Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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Carl Crawford running.jpg1. Rays: This week: a Yankees sandwich between two stale slices of bread (Cleveand and Houston). Hard to say what a two-game series really means in the grand scheme of things, but it’s probably the best time to be facing the Yankees.

2. Phillies: Philly takes the “team most likely to run away with their division” sash from the Cardinals, activates Jimmy Rollins and prepares to step on the gas.

3. Yankees: That Detroit series was trublesome. Yeah, the weather sucked, but it was the first time I’ve seen the Yankees appear aimless, for lack of a better term, in eons. Thank God for the Twins. And no, I’m not worried about Rivera yesterday. He’s entitled to a bad day once in a while.  Call me if and when he goes all Trevor Hoffman. Then I’ll worry.

4. Twins: Dropping two of three over the weekend in a week in which they only played five games normally wouldn’t entitle a team to rank 4th, but (a) it’s the Yankees, they’re just the Twins’ kryptonite so I’m not gonna hold it against them; and (b) I’m not really seeing anyone who deserves to rank higher than them at the moment.

5. Reds: Don’t pay too much attention to that overall run differential (-1) in determining whether or not this team is for real. They lost a few games big early and have been closing that gap quickly.

6. Tigers: Three of four from the Yankees, two of three from the Red Sox. I don’t care how bad a year one team is having and how many little bumps and bruises the other has, that’s a good weeks’ worth of work right there.

7. Dodgers:  Too high? I dunno. They’re the hottest team in baseball right now, so they deserve some kudos.  Everyone will be on pins and needles waiting to hear whether Ethier goes on the DL, however.

8. Blue Jays: This may be the longest I’ve gone into a season without seeing a “the [Team no one expected to do anything but lose] are really turning heads!” feature in a major publication or website. Did I just miss it, or are the Jays just not registering on anyone’s radar?

9. Padres: If they had started out the season like everyone expected them to no one would be saying anything, but since they went all contenderish on us, criticizing the Padres for their lack of offense is totally legitimate.

10. Giants: This week they get a chance for revenge against the Padres for that sweep last week. I like their chances.


11. Cardinals: Albert Pujols in the month of May: 14-for-55
(.255) with one homer.  I don’t expect that — or the Cards’ current
swoon — to last.

12. Rangers: Giving up 27 runs to the
Blue Jays this weekend wasn’t exactly how they drew it up. Perhaps they
should just do what I used to do when I had a bad weekend in Canada:
pretend it never happened. Of course my bad weekends in Canada used to
accompany bachelor parties and copious amounts of rye whiskey, so I
didn’t remember much of them to begin with.

13. Rockies:
Will Jeff Francis save the season?

14. Marlins: The Mets:
the pause that refreshes!

15. Nationals: Calling Drew
Storen up could turn what has been an adequate-though-unimpressive
bullpen into a team strength.  Now, for that move with the rotation . . .

16.
Braves
: The offense is waking up, thanks in part to Bobby Cox
installing Eric Hinske in left field. Now, if only the gurgling,
swirling vortex of suck that is Melky McLouth would just go away.  What?
You mean they’re two different guys?

17. Red Sox: David
Ortiz heats up, Victor Martinez stays cool and the Yankees and Twins are
on tap.  The Sox have been playing better baseball lately, but they
need to step on the gas if they want to make any noise in this division.

18.
Athletics
: Justin Duchscherer was a high-risk, high-reward signing
to begin with this year, but losing him still stings.  Bill Beane went
up to the rooftop to flash the Jack Cust signal, but even the Three True
Outcomes king isn’t likely to right this listing ship.

19.
Mets
: If the A’s are listing, the Mets are hanging from the
Christmas Tree on the S.S. Poseidon.  Jerry Manuel plays the Leslie
Neilson role. And remember kids, this was back before Leslie Neilson was
funny. Dude plays the captain and he dies in the first half hour.

20.
Pirates
: The Pirates made the Reds look like they were pitching in
the Dead Ball era, and then came back and put 10 up on the Cubs Friday
night. This probably says something about all three of these teams.

21.
Cubs
: I’m just mad at these guys for
making me write that Alan Trammell isn’t the answer
this morning.
Alan Trammell is always the answer, in almost every context. In this he
is like Batman.

22. Angels: Only two and a half back. The
Angels are a big train that takes forever to get moving, but they
always move.  I get this funny feeling we’ll be having the same
conversation this fall that we always have: “wow, how did anyone doubt
these guys back in May?”

23. Indians: I’m just waiting for
the first “what will LeBron’s free agency mean for the Indians”
article, because you know it’s coming.

24. Brewers: Ken
Macha has to be on the hot seat right now, no? I mean, this is a team
that fired its manager a week before it went to the playoffs a couple of
years ago.

