Your Tuesday Morning Power Rankings

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Rays conversing.jpgSorry it’s a day late, but there were only four games last night, so it’s not like the balance of power shifted since yesterday afternoon.  If you’re still upset, though, just sign these forms and you’ll get your money back in sixty days. What? Well, now, that’s what you agreed to when you bought your shares! Look, I know old man Potter is paying fifty cents on the dollar, but if he gets his hand on this blog there’ll never be another decent blog post written in this town again . . .

1. Rays: And it’s not even close. They’re being chased by the best second team in baseball, and they still have the biggest lead of all the first place teams.

2. Phillies: Not a pretty series against the Red Sox, and losing Jimmy Rollins again isn’t a good thing, but they’re basically keeping an even keel despite a few less-than-stellar Roy Halladay starts in a row, so they’re doing OK.

3. Yankees: They’re either about to feast on the Indians, Orioles and Astros in upcoming series, or else they’re about to become the subject of even more “are the Yankees getting old” articles. I’m betting feast and would prefer to see it because I like to see great teams do great things, but if they stumble it will be much easier to write this blog for the next couple of months, that’s for damn sure.

4. Twins: I don’t believe in jinxes and stuff — as a wise and beautiful fictitious woman once said,  “please explain to me the scientific nature of ‘the whammy'” — but I guess Minnesota has a chance to show everyone that they can finally beat the Yankees this week. And if they can’t do it now, when everyone is all beat up, jeez, when can they?

5. Cardinals: The Cardinals reasserting themselves in the Central after a week or so of the Reds in first place is probably an instance of order being restored, but it’s sort of deflating too given how much fun we were having with the Reds in charge. Kind of like when Sgt. Hulka returned to the unit after Winger got them through the end of basic training.

6. Reds: Not that Winger isn’t still threatening to take over the unit. Tied as of this morning, and a nice job coming off the mat after that devastating loss to the Braves last Thursday. As is the case with the Yankees, the Indians-Pirates-Astros pupu platter will likely make life easier over the next couple of weeks.

7. Padres: Splitting with the Dodgers and Giants and taking two of three from the Mariners is basically holding serve, but enough other teams didn’t do that last week that the bump up a couple of notches is warranted in my view.

8. Dodgers: Still charging despite the injuries and a thin staff. I still think they need to make a move for pitching, even though everyone says that they won’t be taking on payroll. Maybe Frank McCourt can adopt Roy Oswalt and give him a “job” like he did his kids, thereby hiding the money they’d have to pay the guy.

9. Tigers: No Miguel Cabrera for the next couple of games and a rare two offdays this week, so it’s not like we’re going to get all that great a read on Detroit between now and the next time we meet up for the Power Rankings.

10. Rangers: Hands down the best bankrupt team in baseball.


11. Blue Jays: I have no idea how long this nice run will last,
but if you’re the Jays you couldn’t have drawn up a better “lots of
dudes start strong and maybe allow us to turn them into something at the
trade deadline” season if you tried.

12. Braves: Three at
Florida where they always struggle, followed by a palette-cleanser at
Pittsburgh, and then a death march against Philly and at Los Angeles. 
I’m going in to take a nap — when I wake, and I find they’ve come
through it all unscathed, I’ll know we have a playoff contender. If not,
I’ll know we don’t. 

13. Red Sox: Strong starts from
Lester, Buchholz, Dice-K and Wakefield made for a nice pick-me-up.
They’re four over .500 now, and are more than surviving a profoundly
gnarly part of their schedule.

14: Athletics: Nice starts
from Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Ben Sheets against the Giants,
although I think the results had far more to say about the state of the
San Francisco lineup than it did the Oakland rotation.

15:
Marlins
: They don’t care what I say about them because I never
played in the major leagues.

16: Giants: We should start a
pool in which we all wager on which first-half flash-in-the-pan Brian
Sabean trades for at the deadline in order to not fix the Giants
offense.

17. Nationals: Losers of seven of ten and now
they embark on a ten-game road trip. I have this feeling we’ve seen the
last of those “check out the surprising Washington Nationals” articles
pretty darn soon.

