jurrjens and Jered Weaver are the only two pitchers who were able to carry a sub-2 ERA through the first half of the season. Those are some of the stories worth following as the second half of the season begins tonight. This list is far from comprehensive, so let’s add to it. What will you be watching for in the second half of the season?