25. White Sox: “They’re universally poor in
all phases of the game; offense, pitching,
baserunning, defense and coaching all deserve some of the blame. But the
largest share of the blame (aside from obviously underperforming
players) has to lie with the front office who allowed a team to be
constructed in such a manner that nearly everything had to break
right just for the Sox to compete.”  And
this is a Sox blog, talking
.

26. Mariners: As David
Cameron points out
, 22 of the Mariners
next 29 games come against teams currently over .500.

27.
Diamondbacks
: I didn’t think the Dbacks pen could be as bad as
their numbers suggested, but then I watched their series against the
Braves and all was confirmed.

28. Astros: On pace to be
one of the worst offenses of all time. Which in that park is saying
something.

29. Royals: Ned Yost should retire right now
and leave as the winningest manager (percentage wise) in Royals history.

30.
Orioles
: The Orioles’ starting first baseman has zero home runs and
six RBI in 107 plate appearances this season.

Wanna work as a baseball broadcaster for free?

Two drake Mallard ducks fly over Lake Erie near the Cleveland shoreline, Tuesday, April 1, 2014, in Cleveland. Warming temperatures have brought a variety of waterfowl to the area as they stage for the northern migration. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
AP Photo/Mark Duncan
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(Hat tip to @ItsTonyNow on Twitter for pointing this story out.)

The Madison Mallards are a collegiate summer baseball team in Wisconsin. College players join the league to have an opportunity to showcase their talents for scouts. Though they’re not exactly the New York Yankees, the Mallards do relatively well for themselves. In 2013, they had the highest average attendance among amateur teams, per The Capital Times.

That makes one of their latest job postings seem rather curious. The Mallards are looking for someone to handle both play-by-play broadcasting duties as well as media relations, as seen in this post. Only one problem: the position is unpaid. Here’s the full description (emphasis mine):

The Madison Mallards are looking for an enthusiastic and ambitious individual to join the front office as the Radio Broadcaster.

This position will manage all day-to-day media relations duties and act as the traveling secretary on all road trips. This is a seasonal position, beginning in May 2016 and ending in mid-August. This position is unpaid. The candidate will serve as the full-time radio broadcaster, traveling with the team during the season.

Duties and responsibilities include but are not limited to:
* Write press releases promoting team initiatives including post-game recaps for the team website.
* Coordinate all aspects of team travel including notifying restaurants, hotels, and other teams, getting team orders, room assignments, etc.
* Broadcast all 72 Northwoods League games on 1670 The Zone including pre- and post-game shows, during the regular season (and playoffs if necessary).
* Ability to work long hours, including weekends, as business indicates.
* Strong written and verbal communication skills
* Produce radio commercials for the Mallards and business partners
* Work closely with GM and Corporate Service team to include all sponsor and promotional live reads each gameUpdate the Mallards website daily
* Other duties as assigned by GM

The habit of baseball teams looking for free labor isn’t exactly new. The U.S. Department of Labor investigated the Giants and Marlins in 2013 for possible wage law violations. That included the Giants being investigated for “possible improper use of unpaid interns.” The Giants ended up paying $544,715 in back wages. In a memo that year issued by Rob Manfred, he cited the Department of Labor believing that MLB’s habit of taking advantage of unpaid interns was “endemic to our industry.”

According to U.S. law, a for-profit company can hire an unpaid intern by meeting each of six criteria, according to FindLaw:

  • The internship is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment
  • The experience is for the benefit of the intern
  • The intern does not displace regular employees but works under close supervision of existing staff
  • The employer providing the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded
  • There is no guarantee of a job at the conclusion of the internship
  • Both parties understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the internship

It would seem that the third and fourth criteria wouldn’t be met.

The Mallards are almost certainly looking for a college student — not a well-credentialed media veteran — looking to add to his or her resume. They are also very clearly looking to take advantage of that student given the plethora of job responsibilities with no pay. Current college students are part of the millennial generation which has increasingly been taken advantage of through unpaid internships. Steven Greenhouse wrote for the New York Times in 2012:

No one keeps statistics on the number of college graduates taking unpaid internships, but there is widespread agreement that the number has significantly increased, not least because the jobless rate for college graduates age 24 and under has risen to 9.4 percent, the highest level since the government began keeping records in 1985. (Employment experts estimate that undergraduates work in more than one million internships a year, with Intern Bridge, a research firm, finding almost half unpaid.)

In a capitalist society, businesses are always going to search for the cheapest source of labor. Considering how bad the economy is and has been for millennials, they’ve had a pretty good time finding it. It’s hard to fault college students jumping at the opportunity to work in an industry they like in the hopes of one day landing a dream job. But as much as those businesses might loathe admitting it, that labor is worth something whether it’s for an amateur baseball team or a major league team.

