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.

Congressional candidate uses Jose Fernandez’s death to score political points

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As a horrible Sunday unfolded yesterday there was at least one thing buoying the public mood: the overwhelming outpouring of emotion and love for Jose Fernandez and warm remembrances of his all-too-brief time on Earth.

But it wasn’t a unanimous sentiment. Some people, like this Florida state representative who is currently running for Congress, thought it was a great time to make a political point:

Setting aside the tastelessness of Gaetz’s timing and intent, one wonders if he appreciates that the reason Fernandez risked his life on multiple occasions was specifically so he could live in a country where protesting and not exhibiting a reflexive loyalty and patriotism is a fundamental right and does not get you thrown in jail.

But really, it’s the tastelessness which most galls here.

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 25: Luke Maile #46 of the Tampa Bay Rays tries to make the tag on Dustin Pedroia #15 of the Boston Red Sox at home plate as Pedroia scores the winning run in the tenth inning of their game at Tropicana Field on September 25, 2016 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr. /Getty Images)
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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Blue Jays 4, Yankees 3: Toronto blew a 2-1 lead in the top of the ninth but scored two of their own in the bottom half, first with an Ezequiel Carrera squeeze bunt topped with an Edwin Encarnacion walkoff RBI single to win it. Toronto remains in the first Wild Card position, a game and a half ahead of Baltimore and three games ahead of the Tigers.

White Sox 3, Indians 0: Carlos Rodon was dominant, shutting the Tribe out for eight and punching out 11. Carlos Sanchez drove in two of the Sox’ three runs. Fun fact: when we bought our first house back in 1999, my ex-wife’s credit report came back with the name “Carlos Sanchez” listed under “possible aliases.” We got the mortgage anyway and nothing was ever disrupted, but I’m keepin’ my eye on you, Carlos. Or maybe I should’ve just been more suspicious about my ex-wife back in the day. She seems like a normal, well-adjusted person, but what if she’s really a spy for the Venezuelan government?

Royals 12, Tigers 9: The Royals jumped out to a 7-0 lead after three innings against Matt Boyd and Anibal Sanchez and, try as they did, the Tigers never pulled closer than to within two. Whit Merrifield tripled in the first and hit a single and a double as well. The Royals hit four homers as a team. Dropping two of three to the Royals caused the Tigers to drop out of Wild Card position.

Mets 17, Phillies 0: The Mets are losing pitchers every week but it sorta does’t matter when you play the Phillies. New York took three of four in the series, scoring 44 runs in those four games. Yes, they gave up 23 and that might not always be the best thing in a four-game series, but they’re up a game on San Francisco and up a game and a half on St. Louis at the moment so they can’t really complain. Asdrubal Cabrera hit a grand slam, Jose Reyes had four RBI, including two, not one, but two bases-loaded walks. Curtis Granderson hit his 30th homer of the year.

Red Sox 3, Rays 2: And the Red Sox never lost again. That’s 11 in a row. Dustin Pedroia scored the go-ahead run in the 10th on David Ortiz‘s RBI double despite the fact that he should’ve been dead to rights at the plate. He avoided the tag — and missed home plate — but lunged back to the plate as Rays catcher Luke Maile dropped the ball. Pedroia also hit a homer. Oh, and Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez struck out a career-high 13 in five and a third. At one point he and reliever Heath Hembree combined to strike out 11 consecutive batters. That’s a major league record. It’s also the sort of thing which should probably make the Rays petition the league to just let them go home and forfeit the last week of the season because, Jesus, what’s the point?

Orioles 2, Diamondbacks 1Hyun Soo Kim hit an early two-run homer and it held up. Dylan Bundy allowed the one run on three hits over five innings. Zach Britton got his 46th save.

Nationals 10, Pirates 7: Controversy here as Jung Ho Kang faked a tag on Bryce Harper, causing Harper to slide awkwardly which caused him to injure his thumb. Later, when Kang came up to bat he was buzzed by Nats pitcher A.J. Cole, leading to the benches clearing. So, apparently, faking a tag is a violation of the unwritten rules. Maybe someone should tell that to Derek Jeter and the million of other guys who have deked runners in the past:

Whatever the case, the Nats scored five runs in the eighth inning to come back from a deficit, powered by a Jayson Werth two-run homer which tied it along with two RBI singles and a bases loaded walk. Harper will have X-Rays on his thumb today to see how bad off he is.

Reds 4, Brewers 2Brandon Finnegan tossed five shutout innings to kick things off and Cincinnati built a 4-0 lead by the seventh inning. Finnegan only needed 54 pitches to get through five, but he game out as his leg tightened up following being hit with a comebacker in the second inning.

Mariners 4, Twins 3: Two homers for Nelson Cruz and one for Jesus Sucre. Seattle is two and a half behind Baltimore for the second Wild Card spot after going 12-5 in their last 17. Such and up and down team this year.

Astros 4, Angels 1: Joe Musgrove was strong and Evan Gattis, Tony Kemp and Tyler White homered. Houston is three back of Baltimore. They and Seattle can play the what-coulda-been game all winter.

Athletics 7, Rangers 1: The A’s avoid the sweep with a seven-run second inning that ended this one not long after it started. Jharel Cotton was strong once again, going seven innings while allowing one run. Since his callup in early September he’s allowed only four earned runs in 25 innings. The season highlight for the A’s is gonna be a midseason trade with the Dodgers to get Cotton.

Dodgers 4, Rockies 3: The Dodgers have had a load of highlights this year, including this walkoff win to clinch the NL West. Second baseman Charlie Culberson delivered the solo homer in the bottom of the 10th inning. Not that he was the only hero. The Dodgers were trailing 2-1 in the seventh when Corey Seager tripled in a run to tie the game. Rockies outfielder David Dahl gave Colorado the lead in the ninth with a solo home run off of Kenley Jansen. But Seager hit a game-tying solo shot in the bottom half of the ninth to send it to extras. What an exciting final game in Dodger Stadium for Vin Scully.

Padres 4, Giants 3: Manuel Margot tripled in the seventh inning and then scored the go-ahead run on Wil Myers‘ RBI single. The Giants were eliminated from division crown contention, and are hanging on by their fingernails in the Wild Card race after splitting a four-game set with San Diego.

Cubs 3, Cardinals 1: David Ross homered on the night he was given a touching tribute by the Cubs while Jon Lester tossed shutout ball into the seventh to pick up his 19th win. Ross got a nice sendoff when Joe Maddon came to lift Lester in the seventh. Rather than just pat Lester on the butt and let him walk off, he took Ross out of the game first, allowing him to leave to a standing ovation.

Braves vs. Marlins: POSTPONED: The time you won your town the race,
We chaired you through the marketplace;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
As home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.