Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings


These are last week’s. These are this week’s:

1. Yankees: The bullpen is kind of scary right now, but if there was ever a time for the Yankees to have to go through that it’s when the Red Sox are banged up and the Rays floundering.

2. Padres: Lots of people are agitating for Mat Latos to make the All-Star team. I’m guessing the Padres are just fine with the snub, though, given that he’s on an innings limit this year and probably could use the rest. Oh, and may the Force be with them.

3. Red Sox: Banged up, yes, but it’s cute how some people are pretending like there’s not enough talent in Boston to be able to ride out some injuries.

4. Rangers: If it turns out that Bengie Molina was the final piece to the World Series puzzle I’m probably just going to give up trying to understand baseball.

5. Braves: The Braves loss yesterday was no doubt a function of them not starting All-Star infielder Omar Infante. What on Earth were they thinking?

6. Reds: I got the feeling over the offseason that the Reds’ brass was looking forward to Dusty Baker’s lame duck status and ultimate departure. Now they’re going to have to figure out if they want to give him a contract extension. I bet they go ahead and give him one because they’ll think, hey, how can we not? Never mind that this would be a great opportunity to pull a Showalter-Torre kind of move.  I mean, just because things are going well doesn’t mean they couldn’t go better.

7. Rays: Why do I get the feeling that if the Rays don’t take this week’s series against the Red Sox that they’ll just fall out of it? I mean, I hate to subscribe to the whole “momentum” and “make a statement” school of thinking because it’s, like, 95% baloney, but it just feels like one of those series.

8. Mets: Jerry Manuel may very well have some hidden strengths as a manager. Managing the bullpen is not one of them. 

9. Tigers: The Tigers have pussy-footed into first place a couple of times recently, but with a three-game set against the Orioles and then their current co-leader Twins at home heading into the break, anything less than an outright division lead this time next week will have to stand as a disappointment.

10. Twins: Omar Infante and some other guys are pulling hard for Delmon Young to make the All-Star Game with that final vote thing so they don’t stick out so badly.

11. Dodgers: If last week’s news is true, this is basically the team Dodgers fans are stuck with. They’ve played pretty decent baseball recently, but I don’t think they have enough to hold off the Rockies, let alone catch the Padres.

12. Angels: They had better make some tracks in the next week or so, because they end July with 12 straight games against the Yankees, Red Sox and Rangers.

13. Rockies: Someone on the radio said this morning that the Rockies were looking like they about to go on another one of their patented runs. And I’ll grant that they’re looking better than they did earlier in the season. But they’re five games out right now. They’ve only been more than five games out on three days all year.  The fact is, the Rockies are chasing a much better Padres team than anyone they had to chase in the West during their runs of 2007 and 2009.

14. White Sox: It still blows my mind that one month ago today this team was 9.5 games out.

15. Cardinals: They were 13-13 in June. They’re 15 out of 30 in this week’s rankings. Just feels about right for them.

16. Phillies: When I started this feature back in April I gave a thought to making 30th place the “loser of the week” slot or the place for otherwise decent teams with dubious accomplishments. I decided against it, but if I hand’t the Phillies would be there for having dropped three of four to the Pirates.

17. Athletics: Attention everyone who just got excited about the A’s little run: it came against the Pirates, Orioles and Indians. They should have won those games. Call me when they beat someone who’s worth a damn.

18. Giants: The wheels are coming off. Low point of yesterday’s awful, 15-inning loss to the Rockies: Bruce Bochy pinch-running Eli Whiteside for Buster Posey late in regulation. Like Whiteside is faster or something. Then Whiteside — who has to remain in the game because the Giants have a 13-man pen despite having a great rotation and thus don’t have a full bench — makes an error and then struck out a couple of times before the game was over.

19. Blue Jays: The Jays are skidding too. But hey, at least the Halladay trade is starting to look better.

20. Brewers: Yovani Gallardo’s injury — assuming he’s out for any real time — is kind of like the knockout punch to a team that was already on the ropes. Now’s the time to think of who you can deal, Mr. Melvin.

21. Royals: For a team that sucks every year it’s amazing how they are always in the middle of trade conversations heading into the deadline. If they have that many valuable players why the hell don’t they ever win?

22. Marlins: My interest in the Marlins for the rest of the season is in their ability to serve as a barometer. They dropped two of three to the Braves last week and beat the Mets two of three. Once they play Philly again I should have a good read on how the East will play out for the rest of the season. It’s science, dudes.

23. Cubs: Never have I seen a team that had aspirations of being good before the season started look as bad as the Cubs looked losing to the Reds yesterday.

24. Nationals: Last week I made a joke that basically went “who’s gonna be their All-Star if Strasburg doesn’t make it? Matt Capps?!”  Well I’ll be damned.

25. Mariners: Yesterday may have been Cliff Lee’s last start as a Mariner. That was his last last start as a Mariner since his last start as a Mariner. His next last start as a Mariner should come this Friday.

26. Indians: Shin-Soo Choo was one of the few Indians doing a thing this year and now he’s on the DL, possibly for the year.  That means that the offensive core of this team is Matt Laporta, Carlos Santana and, like, Michael Brantley.  All three of those guys have way more at bats in Columbus this year than Cleveland.  Should make the dog days particularly doggy this year.

27. Orioles and Pirates: Know what? Both of these teams had a good week or so, and I don’t think it’s fair to put one below the other. They’ve both been on the bottom this year and both likely will be again, but dammit, for this week they can share the relatively lofty heights of 27th place.

29. Astros: Houston has called up a couple of young guys in Chris Johnson and Jason Castro and have played fairly decently since then, but as long as Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman are hanging around this is a team that’s just going to depress Astros fans.

