Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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Yankees high fives.jpgHere were last week’s Power Rankings. Now for this week’s. I’ve just received word that the Emperor has dissolved the Senate permanently, the Yankees are on top, and the last remnants of the Old Republic have been swept away.  Fear will keep the other teams in line. Fear of this battlestation!

1. Yankees: There was surprisingly little dissent when I put the Bombers first last week even though I was trying to be provocative. I suppose there is no reasonable basis for dissent now. Tied for best record in baseball, best run differential, coming off a good week.  They’re the Empire, and they’re back where they’re used to being.  Get used to it, Ewoks.

2. Rays: They’re just out of sync lately.

3. Braves: Atlanta ends an 11-day, 11-game road trip 6-5. Not too damn bad
considering that seven of those games were against the Twins and the
Dodgers and Jason Heyward was in a pretty fair slump during the first half of it.

4. Red Sox: Nothing spectacular, but the Sox have been one of the best teams in baseball for most of the last month. This despite no Ellsbury, no Beckett, no Dice-K.  Just slow and steady. They should be called the Boston Tortoises.

5. Padres: I like it when a team that wasn’t expected to compete plays well, because you get people saying stuff like “The Padres control their fate now. If they win out, the win the NL West.”

6. Dodgers: I’ll admit, this jump was fairly large for a team that has only won five of its last ten. Consider this me owning up to the fact that I pretty criminally underrated them last week. As many pointed out, they were basically an identical team to the Braves since the season began. I don’t think they’re as good as the Braves so I would have ranked them lower than Atlanta last week, but the point is a good one, and this is probably where they need to be.

7. Twins: The Twins haven’t been scoring runs in June. I guess it’s a long way down from Orlando Hudson to the tripe Ron Gardenhire has been trotting out there since his injury.

8. Mets: The sweep of the Orioles is what you want to see from a team who thinks it can contend and the Indians are dead ahead, which should be some more cake. But then come the Yankees, Tigers and Twins. I like the current trajectory, but I’m going to refrain from calling the Mets official contenders until they get through that patch.

9. Reds: Jeff Brantley does Reds radio. He was awful when he was on ESPN but I’ve actually come to like the guy on Reds broadcasts. Not that he adds any decent insight — he really doesn’t — but he’s a hokey, guilty pleasure. A couple of years ago he started talking about how much terrible food he eats while on the road. No hint of guilt to it: just matter-of-fact “I ate four scoops of ice cream last night, Mahty, and it was pretty dahn tasty.”  At some point someone told him that bit is hilarious, because he’s now doing ads for sub shops and stuff. One of them is for a two-sub special. Brantley says –in a serious drawl —  “I get two footlongs for twelve niney fahve. I call one mah startah, and one mah closah!”  It’s probably the best thing going on baseball radio right now.

10. Giants: It’s amazing how much easier it is to win when you pair offense with
good pitching instead of just going with the latter. The Giants have
been doing that pretty well for the past week.


11. Cardinals: The Cardinals are under .500 for May and June.
Given their talent they really have no business being in second place,
but there they are.

12. Rangers: Holding off the Angels, but just barely. Nothing
personal against Oakland, but I’d really like to see this be a two-team
race for the rest of the season so as to put an end to that musical
chairs thing going forward.

13. Angels: Kendry Morales? Who’s Kendry Morales? The Angels have
won eight of ten.

14. Blue Jays:  This is a big drop. I’m truly not trying to be
unfair here. I’m just struggling
to see who I place below them. This is the case for a lot of teams who
took a tumble this week. They didn’t play too terribly, necessarily, but
a number of teams (e.g. the Mets, Rangers, Angels) made a surge that
needed to be rewarded, so a bit of a bad week was penalized more than
usual. Not that Toronto had a great week or anything . . .

15. Phillies:  Another one that was knocked pretty hard, but
let’s face it: they’re now down to third place, they were blown out by
the Red Sox in two of those weekend games and they’re now making us
question whether we should be calling this current patch a slump or the
early part of the season a fluke.

16. Tigers: Sweeping Pittsburgh was nice. Dropping two of three
to both the White Sox and Royals was not. 

17. Rockies: The lowest ranked team above .500. That seems about
right to me.

18. Marlins: Nice first week for Mike Stanton — .368/.425/.526
— though the man noted for his power is still searching for his first
homer.

19. Athletics: Swept back over the Bay Bridge by the Giants. But I
think you only play tools heading westbound, so it was an easy trip
back.

20. Nationals: How long will it take everyone to get over the
Strasburg hype and notice that the team has generally been on a downward
spiral for the past few weeks?  I’m guessing the honeymoon lasts until
late July, at which point everyone will be freaking out about whether or
not Bryce Harper is going to get signed.

21. White Sox: The Sox took two of three from the Cubs and now
have the advantage in the battle for the
BP Cup
!  So, like, I assume they’ll try to tank the next series so
they don’t actually have to claim ownership over something as dubious as
the BP Cup.

22. Cubs: Ted Lilly looked like he was working really fast to get
that ninth inning started last night so as to finish his no-hitter
before the rain got too heavy. I wonder if that’s what made him give
Juan Pierre such a good pitch to hit to break it up or if he would have
attacked him like that anyway. I guess attacking him was the right move
regardless — it’s Juan Pierre, after all, not Willie McCovey — but I’m
guessing the rain had something to do with it too.

23. Royals: Still over .500 with Ned Yost at the helm! (15-14).

24. Brewers:  The Brewers have the distinction of being the
lowest ranked team anyone really thought had a chance to do anything
this year.

