Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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Here’s something new. And something that, once we get a couple of weeks under our belt, will hopefully be fun.  Power rankings. Yes, lots of places do them. No they don’t mean a thing, especially in baseball. But I’m a college football fan who is kind of addicted to arguing over arbitrary rankings that are borne out of bias and ignorance and all manner of ill-will (and don’t you think I don’t know it, you Big Ten haters!), so I think it will be fun to do these once a week.

Beefing, moaning, defending, gloating and denying should be directed to the comments section:

1. Yankees: To be the man, you gotta beat the man.
2. Cardinals: El Hombre homered as I was writing this. He’s the man.
3. Rays: They have a chance to make me look real dumb this year.
4. Braves: They have a greater chance to make me look dumb.
5. Phillies: One of my bosses is a big Phillies guy. He’s probably not liking this.
6. Red Sox: Another of my bosses is a big Red Sox guy. I know he hates this.
7. Rockies: Seth Smith gets the nod over Fowler for the opener.
8. Angels: I wonder how short a leash they have with Brandon Wood.
9. Twins: First ten games against Angels, Chisox and Bosox. Not easy.
10. Dodgers: I feel like I have them too low, but I don’t know who to bump.
11. Tigers:  First nine against the Royals and Indians. Fast start, one would hope.
12. Rangers: Feliz is the setup man. Why is everyone so afraid to develop starters these days?
13. White Sox: I predict Ozzie Guillen’s tweets cease within a week of Opening Day
14. Marlins: They’ll feel low early, but they’ll die by attrition, not obvious incompetence.
15. Reds: I’m fine with them losing the traditional first game. The Red Stockings were a different franchise.
16. Giants: Lincecum and Cain and three days of rain? Only if it rains hitters.
17. Brewers: A team full of third and fourth starters.
18. Mariners: Seven of their first ten games are against the A’s. They should sign Cust for spite.
19. Cubs: Big hopes placed on Zambrano and Soto comebacks. What if they suck again? Uglyville, that’s what.
20. Orioles: Reporter Scott Templeton assigned to get quotes outside Camden Yards on Opening Day
21. Mets: Their cleanup hitter is a Royals non-tender. And people think I’m pessimistic?
22. Athletics: They should sign Edgar Martinez just for spite.
23. Diamondbacks: First six against Padres and Pirates. Who will be the first reporter to get suckered?
24. Nationals: Obama on Opening Day a mere dress rehearsal for Strasburg’s arrival.
25. Astros: They offer Jeff Keppinger a no-trade clause yet?  That’s their thing, right?
26. Blue Jays: No games against the Yankees until June. How does that happen?
27. Royals: First 12 against Tigers, Red Sox and Twins. 3-9?
28. Padres: Yesterday’s earthquake will be the most action at Petco Park sees all season.
29. Indians: The post-game show is brought to you by…
Christ, I can’t find it. To hell with it.

30. Pirates: Garrett Jones has hit two homers since I started writing this post. There’s hope.

I’m guessing these will change once the games actually start happening.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.