Ever been to a surprise party?
You know, where the unsuspecting guest of honor walks into a room thinking it is empty only to be besieged by friends who yell "Surprise!''
That's about what has taken place in Major League Baseball over the first half of the season.
Yes, the usual suspects - the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies - are where everybody expected they would be, at or near the top.
But there are many teams - including the three most local fans follow - who have been the recipient of a surprise party.
Both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cleveland Indians have exceeded even the wildest expectations their rabid fans could have imagined.
The Pirates, who some figured might lose 100 games and few figured could have a winning season, are a legitimate contender in the National League Central.
It's the same scenario for the Indians, who were supposed to battle the Kansas City Royals for the American League Central basement. But the Tribe burst out of the gate so fast, it looked as if it might turn this six-month marathon into a sprint.
Finally, injuries and the percentages caught up to Cleveland. But the Indians still find themselves on top of a three-way race with the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox. Plus, they've got Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner back in the lineup.
Speaking of Ohio, its other team, the Cincinnati Reds, has been a major disappointment.
The season is half over and the Reds are showing no sense of urgency to get their act together. This team has too much talent to be playing this poorly, but this situation is starting to get serious.
Cincinnati seems to be going through the motions. Watch the Reds and Pirates play for a week and tell me which team wants it more and it won't be the one located at Joe Nuxhall Way.
I'll bet even Joe, who never had anything bad to say about his beloved Reds, couldn't have remained silent this long. The good news for the Reds is the NL Central remains ripe for the taking.
Both Los Angeles teams are involved in surprises. The Angels, who were supposed to flounder, are giving the defending American League champion Texas Rangers a run for their money. Yet, the Dodgers, who were going to make a resurgence under new manager Don Mattingly, have had no chance on the field due to the off-field ownership situation. Obviously, this is a lost season for one of baseball's top franchises.
One of the biggest surprises has been the play of the Arizona Diamondbacks, whose managing general partner is Mountain State native and long-time West Virginia University booster Ken Kendrick Jr. Last year, this team was offensively challenged. This year, it can score runs in bunches and is a threat in the NL?West.
Remember the season is just half over. There are many more surprise parties in store.
Contact Dave Poe at firstname.lastname@example.org