25. Indians: A nice week, actually. Splitting with the Red Sox is
like a series win for them, and two out of three from the Nats is nice
too. And what with the 16,000 extra fans for Stasburg, yesterday was
kind of a win too.

26. Astros: No shame in getting swept by the Yankees. Taking
three of four from the Rockies was pretty sweet.  Of all of the bottom
dwellers of these rankings, the Astros have the best chance of breaking
out and climbing into the ranks of the merely “meh.”

27. Diamondbacks
: I’m assuming the Dbacks are about to sell off
everything that isn’t nailed down.

28. Mariners: I’m still tickeld that Milton Bradley is emerging
as a team leader these past few days.

29. Pirates: Plenty of seats still available at one of baseball’s
prettiest parks!

30. Orioles: Pfun Pfact: if the Orioles lose tonight, they will
have the same record at this point in the season as the 1988 Orioles
did! You know, those awful, awful 1988 Orioles who started the season
0-eleventy-seven?  Good times, good times . . .

A Twins player confronted a Twins announcer about what he said on a broadcast

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We seem to get a story like this from a struggling team every couple of years. This year it’s the Twins and the story is about words said by one of the Twins players to Fox Sports North broadcaster Dick Bremer. From Mike McFeely of WDAY radio, who spoke to Bremer recently:

Surprisingly, Bremer said one player has confronted him this season about being too critical of the team. Bremer wouldn’t name the player.

“I make it a practice to go in the clubhouse every day and go down on the field, so if a player has a complaint about something I’ve said on television they have that opportunity,” Bremer said. “I was confronted in the clubhouse in the last homestand. I didn’t say what I wanted to say, which was, ‘Well, play better and the commentary will be more positive.’ You can’t mask the fact this team is a quarter of the way through the season with 10 wins.”

The whole article is interesting because it gives several examples of Bremer and his colleague, Bert Blyleven, being critical. Depending on which instance — and there were likely many not mentioned here — blowback from players may have more or less justification.

On the one hand, simply saying a player executed a given play poorly or saying that the team was performing poorly is a simple fact. On the other, an example was given in which Blyleven questioned why Phil Hughes was taken out of a game. It was only later revealed that he was experiencing shoulder soreness, but it was suggested that Blyelven was questioning his toughness at the moment. I agree with Bremer that if the players don’t want to be criticized they should play better. But it crosses a line in my mind when poor play is used to imply poor or weak character, especially when not all facts are known. Not all situations are the same.

Overall, though, despite the complaint of this anonymous Twins player, I think local broadcasts are too deferential to the home team far too often. The broadcasters have seen more baseball than almost every viewer and in many cases played it. I don’t think it’s out of line for them to offer objective, informed criticism of bad play even if that’s out of fashion in today’s world. That they seem very clearly pressured by the clubs with whom their employers are partnered to do otherwise is a shame and does a disservice to viewers.

And heck. It’s boring too.

Ryan Vogelsong placed on the DL with facial fractures

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 23: Ryan Vogelsong #14 of the Pittsburgh Pirates is carted off the field after being hit in the head by a pitch thrown by Jordan Lyles #24 of the Colorado Rockies in the second inning during the game at PNC Park on May 23, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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The Pirates have announced that starter Ryan Vogelsong has been placed on the 15-day disabled list due to facial fractures.

Vogelsong suffered the fractures yesterday afternoon when he was batting and was hit by a pitch by Colorado Rockies starter Jordan Lyles. Vogelsong, was taken off the field on a cart and admitted to a local hospital. A.J. Schugel has been recalled from Triple-A to take Vogelsong’s place on the roster.

The Padres National Anthem debacle explained

Petco Park
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Outsports has what should be the final word about Saturday’s National Anthem debacle at Petco Park before the Dodgers-Padres game.

The upshot: it was not, not surprisingly, a homophobic conspiracy. Rather It was a series of unfortunate occurrences and dumb mistakes, once again validating the old saying about how one need not look to evil motives when mere stupidity can explain things. This is one of those times. Go read the post for the entire explanation. The short version of that is that, like a lot of anthem singers, the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus was to sing along with a backing tape of themselves performing the anthem. The DJ in charge of it played the wrong date’s backing tape. He played the one from the female singer the night before.

In addition, Outsports spoke with that DJ — DJ Artform — who is embarrassed by his mistake and by not doing anything to correct it in the moment. DJ Artform was a contractor and his relationship with the Padres was terminated.

So that seems to be that. Until the next thing anyway. There is always a next thing.

Cubs release Shane Victorino

shane victorino getty
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File this under “not terribly surprising,” but Shane Victorino was released from his minor league contract with the Cubs yesterday after batting .233/.324/.367 through nine games with Triple-A Iowa. Victorino says he does not plan on retiring, however, and that he plans to try to latch on someplace else.

It’ll be a supreme long shot. Victorino, 35, Victorino suffered a calf injury during spring training and missed all of spring training. Last year he played in only 71 games between the Red Sox and Angels, and 30 in 2014 with the Red Sox. He was last healthy and effective in 2013. In a league where older players don’t do as well as they used to, it seems unlikely that he’ll be able to find a gig.

If this is the end of the road for the Flyin’ Hawaiian, he’ll finish with a career batting line of .2750/.340/.425 with 108 homers, 489 RBI, 231 stolen bases and four Gold Glove Awards in 12 seasons. He also has two World Series rings, from the 2008 Phillies and the 2013 Red Sox. He was a two-time All-Star.

Maybe not the way he wanted to end his career, if this is indeed the end, but Victorino had a fine career while it lasted.