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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, July 8, 2012 at 8:25 AM

The Major-League Baseball All-Star Game this Tuesday night has had its fair share of controversy what with National League manager Tony LaRussa already having upset folks in Cincinnati (no RHP Johnny Cueto nor 2B Brandon Phillips) but wait till some of you baseball fans see our NL Report Card Grades for the first half of this 2012 season!

Here goes (and note all records below are through Thursday's games) ...

THE NATIONAL LEAGUE

GRADE: A+

WASHINGTON (48-32) -The Nationals get our one-and-only "A+" grade in this year's Jim Sez MLB First-Half Report Cards (remember we handed out straight A's to three American League teams -the Texas Rangers, New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox) ... and why not? Davey Johnson's squad sports the best team ERA in the senior circuit (3.21) and there's true star power now in the everyday lineup with OF Bryce Harper a thrill-a-minute player and 3B Ryan Zimmerman getting his groove back on after missing a bunch of games. Now, can Washington's new "Nat-itude" hold up for a whole, long hot summer?

GRADE: A

PITTSBURGH (46-36) -No question that the Pirates have been a dynamic team (see 27-13 home record) and gotta put CF Andrew McCutchen (16 HRs and .356 BA) right there at/near the top when it comes to first-half NL MVP candidates but sheer fact that Buccos are feasting off weak NL Central (20-11) has us keeping'em from that sacred A+ grade here.

GRADE: B+

NEW YORK METS (45-38) -Okay, so the only thing holding Terry Collins' club from getting into the "A grade" category is that their lefty bats can't hit lefty pitching plus the Mets did lose 5-of-6 Subway Series games against the Yankees. Still, one of the real feel-good stories in MLB this year with RHP R.A. Dickey a real cult hero these days with his 12-1 record and don't forget LHP John Santana's no-hitter (first in the team's 50-year history) and 3B David Wright's MVP-caliber season.

GRADE: B

LOS ANGELES DODGERS (47-37) -Why does it seem like the Dodgers have been nose-diving for the past month-or-so? The fact remains that without CF Matt Kemp in the everyday lineup for most of this current campaign the Dodgers have hung in there (okay, only 12th in the NL in runs scored) but no ignoring the fact that journeyman LHP Chris Capuano (9-3, 2.62 ERA) has saved Don Mattingly's team big-time.

SAN FRANCISCO (45-38) -- In a glass-half-filled look at things, the G-men entered the weekend just 1 ½ games back of the archrival Dodgers even though RHP Tim Lincecum (3-9, 6.08 ERA) has been awful. Who knew that OFs Melky Cabrera (116 hits) and Angel Pagan would have combined for 206 hits through the first half of the season?

ST. LOUIS (44-39) -If the Cardinals thought they were gonna keep up that torrid pace from early in the year, they had another thing coming and you might question why St. Loo (yes, even without Albert Pujols anymore) don't have more wins with the top-scoring team in the league (see 416 runs).

CINCINNATI (44-38) -The Reds are right about where they figured to be at this point in time (88 over/under wins total this year) but why is this offense in this hitter-friendly ball park only eighth in the NL in runs scored this year? Maybe manager Dusty Baker should worry less about those All-Star Game snubs and more about his guys getting the key hit!

GRADE: C+

MILWAUKEE (38-44) -True, the Brewers are supposed to be a better-than-.500 team this year (see 85.5 for their over/under wins total) but they rank a lowly 13th in the league in team ERA and the defense -always a weakness with this franchise -doesn't often make up for shoddy pitching. Hey, don't look now but LF Ryan Braun is putting up MVP-like numbers again (23 HR, 59 RBI and .305 BA).

ATLANTA (43-39) -The Braves have been maddeningly inconsistent the first half of this season (okay, some may choose to call'em simply streaky) and there is no telling where this NL East club would be if closer Craig Kimbrel (23-of-24 saves) wasn't so terrific.

GRADE: C

ARIZONA (39-43) -Enough about the home fans booing RF Justin Upton, this club has to get its mind right and get its pitching straightened away as only LHP Wade Miley (9-5, 3.04) has carried his weight this season.

SAN DIEGO (34-50) -Fully expected the Padres to lose around 90 games this year but Bud Black's club is even more anemic than we thought while ranking 15th in the NL in runs scored and with nobody having hit more than 8 HRs (see Chase Headley ... note that OF Carlos Quentin does have 7 dingers in 101 at-bats but he's missed more than 60 games).

HOUSTON (32-51) -Since nothing was expected from this Astros club, we won't pound'em down grade-wise but they gotta be kidding with only 9 road wins!

GRADE: D

MIAMI (40-42) -The Marlins may have a beautiful new ballpark but the team has been a real stinker the first half of this season with a pitching staff that ranks 11th in the NL in team ERA plus this Miami attack ranks 12th in the league in runs scored with SS Jose Reyes having scored just 41 runs -not good. Throw in the Ozzie Gullen "Castro comments" and this has been a bitterly bad season through early July.

CHICAGO CUBS (31-51) -No wonder MLB Network analyst Larry Bowa was wondering aloud this past week why the dreadful Cubbies have two All-Stars this year (see 1B Bryan LaHair and SS Starlin Castro). Its safe to say that the North Siders are well on their way to a 100-loss season.
 
GRADE: F

PHILADELPHIA (37-47) -It's been an utter disaster for the Phillies so far in 2012 as 1B Ryan Howard (Achilles) has yet to take a swing and it took LHP Cliff Lee till July 4th (14 starts in all) to register his first win of the year. Body language on this bunch is terrible and maybe it is time for a housecleaning for this NL cellar dweller.

COLORADO (31-51) -We know, we know. Way back in early April here in a Jim Sez Preview column we advised you to go "over" 81 ½ wins with these Rockies and so go ahead and yell! The fact is this NL West crew is an absolute mess with a 5.36 team ERA (worst in the league, naturally) and how about OF Carlos Gonzalez who's putting up MVP numbers but nobody outside Denver knows it (see .336 BA with 17 HR and 58 RBI)?

NOTE: We will have plenty more NFL Team Capsules right here in Jim Sez throughout the month of July -so don't miss out!

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