Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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At the outset, I’d like to say that there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that I had a graduate coaching assistant fill out my power rankings last week. I take my responsibilities in this regard just as seriously as Urban Meyer and Nick Saban take their votes in the USA Today coaches poll. I mean, if they can take a day out of their schedule to break down the top teams in the country and analyze their strengths and weaknesses in order to fulfill a task that gives them no extra pay and often works counter to their best interests of their program, surely I can find the time to do this post once a week, right?

Anyway, here are last week’s rankings.  On to this week’s:

1. Rays: Getting swept by the Red Sox was probably a good reminder that the Rays haven’t won jack yet. Indeed, based in part on the sweep, this is the first week I have to go with the Rays in the top spot by default more than anything else. I was tempted to put the Yankees here, but we’re still only a week removed from the Rays taking two from them in the Stadium so let’s give them one more week before demoting them. But they will be punished a bit: instead of the customary picture of Rays players high-fiving, all they get today is the team logo.

2. Yankees: Saturday’s nightmare game against Cleveland was rather alarming.  Given how the bullpen is going the loss of Alfredo Aceves might loom larger than many think.

3. Twins: They still can’t figure out the Yankees, but now they’re done with them. For the regular season anyway.

4. Reds: Taking seven of ten and knocking the cover off the ball is a pretty good way to go through life, son.

5. Padres: They’re still cruising. Now the biggest question is whether the team everyone figured would be the summer’s big seller has the stones to go out and actually buy a bat.

6. Cardinals: Albert Pujols would like you to know that his “slump” is over.  The quotes are because at its nadir, Pujols’ OPS was at .925.

7. Phillies: Whether this is a temporary demotion or the beginning of a freefall depends on whether they can figure out how to score runs again. One cold series is understandable. It happens. Two in row with no firepower is a concern.

8. Red Sox: A bit of leap — and maybe controversial to put them ahead of a Jays team whom they currently trail in the standings — but a sweep of the Rays gives you the benefit of the doubt when it comes to these things.

9. Braves: The last time they hosted the Phillies they began a nine-game losing streak. The next three days will tell us if they can actually justify some of the more ludicrous preseason predictions.

10. Blue Jays: Their next nine games come against the Rays and Yankees. I have this feeling that the Cinderella story is about to end.


11. Dodgers: Ethier comes back today and the next three come
against Arizona, so the week starts out about as good as one can hope.

12.
Athletics
: In the future, every team will be in first place in the
AL West for fifteen minutes. Well, maybe not the Mariners, but the other
three will be.

13. Giants: Now that Buster Posey has been
called up I can no longer complain that Brian Sabean won’t call up
Buster Posey. I feel like a cold warrior the day after the Berlin Wall
fell.

14. Rockies: While I’m on these two teams, its worth
noting that Ubaldo Jimenez faces Tim Lincecum at 4PM Eastern this
afternoon, in a matchup I’d like to refer to as the “Screw Up the Family
Cookout Invitational.”

15. Tigers: In honor of Max
Scherzer’s 14K post-callup performance, Dave Dombrowski sent the entire
roster down to Toledo last night and called them up at about 11 A.M.
this morning to be ready for today’s game against the Athletics. Either
that or else there was an epic party in Toledo last night.

16.
Rangers
: A pretty rough patch for the Rangers made all the rougher
by watching Derek Holland whip up 85 m.p.h. fastballs last night. And
Nelson Cruz on the DL doesn’t bode well for a suddenly flailing offense
either.

17. Mets: Yesterday Oliver Perez refused a request
to reassign him to the minors. Pretty soon they’re gonna start moving
his desk around, refuse to send him his paychecks and take his red
stapler from him.

18. Cubs: They’re creeping up and now
have a chance to get redemption against a Pirates team that has
inexplicably owned them this year.

19. Angels: I was
optimistic about their chances to get a head of steam behind them and do
what the Angels tend to do (i.e. win the AL West), but the Kendry
Morales injury may be too big to come back from.  Who hits the ball now?
Do they have the chits to get a Lance Berkman or even an Adam LaRoche?

20.
Marlins
: There’s no shame in getting dominated by Roy Halladay like
the Feesh did during the perfecto. There is shame, however, in only
scoring three runs against Kyle Kendrick, Jamie Moyer and friends in the other
two games of the series.

21. White Sox: Ozzie Guillen said
after yesterday’s game that the team is motivated to play better to
keep Kenny Williams from making trades and breaking up the team if they
definitively fall out of it. I’ve never heard a manager say anything
like that. But then again, I’ve not heard managers say a lot of the
things that Ozzie Guillen says.

22. Nationals: Sinking.
Will they be able to maintain the optimism that has surrounded the team
until Strasburg arrives, or will he be seen as a mere consolation prize
by the time he debuts?

23. Brewers: A nice bounceback
week. Forgive me, however, if I don’t take the tarp off the bandwagon
just yet.

24. Royals: The Royals have a team OBP of .338
and a SLG of .412.  The Rays have a team OBP of .335 and a SLG of .410.
Yet the Rays have scored 40 more runs in the same number of games. I
feel like Richard Dreyfuss in “Close Encounters,” sculpting stuff out of
my mashed potatoes, convinced that it means something important but not
knowing just what.

25. Pirates: Losers of three of four
to the Reds and three straight to the Braves. Guess they picked a bad
week to play good teams.

26. Mariners: They might have a
tough go of it without Mike Sweeney for a few days. Oh, you didn’t hear?
A
couple of anonymous Mets trashed a teammate to the press yesterday

so Sweeney hopped a flight back east to come and kick their ass.

