Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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Rays high five.jpg1. Rays:  Ho-hum, another two of three in each of their series last week. It’s exactly that kind of tick-tock boredom that is the stuff of division titles.

2. Yankees:  If one bum starting pitcher is your biggest problem, you’re doing pretty well.

3. Twins: Beating up on the Indians and the Royals may not be all that impressive, but it’s not like the Twins made the schedule. They’re winning the games they’re supposed to be winning and are continuing to look strong. Their next several games are against the Tigers, Indians and Orioles, so it’s only getting moderately harder as the month wears on.

4. Phillies: Dropping two of three to the Dbacks are one of those things that make you go hmmm, but after dismantling the Braves in the final two games of that series and then hopping a cross-country flight before Friday’s game, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.  Now it’s three against the Giants. Anyone think Roy Halladay is going to have any problems against that offense tonight? Nah, me neither. The bigger question is whether the rest of the rotation can get anyone out who isn’t wearing a Braves uniform.

5. Cardinals: Three runs scored in their last three games. I’m tempted to say “Forget it Jake, it’s China Basin.”

6. Athletics: So far so good for an A’s team that is exceeding expectations, but one wonders if all the nagging injuries are going to catch up soon. You can’t get rich, after all, betting on things like “Eric Chavez is going to carry the offense.”

7. Padres: I still refuse to believe that they’re anywhere near as good as their record, but what happens on the field matters more than my beliefs.

8. Giants: Two out of three from the Cardinals is spiffy, but the return of the 2009 offense is not: 11 runs scored in their last seven games.

9. Angels: Series wins against Detroit and New York show that, slowly but surely, the Halos are righting the ship.

10. Tigers: The biggest question in Detroit: what’s wrong with Rick Porcello?


11. Rockies: Movin’ time: the Rockies being a stretch of 12
straight against the NL West.

12. Marlins: A nine-game
homestand awaits. Literally dozens of people will now get to see what
this team is made of.

13. Blue Jays: The concerns for this
team at this moment in time are more existential in nature than they
are competitive. Like, can they survive in Toronto. Interesting
article
. I’d be more sympathetic if the article wasn’t framed with
the plight of how hard it is to be a ticket scalper, because ticket
scalpers are a nothing but wretched hive of scum and villainy.

14.
Nationals
: As
Chris Needham notes
, you can squint a little bit at this team and
see a legitimately respectable bunch. It could all go sideways tomorrow,
but as I sit here right now I have no basis for saying that they’re
worse than any number of other teams.

15. White Sox: Columnist
writes obituary
, team sweeps weekend series. They need a few more
wins to start playing the “no one believes in us” card with gusto, but
it’s a start.

16. Mets: I can’t decide if they’ve really
turned the corner or if they just had the good fortune to play the Cubs
and Braves at their absolute worst. Let’s give them the benefit of the
doubt, though. They’ve gotten good starting pitching, Ike Davis has
given the fans something positive to talk about and the lineup shuffle
is working out. 

17. Cubs: It’ll take more than three
days of good baseball for me to give the “buy” recommendation on these
guys, but it was three days of good baseball. I missed Saturday’s game,
so I’m still waiting to see Zambrano come out of the pen.

18.
Rangers
: Adam
Morris at Lone Star Ball
pretty much sums up the feelings of fans
for every team not at the very top or the very bottom of this list when
he says “[w]hat is particularly annoying about being two games under
.500 is that
you can sit here and say, if we had just won this game, or this one,
we’d be at .500.  Just one loss that could have been a win.  And .500
feels a whole lot different than 2 games under.”  Ah, April.

19.
Red Sox
: Two of three from Texas, two of three from Baltimore, more
chances per-week to see a knuckleballer pitch . . . baby steps.

20.
Mariners
: Cliff comes back this week. All other comments about this
team are on hold until we see how it goes.

21. Brewers:
Trevor Hoffman pitched in a game with a 20-run lead last week. He also
pitched in a game while behind by 10. Let’s hear it for the Brewers for
confounding our tired old expectations about how to use a bullpen.

22.
Diamondbacks
: An 11 game road trip starts tonight. Why so long? Is
there a convention in town or something?

23. Braves:  The
only silver lining to their atrocious week is that, given how poorly
everyone is hitting the ball, the chance that hitting coach Terry
Pendleton will be given the manager’s job after the season is much, much
lower than it had been before. 

24. Dodgers: Dropping
series to the Reds and the Nats is not something a contender does, and
as I see this team right now, they’re not a contender.

25.
Astros
: Lance Berkman coming back made this team look a lot more
respectable.

26. Royals: I rip Dayton Moore a lot, but
this quote after the Royals cut Juan Cruz the other day actually made me
have sympathy for the guy: “We looked real smart and real aggressive
when we signed Juan Cruz. Now we look real stupid for signing
Juan Cruz.” Sometimes it just seems that everything turns to poop in
Kansas City.

27. Reds:
Lost in the talk of when Aroldis Chapman may come up is whose place he’d
take in the rotation. Homer Bailey is out of options and can’t be sent
down and Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake have actually pitched well. Do you
pull a Zambrano with Aaron Harang and make him a reliever?

