Waiting for what's supposed to happen

I was looking at the National League standings this morning, and couldn't help noticing that the big things that were supposed to happen haven't happened.

Not yet, anyway.

In the National League East, the Phillies were supposed to have caught the Braves by now, what with bringing up Domonic Brown and getting Chase Utley off the DL and acquiring Roy Oswalt. Well, Oswalt's pitched well but Brown and Utley have struggled, and the Phillies are still 2-1/2 games behind the Braves. The Phillies still have a great shot at the East crown or the wild card -- they're throwing a pretty fantastic lineup out there every day, and nobody can match Oswalt and Roy Halladay at the top of the rotation -- but it's far from a sure thing.

In the Central, the Cardinals were supposed to show these upstart Reds how it's done. Remember that embarrassing sweep two weeks ago, the one that moved the Reds from three games ahead of the Cardinals to one game behind? Remember how the pundits said the Cardinals had made a statement?*

* I don't actually remember this, myself? I'm just sort of guessing, because that's the sort of things the pundits used to say when I paid more attention to pundits. If the pundits actually said we shouldn't take too much meaning from one three-game series, even one that seemed as pivotal as this one, please let me know.

Well, since that embarrassing sweep the Reds have won nine of 12 games while the Cardinals have lost seven of 11. Funny thing is, I still think the Cardinals are going to eventually show these upstart Reds how it's done. Because somebody actually can match Halladay and Oswalt: Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter ... while nobody can match Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. (Not in the National League, anyway.)

It's going to be a close-run thing, either way.

It won't be close in the West, though. The San Diego Padres were supposed to fall back to the pack. In March, they were supposed finish fifth. In April, they were supposed to finish fourth. In May ... well, you get the idea. As recently as a month ago, you could have gotten pretty decent odds that somebody would catch the Padres.

It's not going to happen, because they have the best run differential in the whole league and they just keep winning. And is this the right time to mention that their opening day payroll was lower than (gulp) the Pirates'? And that their highest-paid player (Chris Young) has pitched exactly once all season?

There are a lot of great stories this season. There are a lot of great stories every season. But I'm fairly sure there's not a better story than this one. We should finally get to hear more about it in October.