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.

Collins worried David Wright might go on disabled list

Washington Nationals v New York Mets
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NEW YORK (AP) Mets manager Terry Collins is worried David Wright may wind up on the disabled list because of a neck injury.

New York’s captain and third baseman was out of the starting lineup for the third straight day Monday because of his neck. He was given anti-inflammatory medicine over the weekend.

Now 33, Wright was on the disabled list from April 15 to Aug. 24 last year when he strained his right hamstring and then developed spinal stenosis. He has a lengthy physical therapy routine he must go through before each game.

“With the condition he’s been playing in and the condition he’s in right now, yeah, I’m concerned about it,” Collins said Monday. “Is it going to happen? I can’t tell you. I don’t know. I’m not a doctor. I know this guy plays with a lot of discomfort. He always has. And when he can’t play, he’s hurt.”

Wright homered in three straight games last week before getting hurt. He is batting .226 with seven homers, 14 RBIs and 55 strikeouts in 137 at-bats.

Settling the Scores: Memorial Day edition

ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 21:  American flags are shown after being placed by members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment at the graves of U.S. soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery, in preparation for Memorial Day May 21, 2015 in Arlington, Virginia. "Flags-In" has become an annual ceremony since the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) was designated to be an Army's official ceremonial unit in 1948  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who died in military service. At some point in the past couple of decades, however, it has become an all-purpose flag-waving, patriotism-declaring, civilians-in-camouflage holiday. It’s understandable why this is the case. We, as a country, haven’t always done mourning well. I think it’s part of our national cultural DNA that we don’t and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make days like this difficult.

I feel like the flag-waving and troop-supporting stuff is some sort of subconscious reaction to death. It’s our way of instantly trying to justify those deaths or to explain how they were not in vain, much the same way we might tell someone upon the death of a loved one that they’re in a better place or that they had a full life. Feeling the pain of loss is hard. We want to soften it in any way we can and make our pain serve a larger, better purpose. And so we get today, when Major League Baseball puts its players in camouflage caps and in jerseys with camouflage logos. They’ll sell them too, with proceeds going to good and noble veterans charities. The intent is noble and the ultimate effect of it all is beneficial. But it’s also a little beside the point. Maybe not beside the point as much as mattress sales or big celebratory barbecues which have come to characterize Memorial Day for so many, but still not exactly the purpose of the holiday.

I don’t condemn it. As I wrote last year, the men and women who actually fought and died in wars were hoping that they were, ultimately, making a better and happier world for those they left behind. And they no doubt hoped, among everything else they hoped, that others didn’t have to face what they were facing. They wanted our lives to be happy and our country to be safe and part of a happy and safe country involves 300 million people doing whatever it is they damn please, even if it’s just having barbecues and wearing camo at the ballpark.

I won’t say have a happy Memorial Day because that seems odd. Have any kind of Memorial Day you want, really, even if it includes barbecuing, drinking beer and wearing a cam ballcap. But as you do, please make sure you take some time to think about those who died in military service. And remember that they didn’t get to have as many days like the one you’re having as they were meant to have. And make at least some effort to offset your happy, patriotic or silly pursuits with some mourning and reflectiveness. It’s OK for that to stand on its own.

The scores:

Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 3
Orioles 6, Indians 4
Yankees 2, Rays 1
Nationals 10, Cardinals 2
Brewers 5, Reds 4
Royals 5, White Sox 4
Cubs 7, Phillies 2
Rangers 6, Pirates 2
Astros 8, Angels 6
Athletics 4, Tigers 2
Twins 5, Mariners 4
Giants 8, Rockies 3
Diamondbacks 6, Padres 3
Marlins 7, Braves 3
Dodgers 4, Mets 2

 

Should Dave Roberts have taken Clayton Kershaw out of Sunday’s game?

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 29:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch in the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on May 29, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will likely be second-guessed heavily during tomorrow’s news cycle. Starter Clayton Kershaw had pitched a terrific ballgame, as is his tendency, but with 114 pitches to his name, Roberts decided to pull him from the game in the eighth inning with two outs and a runner on first base.

Roberts opted not for closer Kenley Jansen, who hasn’t pitched since Wednesday, but for another lefty in Adam Liberatore. He was playing the numbers, with the left-handed-hitting Curtis Granderson coming up. Liberatore, much to Roberts’ chagrin, served up what turned out to be a game-tying triple to Granderson, hitting a rocket to right-center just out of the reach of a leaping Yasiel Puig.

Jansen has, for six years, been one of the game’s elite relievers. Kershaw, though at a high pitch count, doesn’t seem to suffer from the times through the order penalty like most pitchers. Kershaw’s opponents’ OPS facing him for the first time was .525 coming into Sunday. Twice, .597. Three times, .587. Four times, .526 (but this suffers from survivorship bias so it’s not exactly representative).

Furthermore, Kershaw held lefties to a .546 OPS over his career. Liberatore, in 99 plate appearances against lefty hitters, gave up a .575 OPS. Jansen? .560. It seems that, faced with three decisions, Roberts arguably made the worst one. Playing conservative with Kershaw at 114 pitches is defensible, but only if Jansen comes in. If Roberts wanted the platoon advantage, Kershaw should have stayed in.

Luckily for the Dodgers, Mets closer Jeurys Familia didn’t have his best stuff. He loaded the bases with one out in the top of the ninth on a single and two walks, then gave up a two-run single to Adrian Gonzalez, giving the Dodgers a 4-2 lead. Jansen came on in the bottom half of the ninth and retired the side in order to pick up his 15th save of the season.

Royals sweep White Sox over the weekend on three late rallies

KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 28:  Brett Eibner #12 of the Kansas City Royals celebrates his game-winning RBI single with teammates in the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium on May 28, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Royals won 8-7. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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The Royals had themselves a pretty good weekend. The quickly fading White Sox, not so much.

On Friday, the Royals fell behind 5-1 after the top of the sixth. They would score once in the bottom of the sixth, four times in the seventh, and once in the eighth to steal a 7-5 win facing pitchers Miguel Gonzalez Dan Jennings, Matt Albers, Zach Duke and Nate Jones.

On Saturday, the Royals entered the bottom of the ninth down 7-1. They scored seven runs on closer David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to win 8-7.

On Sunday, the Royals were down 4-2 after the top of the eighth. They plated three runs in the bottom half of the eighth against Jones and Albers, going on to win 5-4.

Coming into the weekend, the Royals were 24-22 in third place. The White Sox were 27-21, a half-game up in first place. Now the Royals are in first place by a game and a half, and the White Sox are in third place, two games out of first.

Here’s video of the Royals’ comeback on Saturday, since it was so unlikely: