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Imagine if I had told you that the two Florida teams, the Rays and Marlins (or maybe the two Chicago teams), would be outdoing the two New York teams as midseason approached.

Imagine if I had told you that a team (Oakland) that had traded its ace (Dan Haren) would have the majors' best rotation ERA and the team (Seattle) that obtained an ace (Bedard) and signed the largest free-agent contract with a pitcher (Carlos Silva) would have the AL's worst rotation ERA.

This is the 2008 season, a campaign of shock and awe. The script has not been re-written. It has been shredded. The AL has been topsy and the NL, its brother, turvy. We knew the Red Sox would be good, but not the White Sox. We knew the Giants would be bad, but not the Rockies. And if you had any thoughts at all about Edinson Volquez before the season, well, the Mets are looking for a few good scouts.

So in honor of a season in which Tampa Bay might become the second team ever to go from the majors' worst record one year to the playoffs the next (thanks, Elias), Hardball has decided to honor the stunning — both good and bad. We have cast our All-Star ballots for the most pleasant surprises and biggest disappointments to date:



Jesus Flores, Nationals. Was up to .308 with a .525 slugging percentage to gain the starting job on a team that had signed Met discards Paul Lo Duca and Johnny Estrada. But the Mets' problem is they lost a talented, young catcher when they did not protect Flores in the 2006 Rule 5 draft, but did protect — among others — Julio Franco, Alay Soler, Jon Adkins, Ben Johnson and Steve Schmoll.


Kenji Johjima, Mariners. There are many legitimate candidates such as Detroit's Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez and Cleveland's Victor Martinez, who have combined for one homer. But consider that Seattle gave Johjima a three-year, $24 million extension in April, and he isn't even the starter anymore due, in part, to the majors' second-worst OPS (On-base plus slugging) of .564 (minimum 200 plate appearances).

First base


Carlos Quentin, White Sox. Philadelphia's Pat Burrell and Pittsburgh's Jason Bay have had revivals. But even with a June swoon, Quentin's 17 homers are a revelation.


Carl Crawford, Rays. He has produced between 54 and 63 extra-base hits over the past four seasons. He had just 17 in 2008 even with that game-altering grand slam Thursday against the Cubs.

Center field


Josh Hamilton, Rangers. It is tough to go against Pittsburgh's Nate McLouth (15 HRs, .928 OPS). But Hamilton has moved from an interesting story and hints of stardom to a guy who might challenge for a Triple Crown.


Andruw Jones, Dodgers. He has been on the DL for a month, but it is hard to forget what .165 looked like.

Right field


Ryan Ludwick, Cardinals. He had never before been able to hold onto a full-time job and already had a career-high (16) in HRs and RBIs (55).


Alex Rios, Blue Jays. An All-Star the past two years who was handed a seven-year contract in April, Rios had just three homers and his 27 RBIs are the fewest of any full-time AL right fielder.

Starting pitcher


Edinson Volquez, Reds. He had a career 7.20 ERA before this year and now might become the first Reds starter since Gary Nolan in 1972 to get under 2.00.


Phil Hughes/Ian Kennedy, Yankees. There are much-higher-priced flops such as San Francisco's Barry Zito, who has gone from bad to worse this year, and Seattle's Carlos Silva, Miguel Batista and Jarrod Washburn. But Hughes and Kennedy were not surrendered for Johan Santana and were bad, then hurt. Who envisioned both of them being badly outpitched by Darrell Rasner?

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: June 23, 2008

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News » What a nice surprise this MLB season has been

What a nice surprise this MLB season has been

What a nice surprise this MLB season has been
Imagine if on April 1 I had told you that the two best lefty starters in the AL were going to be Cleveland's Cliff Lee and Chicago's John Danks (or maybe the Angels' Joe Saunders and the Red Sox's Jon Lester) and the two that you thought it was going to be — Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia and Seattle's Erik Bedard — would be on the trading block by mid-June.

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