Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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Last week’s Power Rankings are here.  As is usually the case, they have changed.

1. Yankees: Their rise to first has been occasioned by a lot of games against poor teams and the Rays’ recent slide. Not to be one of those people who nitpick success, but first place or not, they have room to improve.

2. Braves: Heyward and McCann have been slumping, they might add an outfielder and they will be getting Jair Jurrjens back soon, so we may not even be seeing this team at its best yet.

3. Red Sox: En Fuego. Cue the Mark Twain quote.

4. Rays: Still ahead of the Sox by a skinch in terms of winning percentage, but on a decidedly different trajectory. While everyone as totally high on the Rays for so long, it’s becoming apparent that this is a team that can be pitched to.

5. Mets: No one is ever as good as they look beating up on Baltimore and Cleveland and no one is ever as bad as they look losing two of three to the Yankees. I’m still not convinced that they’ll hang in it, but if they make a big move . . .

6. Rangers: En fuego like the Sox and could make a big move like the Mets. If they go from bankruptcy to winning the division I don’t think we’ll be able to hold back the “rags to riches” headlines.

7. Twins: Their idling has not only allowed Detroit to pull close, but it has allowed the Chisox to get back in it too. Or at least to think they can.

8. Padres: This is the kind of thing that you can’t do until late July or early August. Even then might be too soon. Sensors are picking up an enormous amount of hubris emanating from that nearby nebula, Captain.

9. Tigers:  The Pirates, Nationals and Diamondbacks are not the stiffest of challenges. Up ahead: Mets, Braves and Twins.

10. Cardinals: I had figured that the Reds would hit a skid or three and that the overall talent of the Cards would ultimately prove superior, but I’m going to write a bunch of crap this fall about how the acquisition of Jeff Suppan made all the difference. And don’t you think for a minute that I won’t!

11. Giants: Fun conversation going on in the Giants’ blogosphere: do you have to give credit to Brian Sabean for the fact that a bunch of his old guy and bargain bin pickups are hitting? My gut reaction: I’ll give him credit the minute he takes the blame for his old guy and bargain bin pickups who didn’t hit for the previous several seasons. And I’m still mad at him for not having Stan Conte’s back way back when

12. Dodgers: I’ve been yo-yoing them for a couple of weeks now. I had them too low two weeks ago and too high last week. This feels about right, though. 

13. Reds: You’re not going to have a more dispiriting series than the Reds had this weekend against the M’s. One run in three games. The only saving grace is that most of the fans back east were asleep when the games were going on.

14. Phillies: The lack of offense has been the problem during their big swoon, but Saturday’s atrocity against the Twins reveals what some of us thought was Philly’s biggest problem all along: a suspect pen. Sure, it was covered over to some extent back when Jose Contreras was doing his Dennis Eckersley impression, but that seems to be over now.

15. Angels: Brian Fuentes gives all of us hope that one day even we can close for a major league team. I mean, it appears as though results don’t matter, so why not us?

16. Blue Jays: Two of three from the Giants and two of three from the Padres. Too bad they don’t play in the NL West.

17. Rockies: Tulowitzki out for two months? Well, we’ll always have Ubaldo.

18. White Sox: Well, look who’s at .500. Give me another good week and I’ll pay closer attention. Two more good weeks and I may start believing.

19. Marlins: Four of six from Tampa Bay this year is almost enough to make fans forgive the vuvuzelas.

20. Athletics: Optimism in the A’s blogosphere: “no matter how bleak things feel right now it could be worse. At least
we’re not the Pittsburgh Pirates.”

21. Cubs: I was on the radio with Brian Moline at the mighty WDWS in Champaign, Illinois on Friday night and the subject of the Cubs’ maybe needing to sell off some players came up. I’m paraphrasing, but the conversation basically went like this:

Brian: So, is it time for the Cubs to make some moves? Maybe have a bit of a fire sale?

Me: [thinking for a second] . . . man, I don’t know that they have any players anyone wants . . .

Brian: Yeah, I think you’re right.

22. Nationals: 4-8 since Strasburg was called up. Which is probably the best thing that could happen for his development, really.

23. Royals: I’m finding myself scoping out Royals games just to watch David DeJesus to see if he’d be worth the Braves trading for him. It just feels so . . . dirty.

24. Brewers: Attention Brewers fans who think that the team needs to move Prince Fielder for some much needed pitching and a bat and some magic beans and stuff: it ain’t gonna happen.

25. Mariners: Your Cliff Lee quote of the day: “Another walkless performance from Cliff Lee last night puts him at four
unintentional walks and zero hit batters of 305 batters faced. That’s
1.31% of hitters.Cliff Lee also strikes hitters out, works fast, smiles and isn’t Carlos
Silva. He also isn’t going to be a Mariner for as long as Silva was.”

26. Indians: Carlos Santana is hitting .393/.514/.786 since being called up from Columbus. The Indians today send David Huff back down to Columbus. This is why I don’t go crazy to make it to a ton of Clippers games.

27. Diamondbacks: The Dbacks could trade a bunch of dudes here pretty soon, so at least fans will have something to hold their interest.

28. Astros: You could put any of the bottom three teams at the bottom and I’d be cool with it. We’ll lead with the Astros because they come first alphabetically, but really, you can make an argument that they are worse than the Pirates and Orioles.

29. Orioles: Signs you’re not having a good season: when you have to ask your manager how his current team differs from the team he coached for which lost 119 games.

