Your Tuesday Morning Power Rankings

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Rivera Cervelli shake hands.jpgLast week’s Power Rankings are all curdled and sour and are no longer fit for human consumption. Here are some new rankings, fresh out of the cow.  Or maybe it’s bull. You be the judge.

Nevertheless, these rankings reflect data and impressions through play on Sunday night — which was when I came up with the order — and do not include last night’s games. The reason they’re a day late is because it took me longer to write the comments.  Anyway:

1. Yankees: Consider this a leap of faith. A gut call. A wild hair. I know it’s not reflective of their records, but I just feel like it’s time for a change. In this I realize I’m not unlike those college football pollsters who pick some hot Pac-10 team in early October only to really regret it later, but (a) these are the Yankees, not Cal; and (b) they’ve won six of eight while the Rays have been idling for the better part of three weeks. Besides, the Yankees have six straight against the Orioles and Astros for Pete’s sake, and if they can’t blow through that with ease the rankings will take care of themselves.

2. Rays: Best record in baseball, sure, but they’re certainly a notch back from where they had been. That was fine while the Yankees were dealing with injuries and playing a tough patch of games, but Tampa Bay needs to stand on the accelerator a bit harder than they have been lately.

3. Braves: There’s no shame in splitting against the Dodgers in L.A., especially after the sweep of Philly. Once this Dbacks series is over they have six against the Twins and the Rays, however, so they might not want to get too cozy in the catbird seat of the NL East.

4. Twins: Despite being the banged-up (or in some cases just sick) team du jour, dropping three to the Mariners mid-week was not acceptable. Nice bounceback against the A’s, though.

5. Red Sox/Blue Jays: Yes, a freakin’ tie. And I’m not doing this because people have been jawing at me over their respective rankings. Facts are facts: as of yesterday morning they had the same record, nearly identical home and road records, a run differential that separates them by less than a single Pythagorean game, and they’ve both won six of ten. It’s been a month since they’ve played head-to-head and while the Jays took two of three then, this is a different Sox team now. As such, we’re cleaning the slate and moving on. Show us what you got, AL East also-rans!

7. Cardinals: David Freese and Colby Rasmus have been key contributors. The former left with an injury on Saturday and the latter Sunday. St. Louis can’t be without them long.

8. Reds: Remember when everyone was asking why the Reds were bothering to take on Scott Rolen in that trade last year? As of yesterday he was hitting .288/.351/.587, is leading the league in homers and is playing his usual excellent defense. MVP candidate, right?

9. Padres: Just humming right along. Now, trade Heath Bell for a big bat and put some distance between yourselves and the Dodgers.

10. Dodgers: They’re winning the close ones. Like, really, really winning the close ones.


11. Giants: Hanging in there despite a struggling Lincecum and a
double play happy offense. Whoever the Padres go after should be on
their trade deadline list as well.

12. Phillies: At this
point I’m guessing that someone on this team built a house on an ancient
Indian burial ground and in exchange had the entire team’s weapons
rendered impotent by the Great Spirit. Who was it? Werth? Ibanez? I’m
guessing it was one of those guys. 

13. Tigers: Seeing
them send Dontrelle Willis and Adam Everett away shows that
they’re aware that they’re not a complete team at present which should
be
an encouraging sign for fans. Also encouraging: the fact that even
though they haven’t been playing their best baseball of late they’re
still hanging in there with the Twins.

14. Rockies: A
total two-steps-forward-one-step-back team. Just as they’re righting the
ship they drop a series to the Dbacks? I remain convinced that they
have the talent to make a big run and put the flawed Dodgers, Giants and
Padres in their rear-view mirror, but they really need to get it
together.

15. Mets:  You know what’s going to be a fun?
When press-favorite Jeff Francoeur is benched upon the return of Carlos
Beltran and Angel Pagan is given right field as he so richly deserves. I
wonder if the New York press corps will fall for the Jeffy charm like
the Atlanta press did and write about how a guy who has had over 3000
plate appearances to show his true level “just needs more time to turn
it around.”

16. Rangers/Angels/Athletics: Yes,
another tie. This one a three-way!  Really, I’m just going to throw the
Athletics, Rangers and
Angels in a hat pretty soon and just pick them out at random to see
where to rank them, because this “whoever is in first place this week
gets the highest slot” thing isn’t very satisfying to me.

19.
Marlins
: Conversation I had with my brother recently: Me: “I’m kind
of excited to see Mike Stanton.” Him: “He’s still hanging around? What
is he, 45?” 

20. Cubs: Where would they be without Carlos
Silva? What were the odds that anyone would say something like that
unironically this year?

21. Nationals: Between Harper and
Strasburg this is a great week for other Nats players to slump, slack
off, get arrested, etc. No one will notice.

22. Royals:
The Royals are hitting. Can you credit the hitting coach? I dunno, but
if there’s one I’d like to credit it’s Kevin Seitzer. Check
out this great profile
of one of my favorite players from back in
the day.

23. White Sox: The fire sale is imminent. In
other news, based on Ozzie
Guillen’s Spanish-language tweets from yesterday
, I’m pretty sure
he’s angling to become the next President of Venezuela. I’m torn here.
On the one hand he seems to care deeply about the plight of the
Venezuelan people who, for all of Chavez’s populist posturing, aren’t
doing as well as citizens in such a resource-rich country should be. On
the other hand, if you gave Ozzie Guillen an army and diplomatic
immunity you may very well destabilize the entire western hemisphere. 
Screw it: Ozzie in ’12!

24. Mariners: Griffey is off
fishing and Sweeney is on the disabled list. With mom and dad gone the
Mariners can finally throw that party they’ve been talking about.

25.
Brewers
: With Trembley gone in Baltimore I suppose Macha’s seat is
now the hottest in baseball.

26. Astros: Houston selected
Delino DeShields Jr. in the draft last night. They should try to trade
him to the Dodgers for Clayton Kershaw. What? They fell for it once,
they might fall for it again.

27. Indians:  Strasburg is
supposed to pitch in Cleveland on Sunday. It may be the Tribe’s biggest
crowd for the rest of the year.

28. Pirates: Don’t tell me
that they’re not sitting around the hotel this morning talking about
how sweet it would be to beat the holy Hell out of Strasburg tonight.
Part of me wants to see that. Part of me wants to see Strasburg strike
out 16. Part of me wants to see Strasburg come out, hit the mascot with
the first pitch, hit the leadoff batter with the second pitch and then
get ejected, after which he gives quotes about “controlling the
narrative.”

29. Diamondbacks: Talk about a brutal June
schedule: Dodgers, Rockies, Braves, Cardinals, Tigers, Red Sox, Yankeesm
Rays and then the Cardinals again. Mercy.

30.  Orioles:
How long does Juan Samuel get to prove himself before that “interim” tag
starts to set in concrete? I’d say a couple more weeks. If the O’s
don’t go on a nice little run by then he’s officially a placeholder.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.