A look back at the first half of the 2011 MLB season

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With Major League Baseball recently wrapping up its 2011 All-Star Game festivities, teams are now getting back from the break and gearing up for the second half of the season. There are currently 17 teams either leading their division or within six games of the leader, meaning more than half of the league is within shouting distance of making the playoffs. That's good news for fans as more competition yields more exciting games.

Before moving onto the second half of the MLB season, let's take a quick look back at how the season has shaped up thus far (all standings are as of the MLB All-Star break).

AL East

  W L GB
Boston Red Sox 55 35
New York Yankees 53 35 1
Tampa Bay Rays 49 41 6
Toronto Blue Jays 45 47 10.5
Baltimore Orioles 36 52 18

The American League East is once again considered the strongest division in baseball, boasting arguably three of the top four teams in all of baseball. After an awful 2-10 start to the season, the Boston Red Sox sit atop the division, holding a narrow lead over their rival, the New York Yankees, at the All-Star break. Both teams will undoubtedly continue to fight for the division, while the Tampa Bay Rays hope to quietly sneak up on the two baseball powerhouses.

Best Moment: Yankees legend Derek Jeter hit a solo home run during the Yankees July 9th game vs. the Tampa Bay Rays, reaching the historic milestone of 3,000 hits for his career. Nearly 50,000 fans piled into Yankee Stadium for the big moment. Fittingly, the Yankees won the game 5 to 4.

AL Central

  W L GB
Detroit Tigers 49 43
Cleveland Indians 47 42
Chicago White Sox 44 48 5
Minnesota Twins 41 48 6.5
Kansas City Royals 37 54 11.5

No team has separated itself as a contender in the AL Central yet, and the division is wide open. While Tigers and Indians are tied atop the division at the break, both the White Sox and Twins are within striking distance despite having losing records.

Best Moment: Without question, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen is the most entertaining person in baseball. Following an ejection during a game against the Yankees, Guillen went to the locker room and took to Twitter to criticize the umpires. Needless to say, the commissioners were not entertained; they suspended him for two games and fined him an undisclosed amount. Don't worry, Ozzie, I was entertained.

AL West

  W L GB
Texas Rangers 51 41
Los Angeles Angels 50 42 1
Seattle Mariners 43 48 7.5
Oakland Athletics 39 53 12

The AL West is the home of the defending American League Champion Texas Rangers, and the Rangers have picked up where they left off. The team leads the division but will have to fend off the Angels in the second half. The Mariners will hope to ride their young aces Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda to make a run at the division.

Best Moment: Ian Kinsler of the Rangers got off to a red-hot start to the season, hitting lead-off home runs against the Red Sox in the first two games of the season, becoming the first player in MLB history to accomplish that feat. He slacked off in the third game, waiting until the third inning to hit a home run.

NL East

  W L GB
Philadelphia Phillies 57 34
Atlanta Braves 54 38 3.5
New York Mets 46 45 11
Washington Nationals 46 46 11.5
Florida Marlins 43 48 14

The NL East has been all about one thing in 2011: the Philadelphia Phillies pitching staff. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels each had stellar first half performances, all making the NL All-Star Team. The Phillies have a league-best 3.02 ERA and will continue to win if the pitching keeps coming through. The Braves are not fading, though, and will stay tough all season.

Best Moment: On June 28th, the Boston Red Sox visited Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia with the league's most potent offensive attack, but left the park baffled by Cliff Lee. The All-Star pitcher tossed a complete-game, two-hit shutout, which put the Phillies at the top of the World Series favorites list.

NL Central

  W L GB
Milwaukee Brewers 49 43
St. Louis Cardinals 49 43
Pittsburgh Pirates 47 43 1
Cincinnati Reds 45 47 4
Chicago Cubs 37 55 12
Houston Astros 30 62 19

The NL Central has been the most competitive division in baseball this season, with four teams going into the All-Star break within four games of first place. Of course, the division is also home to two of the worst teams in baseball. Sorry Cubs and Astros fans, your teams are not good and it's not getting better any time soon.

Best Moment: While this is not considered a "moment," the Pittsburgh Pirates’ successful first half is definitely the feel-good story in baseball. The franchise has not finished with a winning record in nearly two decades, but now with a bunch of non-superstars, the Pirates have a chance to make it happen in 2011.

NL West

  W L GB
San Francisco Giants 52 40
Arizona Diamondbacks 49 43 3
Colorado Rockies 43 48 8.5
Los Angeles Dodgers 41 51 11
San Diego Padres 40 52 12

The San Francisco Giants are the defending World Series champions and are trying to make the first step towards repeating by winning the NL West. They ended the first half with a three-game lead, but the young Arizona Diamondbacks are not going down quietly. Many expect the Colorado Rockies to make a second half run after a disappointing start to the season.

Best Moment: At the beginning of every season, the World Series champion gets to have a special day with their fans when they raise their championship banner. In 2011, the Giants gave that celebration to their fans on April 8th vs. the St. Louis Cardinals. I'm not even a Giants fan, but watching the video gave me goose bumps.

I know I missed some of the great moments in baseball in 2011, so tell me what YOUR favorite moment so far has been! Let me know in the comments section!