27.
Diamondbacks
: Signs that summer is upon us: Memorial Day, higher
temperatures and the first Adam LaRoche trade rumors of the season. 
There are a lot of players worse than Adam LaRoche, but I don’t know of
any who are more inessential than he is, if that makes any sense.

28.
Indians
: In case you haven’t noticed, and judging by the attendance
you haven’t,
the Indians have continued to stink.

29. Astros: This has
nothing to do with the current Astros team, but I find myself strangely
affected by the Astros Daily’s
page of all of the former Astros and Colt .45s who have died
. One of
many random observations I had: I was aware that Eddie Matthews played
for the Astros, but I had never seen a picture of him in their uniform
before now. It’s jarring to see a guy who played for the Boston Braves
in an Astros cap.  Pretty jarring to see Nellie Fox in one too. I guess baseball went from a sepia toned golden age to whatever it is now at the exact moment the Astros came into existence. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

30. Orioles: Losers of five in a row
and now they have nine straight against the Yankees and Red Sox ahead
of them. Y’all best settle in and get comfy, Orioles, because you’re
gonna be in 30-ville for a good long while.

Derek Jeter: no longer the media’s darling

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There was a time, not too long ago, where the baseball press practically gave Derek Jeter awards for providing them no information whatsoever. As a player, he turned not answering questions into an art form. To the point where, eventually, the press just stopped asking him substantive questions almost entirely.

Unlike a lot of players who shut out the media, Jeter did it rather politely, so he did not get that passive aggressive treatment — or, occasionally, the aggressive-aggressive treatment — the press often gives uncommunicative players. To the contrary. He was positively lauded for his lack of communication. Lionized, even.

Take this column from Jeff Peralman at CNN.com from 2014, under the headline “Derek Jeter: Baseball’s Humble Hero”:

Throughout the first 18 seasons of his career, Jeter has often been labeled “dull” by the media. His answers to questions are unimaginative and full of cliché baseball nothingness blather. In hindsight, however, such lameness is almost to be admired. We live in an era where too many athletes feel as if they need to draw attention to themselves — for confidence, for commercials. If you’re not tweeting trash talk, you’re texting trash talk. Or making bold promises. Or demanding money or respect . . . he’s a guy who merely wanted to be a guy.

How about this from the New York Times around the time of his retirement:

Jeter’s ability to maintain a posture of sustained inscrutability — or, if you must, dignified comportment — has extended especially to the spoken word . . . he has played his best defense in front of his locker: catching every controversial question thrown to him and tossing it aside as if it were a scuffed ball unsuitable for play.

In a major league career that dates to the Clinton administration’s first term — he is the only Yankees shortstop a generation of fans has known — inquiring reporters have gathered around Jeter in the clubhouse thousands of times. He has maintained eye contact, answered nearly every question posed to him — and said nothing. This is not a complaint, but rather an expression of awe; of admiration, even. His batting average and fielding percentage aside, this kid from Kalamazoo, Mich., entered the New York meat grinder two decades ago and came out the other end looking as sharp as Joe DiMaggio’s suit.

This opinion of Jeter was pervasive throughout his career, but especially pronounced at its end of it. Jeter was deified by the press for saying nothing to the press. Praised for making the media’s job harder by the media itself. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

Times, however, have changed.

Some minor grumbling about Jeter’s non-answers to media questions began soon after he took over as Marlins co-owner. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post wrote a column about it all back in October, saying Jeter’s “Crash Davis Rules of Media Relations don’t apply anymore.” Not too many people echoed that at the time, probably because it came in the wake of a pretty boring introductory press conference and the stakes were pretty low. I did wonder at the time, though, if the media was waiting to turn on Jeter once he actually started making moves in his new role.

I think we can now say the answer to that is yes.

In the wake of the Giancarlo Stanton trade, a lot of baseball writers had a lot of questions for Derek Jeter. Jeter, however, decided that he didn’t even need to show up here at the Winter Meetings to answer them, despite the fact that he lives just a couple of hours away.

On Monday morning Buster Olney of ESPN made conspicuous note of it:

Later in the day Jeter deigned to talk to the media via a conference call. As usual, he said mostly nothing, but unlike 1997, 2007 or 2014 (a) he got testy about it; and (b) the press made a note of it:

They likewise noted when he passed the buck to someone below him on the org chart:

Last night I think a dam broke, and I don’t think Jeter will ever be able to sweet non-talk his way out criticism again. It all happened at a football game:

To sum up:

  • Jeter is now bad for not talking to the press;
  • Jeter is not lauded for his composure anymore; and
  • Jeter is being called out as a poor leader who does not face the music.

What a difference a few years and a change of role makes.

All of which, one would think, would make me at least a little happy. I mean, I’ll totally own up to rolling my eyes at the kid glove treatment Jeter got back when he played. About how his attributes, however great, were elevated even above their actual greatness and how his faults were, perversely, spun into attributes. You’d expect that, in light of that, I’d be sorta pleased that the tables have turned.

I’m not happy, though. Indeed, I have something approaching sympathy for Captian Jeets.

Why? Because, while I’d like to see him face the press, defend his moves as owner and explain his vision to Marlins fans everywhere, I know that he cannot. I know that he has no good answers to any of the questions he might be asked because the real answer to all of them is “hey, we need to make money for the ownership group and everything flows from that” and that’s not an answer he’s prepared to give.

Have some sympathy for Derek Jeter. He’s really in a tough, tough spot. Even if he put himself into it.