18. Rockies: Call me crazy, but I don’t
think that signing Kaz Matsui is going to spur them on to one of those
2007/2009-style surges.

19. Mets: No matter how rough
things are at the moment, taking two of three from the Yankees and
lighting up the Empire State Building thusly
has to feel good.

20.
Angels
: Eyeing this weekend, when they begin ten straight games
against the Royals and Mariners.

21. Cubs: What to do
with Zambrano? How
about working him in as part of a six-man rotation
?  Dumber things
have been done on the north side in the past. Anyone remember “Whitlow’s
Wall?” No, I’m not going to tell you what it was. That’s between you
and Google.

22. Diamondbacks: Nobody say nothin’ seein’ as
we don’t want to jinx it, but the Diamondbacks bullpen actually pitched
halfway decently last week.

23. White Sox: The Chisox may
be a disappointment this year, but at least they’ve given us “Alexis
Rios: deserving All-Star” this season, and that’s pretty neat.

24.
Pirates
: Since they got obliterated in that stretch against the
Brewers back in April, the Buccos are close to being a .500 team. A very
frustrating .500 team to be sure, but a .500 team all the same. I guess
that’s something.

25. Brewers: Losers of eight of ten.
Somethin’s got to change.

26. Mariners: Mike
Sweeney’s aggressive display
after the Griffey thing didn’t exactly
fire the team up, but it certainly helped Mike Sweeney, who has been on
a tear of late. Maybe he should challenge his teammates to a fight more
often.

27. Royals: Take a good look around and remember
this moment, everyone, for you are now entering the last week in which
Ned Yost will have a .500+ record as manager of the Royals.

28.
Indians
: It’s kind of sad that the highlights of the season going
forward will be watching guys like Kerry Wood and Austin Kearns to see
whether the team’s potential trade bait has what it takes to get traded.

29.
Orioles
: I took guff last week for having the Orioles in last
place. They, like the Astros, went 2-5 last week. But in a gesture of
friendship and good will, I move them up to 29.  May this fill Orioles
fans with joy and satisfaction.

30. Astros: Nothing
personal Astros fans: you guys just tend not to be as insecure as
Baltimore people, so I figured you could handle this.  Besides, you’re
paying more attention to the Oswalt derby anyway. Which, quite frankly,
is way more fun than whatever is happening on the field right now.

Alan Trammell’s Hall of Fame election validates a child’s baseball memories

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla — My great uncle Harry was a boat salesman in Detroit. He had some Tigers front office types as clients so he got a lot of free tickets to Tigers games. and he’d use them to take my brother and me to Tiger Stadium several times a year. We were always right behind home plate.

My parents tell me that I went to my first game in Tiger Stadium on the Fourth of July, 1978. I was too young to remember a thing about that one. The first one I do remember was June 17, 1979. A few years ago I tracked down the box score for that game on Baseball-Reference.com to get all of the details, but before I knew all of the specifics I remembered the important details: it was a day game against the California Angels and Alan Trammell hit a home run. He instantly became my favorite player. I was not quite six years old.

Like any other kid who has a favorite player, I obsessed over him. I collected every one of his baseball cards. I looked for his name in every box score. When I played Little League I begged the coach to let me play shortstop even though I had no business playing shortstop (the coach did let me wear number 3 at least). I made sure that, when a Tigers game was on TV, no one turned it off until Trammell had come to bat at least once.

On one occasion I even sort of stalked him.

My grandparents lived in Detroit and rumor had it that Trammell rented a house just down the street from them during the season. Once, when we were visiting my grandmother, my brother and I walked to the house and knocked on the door. A woman in her 20s answered it. We presumed it to be his wife or girlfriend. We asked if Alan Trammell was there. She said no and shut the door on us. At the time we assumed that, darn our luck, he had already left to go to the ballpark that day. In hindsight I realized that it probably wasn’t his house, and that the woman, while taciturn to the point of being misleading, was technically telling the truth. The point here is that back then I just liked to assume that Alan Trammell lived two doors down from my grandparents. A kid will believe a lot about his hero ballplayer in order to be closer to him.