30. Pirates: More telling signs you’re having a bad season: when you feel it necessary to fire an anthropomorphic potato dumpling for dissent.

Should Dave Roberts have taken Clayton Kershaw out of Sunday’s game?

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 29:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch in the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on May 29, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will likely be second-guessed heavily during tomorrow’s news cycle. Starter Clayton Kershaw had pitched a terrific ballgame, as is his tendency, but with 114 pitches to his name, Roberts decided to pull him from the game in the eighth inning with two outs and a runner on first base.

Roberts opted not for closer Kenley Jansen, who hasn’t pitched since Wednesday, but for another lefty in Adam Liberatore. He was playing the numbers, with the left-handed-hitting Curtis Granderson coming up. Liberatore, much to Roberts’ chagrin, served up what turned out to be a game-tying triple to Granderson, hitting a rocket to right-center just out of the reach of a leaping Yasiel Puig.

Jansen has, for six years, been one of the game’s elite relievers. Kershaw, though at a high pitch count, doesn’t seem to suffer from the times through the order penalty like most pitchers. Kershaw’s opponents’ OPS facing him for the first time was .525 coming into Sunday. Twice, .597. Three times, .587. Four times, .526 (but this suffers from survivorship bias so it’s not exactly representative).

Furthermore, Kershaw held lefties to a .546 OPS over his career. Liberatore, in 99 plate appearances against lefty hitters, gave up a .575 OPS. Jansen? .560. It seems that, faced with three decisions, Roberts arguably made the worst one. Playing conservative with Kershaw at 114 pitches is defensible, but only if Jansen comes in. If Roberts wanted the platoon advantage, Kershaw should have stayed in.

Luckily for the Dodgers, Mets closer Jeurys Familia didn’t have his best stuff. He loaded the bases with one out in the top of the ninth on a single and two walks, then gave up a two-run single to Adrian Gonzalez, giving the Dodgers a 4-2 lead. Jansen came on in the bottom half of the ninth and retired the side in order to pick up his 15th save of the season.

Royals sweep White Sox over the weekend on three late rallies

KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 28:  Brett Eibner #12 of the Kansas City Royals celebrates his game-winning RBI single with teammates in the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium on May 28, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Royals won 8-7. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The Royals had themselves a pretty good weekend. The quickly fading White Sox, not so much.

On Friday, the Royals fell behind 5-1 after the top of the sixth. They would score once in the bottom of the sixth, four times in the seventh, and once in the eighth to steal a 7-5 win facing pitchers Miguel Gonzalez Dan Jennings, Matt Albers, Zach Duke and Nate Jones.

On Saturday, the Royals entered the bottom of the ninth down 7-1. They scored seven runs on closer David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to win 8-7.

On Sunday, the Royals were down 4-2 after the top of the eighth. They plated three runs in the bottom half of the eighth against Jones and Albers, going on to win 5-4.

Coming into the weekend, the Royals were 24-22 in third place. The White Sox were 27-21, a half-game up in first place. Now the Royals are in first place by a game and a half, and the White Sox are in third place, two games out of first.

Here’s video of the Royals’ comeback on Saturday, since it was so unlikely:

Report: Ryan Braun is “the hot name out there”

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 24: Ryan Braun #8 of the Milwaukee Brewers waits to hit during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on May 24, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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In Saturday’s column for The Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo notes that, according to a scout, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is “the hot name out there.” Braun has been bothered by neck and back issues this year, missing on Sunday his eighth start out of the Brewers’ last 14 games, but he has still put up a quality .351/.424/.583 triple-slash line in 170 plate appearances this year.

More importantly for an acquiring team, Braun is in the first year of a five-year, $105 million contract. He’s earning $19 million this season and in the ensuing two seasons, and then his salary decreases slightly to $18 million in 2019, $16 million in 2020, and $15 million if both sides pick up his mutual option (else a $4 million buyout would be exercised).

Per Cafardo, the Astros, Cardinals, Red Sox, Phillies, Mets, Giants, and White Sox are potential landing spots for Braun.

Mets unhappy with Dodgers’ request to make outfield markings to position fielders

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 28:  The 1986 New York Mets are honored before the game between the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field on May 28, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.The New York Mets are honoring the 30th anniversary of the 1986 championship season.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Mets have asked MLB for clarification on the Dodgers’ use of a laser rangefinder for defensive positioning over this weekend’s series at Citi Field. The Dodgers notified the Mets’ ground crew that they wanted to mark certain positions in the outfield grass after determining positions with the rangefinder. The grounds crew said they could leave two marks in center field and one in left field.

However, the grounds crew then went to their superiors and told them that the Dodgers threatened to dig holes in the outfield grass with their cleats, so the grounds crew was then instructed to “erase or obliterate” any of the Dodgers’ markings.

According to Rosenthal, Major League Baseball reinforced a few weeks ago that teams aren’t allowed to use markers to aid defensive positioning. The Dodgers haven’t been accused of doing anything nefarious during a game. Howie Kendrick was seen pulling something out of his pocket in the outfield, but Brett Anderson clarified on Twitter that it was just a piece of paper with notes for defensive positioning.

The series between the Mets and Dodgers has been heated, as Noah Syndergaard was ejected for throwing at Chase Utley on Saturday. Utley then responded by hitting two home runs, one of which was a grand slam. The Mets may have a legitimate concern, or it may just be gamesmanship.