30. Diamondbacks: Fired manager, fired GM, a depressing DFA if Dontrelle Willis, and most of the good players will be traded in the next three weeks. But hey: racing giant-he
aded Mark Grace, Randy Johns
on, Matt Williams and Luis Gonzalez

A fan was attacked, injured outside Dodger Stadium on Friday

Dodger Stadium


The Los Angeles Times reports that there was a fight in the parking lot outside of Dodger Stadium on Friday night that put a fan in critical condition. The fight occurred following the Dodgers Game 1 loss to the Mets when an argument between fans escalated. It is unclear whether the fight was between fans of the rival teams.

Of course fan-in-fan violence is nothing new to Dodger Stadium and everyone recalls the Opening Day 2011 attack of Giants fan Bryan Stow which left him severely injured and brain damaged.

Here’s hoping the hospitalized fan recovers quickly.

Playoff Reset: The Cards and Dodgers have their backs against the wall

Clayton Kershaw

Historically speaking, the Cardinals and Dodgers are the class of the National League. A couple of organizations which have won a ton, have had a lot of classy alpha-types running their respective shows over the years, no shortage of glory, no shortage of history and enough evocative and grand footage in the can to make Ken Burns sepia with envy.

Meanwhile, the Cubs and Mets, while they’ve won some and have some wonderful history too, are far better known for their failures. For dubious achievements and fan bases which have, collectively, spent far more time smacking their own foreheads than high-fiving the guy in the seat next to them. Nevertheless, by the time we go to bed tonight it’s quite possible that the classy organizations with the long resumes of winning baseball will have been eliminated by the sad sacks and that we’re going to be treated to a Mets-Cubs NLCS.

In short: today’s NLDS contests are “the big game” sequences in any late-70s-mid-90s “slobs vs. snobs” comedy movie. Camp Mohawk vs. Camp Northstar. Lane Meyer vs. Roy Stalin skiing the K-12. Thornton Mellon vs. Chas in the diving meet. Once these things are over don’t be surprised to see someone on the Mets or Cubs kissing some girl way out of their league and to be asking yourself, “wait, why are there cheerleaders at a diving meet?”

Of course baseball isn’t as scripted as all of that and William Zabka is, according to IMDb, in pre-production on some Civil War project, so he can’t make it. I have no idea what that’s about. I can only assume he’s playing some stuck-up Confederate General who will lose to Curtis Armstrong’s disheveled Union general in The Big Battle, after which we cut to credits over some tossed-off Dave Edmunds song he wrote for the soundtrack just for the money.

Which is to say: we have to watch these games to see what happens:

The Game: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Chicago Cubs
The Time: 4:37 p.m. ET
The Place: Wrigley Field
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: John Lackey vs. Jason Hammel
The Upshot: Wow, those were a lot of dingers given up by Michael Wacha and his friends last night, huh? The good news is that they’re running Lackey out there this afternoon and Lackey has owned the Cubs of late, going 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in four starts against them, including his gem in Game 1 on Friday night. The bad news: even a half dozen recent starts aren’t great predictively speaking, and Lackey is on short rest. TBS will show highlights of Lackey pitching on short rest in the 2002 World Series today, but think about what you were doing in 2002 and whether you’d be just as good at it today as then. Hammel has the ball for the Cubs. He has not fared well against the Cardinals this season (5.37 ERA) but the same small sample stuff applies.

Injuries could be a key consideration here, as Addison Russell may be on the shelf for the Cubs following his hamstring tweak in last night’s game. Likewise Yadier Molina left early, apparently having aggravated his thumb injury. Otherwise: wear a helmet if you’re in the Bleachers at Wrigley this afternoon. Balls may be flying out your way.

The Game: Los Angels Dodgers vs. New York Mets
The Time: 8:07 p.m. ET
The Place: Citi Field
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: Clayton Kershaw vs. Steven Matz
The Upshot: The Clayton Kershaw Legacy Game. It’s not fair to Kershaw that, after eight years of completely dominating Major League Baseball people will deem him worthy or unworthy of, well, whatever, based on his 10th postseason start, but they will. If he falters today on short rest, with no reliable bullpen to bail him out, people will call him some sort of choke artist. If he dominates he’ll be considered redeemed, though he’s never been a guy in need of redemption. I don’t care much for that game, but it’s inevitable it will be played so let’s just silently roll our eyes and go with it. The Mets may have a bigger question mark on the mound in Steven Matz, who hasn’t pitched in a couple of weeks thanks to a tweak in his back in the last week of the season.

This should feel like a totally different game. The Utley drama has to subside now, especially given that he’s unlikely to get the start against a tough lefty. And that tough lefty is, with all due respect, no Brett Anderson. You can bet against Clayton Kershaw and win, but it’s not the sort of thing I’d make a habit of.

In any event, the Cubs and Mets should play this on a loop in the Clubhouse before today’s games. Because . . . it just doesn’t matter!

Yoenis Cespedes and his bat flip say good morning

Yoenis Cespedes

It was a late night last night. Especially for old farts like me. I turned on my TV at 12:30 yesterday afternoon and there was baseball on it for just about 12 hours straight. Not too shabby unless you happen to root for the Astros, Rangers, Cardinals or Dodgers. Oh well, today is another day. Or tomorrow if today is a travel day.

In the meantime, we have Yoenis Cespedes to keep us happy, alert and occupied. Again, unless you’re a Dodgers fan. Of course, if you are a Dodgers fan you got absolutely no right to be upset at a bat flip following a homer. And if I catch you complaining, you’re getting a time out.