My thing for Trammell continued for a good decade or so. By the end of that decade it seemed plain to me that was the greatest shortstop in the history of baseball and anyone else who didn’t recognize that was simply irrational. With nearly 40 years of hindsight, I now know that Trammell wasn’t the greatest shortstop in baseball history. Probably. He was damn good, though.

After I moved away from Michigan and Trammell’s career began to wind down, Greg Maddux became my favorite player. It was a different thing with him — I was too old for a baseball player to be my hero, exactly — but it’s the case that I thought less about Trammell than I had in the 80s. That probably would’ve happened naturally, but there were other factors which worked to make me think of Trammell less than I did when I was younger.

It’s easy to get jaded if you spend enough time writing about baseball. I’ve never stopped loving or enjoying the game, but if you focus most of your life on it, you end up seeing so many amazing things that you forget some of the other amazing stuff you’ve seen. In my case, I’ve pushed out a lot of the stuff I enjoyed when I was a kid. I didn’t do it on purpose. It just happened. There is only so much baseball you can hold in your head at once and I have a lot of baseball in my head.

Part of me pushing Trammell out of my head was defensive, though. He first made the Hall of Fame ballot in 2002. He didn’t get even 20% of the vote until his ninth year. He never got as much as 37% of the vote. It pained me to see the Hall of Fame voters — many of whom would eventually become my friends and colleagues — fail to recognize him year after year. I get why that happened. Trammell was a bit of an odd duck for his era. After decades of being used to heavy leather, light bat shortstops, Hall of Fame voters weren’t ready for a guy at that position who could play gold glove defense, hit for both average and power and take an occasional walk. At the very least they weren’t ready to process several of them at once. Cal Ripken and Robin Yount, understandably, filled up that space in their heads while Ozzie Smith impressed upon them that the traditional shortstop archetype remained strong. There just wasn’t room for Tram their minds.

But even if his being overlooked was somewhat understandable, it was still painful. It seemed like a rebuke of my childhood memories. I’m not a sentimental guy. I don’t believe in that whole fathers-and-sons-passing-baseball-down-from-generation-to-generation thing. But I did wonder why I’d bother taking my kids to the Hall of Fame if I could not go into the plaque room and see my Hall of Fame-worthy boyhood idol. Why should I care about the Hall of Fame if, as far as it was concerned, Alan Trammell was an invisible man? Alan Trammell happened. I saw it. I saw him do all of those great things and, because of the manner in which baseball history is chronicled and remembered, he was forgotten in some important way. It pissed me off.

I never thought Trammell would make the Hall of Fame. Not for a moment. I knew a couple of years in that the BBWAA wouldn’t vote him in and I had no confidence, until the moment I heard the news of his election last night, that the Veteran’s Committee would ever give him his due. But they did.

It was a shock and a surprise. When I heard he made it I stopped what I was doing and just sat back dumbfounded. Happy. Flooded with memories of watching Trammell play when I was a kid and he was my favorite player. Happy that, after years and years of almost wondering if I was the only person alive who watched him play, my childhood memories were validated. Validated in a way that I never thought was really necessary but, now that it has happened, makes me feel better than I did before. Better about baseball. Better about baseball history. Better about the memories I had that, for a while, I began to even question since no one else seemed to remember Trammell like I did.

This old man’s memories of Alan Trammell aren’t all that important. Baseball memories of old men have had more than their fair share of validation over the years to the point where baseball history is almost distorted as a result. But what of the baseball memories of younger generations?

The Baseball Hall of Fame and its voters have seen fit to shun the baseball greats of the 1990s and 2000s. A host of them — Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Manny Ramirez and others — are now and likely forever will be kept out of the Hall of Fame. We certainly have not forgotten those players, but we’re not honoring them.

The Hall and its voters will eagerly explain to you why that is. It’s about ethics and morality and authenticity and all of that, they say. I’m not sure, however, why that would matter to a person who, when they were six-year-old, was amazed by their feats and exploits. I’m not sure how an entire generation of people who became baseball fans as a result of those players should be made to feel that their memories are somehow not worth memorializing. Why they should be expected to go to the Hall of Fame with their children if they can’t walk into the plaque room and say “there’s the greatest player I ever saw.”

Until last night I discounted that feeling. I don’t think I’ll discount it anymore.