Joey Votto: “I’d rather quit and leave all the money on the table than play at a poor level.”

Cincinnati Reds' Joey Votto reacts after a swinging strike against Chicago Cubs starting pitcher John Lackey in the fourth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, April 23, 2016, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
AP Photo/John Minchillo
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Reds first baseman Joey Votto went 1-for-4 with a walk and an RBI single in Sunday’s 11-inning victory over the Pirates, but his overall stats remain dour. The 2010 NL MVP is batting a meager .230/.330/.310 with a pair of home runs and 12 RBI.

Votto spoke about his struggles in the first month of the 2016 season and he was quite honest. Via C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer:

“It’s not something I’m OK with. I’d rather quit and leave all the money on the table than play at a poor level,” Votto said before Sunday’s game against the Pirates. “I’m here to play and be part of setting a standard. It’s something I’ve always taken pride in. I love to play at a really high level. So far this year, it’s not been that. I will not be a very satisfied, happy person if I don’t perform at the level that I expect.”

Votto added, “I refuse to accept my peak has [passed], I refuse to accept that my best days are in the past. I’m not there yet. I just don’t see that, I don’t feel that.”

Votto, 32, has eight years and $199 million remaining on the 10-year, $225 million contract extension he signed with the Reds in April 2012.

Bryce Harper struck out four times in a game for the first time in nearly four years

Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper reacts after he struck out during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Thursday, April 28, 2016, in Washington. The Phillies won 3-0.(AP Photo/Nick Wass)
AP Photo/Nick Wass
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Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper has not exactly been strikeout-averse over his five-year career, but he has been pretty good about not bunching them up. Entering Sunday’s game against the Cardinals, Harper had struck out three or more times in a game only 21 times in 533 games. He had registered two four-strikeout games, the last of which occurred on August 21, 2012 — his rookie season.

On Sunday, Harper struck out three times against Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez and once against reliever Seung Hwan Oh for the dreaded golden sombrero. The reigning NL MVP has now equaled his walk and strikeout totals at 17 apiece.

Despite the rough afternoon, Harper still owns a lusty .272/.390/.679 triple-slash line with nine home runs and 24 RBI.

Chase Headley doesn’t think Yankee Stadium is as hitter-friendly as advertised

New York Yankees Chase Headley (12) breaks his bat on a ground out to third during the third inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Monday, April 25, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
AP Photo/Brandon Wade
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Yankees third baseman Chase Headley finished April without registering an extra-base hit. Across 71 plate appearances, he registered only nine hits for an uninspiring .150/.268/.150 triple-slash line. Speaking to David Laurilia of FanGraphs, Headley said that Yankee Stadium isn’t as hitter-friendly as many people think it is, and added that the shift has helped to limit his offensive success.

“Everybody talks about how good of a ballpark Yankee Stadium is to hit in, but it’s pretty big with the exception of right field,” said Headley. “The rest of it plays as big, or bigger, than most yards. It’s maybe a better fit for guys who hit the ball high down the line than it for guys who hit the ball like I have for a lot of my career.”

[…]

“Because of the shifting that’s going on now, if you hit the ball on the ground, for the most part you’re out,” Headley told me. “I’m trying to get the ball elevated — I want to hit it hard in the air — and if I never hit another ball on the ground, I’ll be happy.”

According to StatCorner.com, Yankee Stadium is indeed better for left-handed hitters, and particularly so when it comes to extra-base hits. It lists park factors for handedness, setting 100 as average. A higher number means it’s more hitter-friendly. Here are the left-right numbers as of today’s writing:

  • Singles: 101 for left-handed hitters, 102 for right-handed hitters
  • Doubles and triples: 101 LH, 82 RH
  • Home runs: 137 LH, 127 RH

Headley’s hypothesis seems to have some merit. But his claim that shifts have been hurting him doesn’t seem to hold up to the numbers.

babip

Headley’s ground ball BABIP (batting average on balls in play) this season is only .022 behind his career average of .239. As he’s only hit 23 ground balls total this season, the difference between .239 and .217 is less than one hit.

Where Headley’s BABIP is notably lower is line drives. His career average line drive BABIP is .698, but it’s only .333 on nine line drives in 2016. This could be simple bad luck or it could mean Headley is making worse contact. FanGraphs’ batted ball data suggests Headley has been pulling significantly fewer balls (36 percent to his 45 percent career average), and he’s making “hard” contact less often (21 percent versus his 31 percent career average). Overall, there’s been very little change in his ground ball rate versus his fly ball rate.

Headley mentioned to Laurila that if he could, he would try to hit fly balls to the pull side more often. “I’m working on that,” he said.