28.
Indians
: They won some games and lost some games last week, but all
were lopsided affairs. The Pirates did that too, just before going into
the tank.

29. Orioles: It’s around 1PM on Monday as I
write this and, contrary to my prediction, Dave Trembley hasn’t been
fired yet. Does one win against the Red Sox really count for that much?

30.
Pirates
:  One of the ugliest weeks of baseball I’ve seen from a
team in a long, long time.

Is Bud Black the favorite to be the next Braves manager?

Bud Black
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We talked last week about how Fredi Gonzalez is likely a dead man walking as the Braves manager. They stink, he’s a lame duck and part of the team’s whole marketing thrust is “2017 will be a new beginning,” what with the new ballpark and all. It stands to reason that Mr. Gonzalez doesn’t have long for this world.

Last week I suspected he’d be fired tomorrow, the Braves off day before a home stand. They’ve won in the past week, but it still wouldn’t shock me. Even if firing Gonzalez would be an act of scapegoating. It’s the roster that’s the problem, not the manager, even though Fredi doesn’t exactly inspire anyone.

Today Bob Nightengale throws this into the mix:

As of yet he hasn’t followed that up with an actual column or more tweets about who, exactly, considers Black to be the heavy favorite, but there’s a definitiveness to that which makes me think he’s heard something solid.

Black, as you know, was the long time Padres manager who had an unsuccessful flirtation with the Nationals before they hired Dusty Baker this past offseason. Black is now cooling his heels with his longtime boss Mike Scioscia in Anaheim, in what is clearly a “wait for his next managing opportunity” posture.

Could it be in Atlanta? At least one national writer and some nebulous group of insiders believe so, it would seem.

The Reds bullpen set a record for futility

Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher J.J. Hoover reacts after giving up a solo home run to Chicago Cubs' Javier Baez, left, during the ninth inning of a baseball game Friday, April 22, 2016, in Cincinnati. The Cubs won 8-1. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Associated Press
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I mentioned this in the recaps this morning but it’s worthy of its own post.

The Cincinnati Reds’ bullpen gave up two runs last night. In so doing it made for the 21st consecutive game in which it has allowed at least one run. That’s a new major league record, having surpassed the 2013 Colorado Rockies’ record of 20, according to Elias.

Last year the Reds set a record — shattered it, really — by going with rookie starting pitchers in 64 straight games to end the season. Those guys aren’t rookies anymore, but they’re still really inexperienced. They could probably use some better bullpen help than they’ve been getting.

Headline of the Day– A-Rod: “Trophy Boyfriend”

Alex Rodriguez
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For as long as there have been couples, the woman in a couple has been publicly defined by the man’s life and accomplishments. It doesn’t matter if the woman cures cancer, walks on the moon or wins the Eurovision Song Contest, when news stories or obituaries are written, she is invariably referred to as “wife of ___” or “girlfriend of ___.” Even if the guy is a grade-A schmuck.

While that pattern still persists, it’s nice to see someone flip the script on it once in a while. Like The Cut did in its story about a new, high-profile couple going public:

 

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The couple: Alex Rodriguez and Anne Wojcicki. Who, if you were unaware, is a Silicon Valley biotech CEO and a billionaire. She went to Yale, played varsity hockey in college and is a mother. Alex Rodriguez is accomplished and famous, but outside of the sports bubble he’s a padawan to Wojcicki’s master Jedi. Despite this, in places other than The Cut, it would still not be surprising to see her referred to as “A-Rod’s girlfriend,” because that’s just how people roll. Here’s hoping others take The Cut’s lead when referring to women in the public sphere more often.

A related note: in the rare cases when a famous male personality is identified in reference to his female partner and not the other way around, people like to make jokes and like to question the masculinity of the man. Which is equally stupid. And, to the man in question, should be utterly beside the point.

To that end, I think it’s worth noting that Alex Rodriguez has been involved with several women who, outside of baseball, are far more famous than he is and it’s never seemed to be an issue for him whatsoever. People like to say a lot of things about A-Rod’s ego and personality, but in this respect I bet he’s a hell of a lot better adjusted, grounded and self-assured than the vast majority of men who might find themselves in his place.

Video: Jeff Samardzija breaks a bat over his knee after striking out

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 8.23.03 AM
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Jeff Samardzija had a great night last night. He allowed one run on three hits over eight innings and picked up the win. In the early going he’s proving wrong those who thought that the Giants overpaid for him and is providing solid performance from the third spot in the Giants rotation. It’s all good.

But good is not always good enough for a professional athlete. Especially one like Samardzija, who excelled in multiple sports and likely can count his lifetime athletic failures on one hand. No, when you’re wired like that you get upset even when you’re excellent because sometimes you want to be perfect.

For example, most pitchers don’t get too worried about striking out. They’re there to pitch, not bat. They turn on their heel and calmly walk back to the dugout. Samardzija, however, got a bit irate when he struck out. Then he did this: