Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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As was the case last week and many weeks before, the Yankees rule the roost.  If you have an argument against it, make it in the comments. Then have yourself committed to a mental ward for an acute case of the crazy:

1. Yankees: I gave half a thought to going with the crazy and knocking them down a peg for moaning about not getting Cliff Lee, but no need to punish the players simply because some anonymous whack job in the front office lacks perspective. They obviously didn’t need Lee anyway. They’re cruising and they’ll just get Lee this winter. For now it all looks like cream cheese.

2. Braves: If there was any doubt about who is ruling the roost in the NL East right now, the Braves’ successful road trip through Philly and New York — two of three from the Phils and the Mets — put that to rest.

3. Rays: Nice rebound week (and change) for the Rays, taking three of four from the Twins, sweeping the Red Sox and taking care of the Indians.

4. White Sox: Ain’t nobody hotter than Ozzie Guillen’s White Sox. Coming back from 9.5 down just over a month ago to take over the division is the feat of the year so far.

5. Padres: A weird road trip — all the way from San Diego to Washington for three games and then clear back to Colorado — discombobulated the Padres a bit.  Seeing them in those slug fests in D.C. was . . . odd.

6. Tigers: Trying hard to get the number of the black and white truck that just ran them off the road.

7. Red Sox: Still banged up and now there’s some back and forth in the press between Youkilis and Ellsbury. Nice time for a few days off to clear heads and heal bodies.

8. Rockies: Colorado, in contrast, doesn’t wand the music to stop for four days, because they’re on a roll, serving notice to the Padres that the West won’t be theirs for long. In fact, number eight feels a little low for them.

9. Dodgers: They’re not turning heads like the Rockies are, but they’re just as close to the Padres. Not quite as talented a team, however, so they have to make a deal to hang in there, I think. Unless of course you think Vicente Padilla is going to spin seven shutout innings multiple times over the second half.

10. Rangers: Bad first start notwithstanding, getting Cliff Lee
puts them in the driver’s seat in the West. Heck, they may have been
there anyway, recent stumbles notwithstanding, because the Angels are
stumbling just as much.

11. Mets:  It’s not my anti-Mets bias that has me believing that they’re not the biggest threat to the Braves in the NL East. It’s plain old objectivity.  Mike Pelfrey has struggled recently. R.A. Dickey could have a great second half, but I don’t know how much I’d bet on that. The bullpen looks tired. If Beltran comes back strong or if they make a big trade I think they can hang, but short of that there are reasons for concern.  

12. Twins: Like Aaron said this morning: Free fall. The starters are getting creamed, both Mauer and Morneau are hurt/sick/struggling/whatever. They’re farther back in the Central now than they have been all year and things are looking bleak. Is the break enough for them, or do they need to make a deal?

13. Phillies: Three straight walkoff wins for the Phillies through Saturday, and a couple of pitching gems to close out the weekend. The offense and the non-Halladay portion of the rotation is still a concern, however. How they come out of the break will determine whether last week’s Jayson Werth trade rumors were merely a function of panic or the emergence of a dominant theme.

14. Reds: The Phillies’ series was a pain, but thankfully the Cardinals have been stumbling too.  The Reds need help in the bullpen, though, and quickly if they are to keep setting the tone, because St. Louis isn’t going to be down like this for long.

15. Cardinals, Giants: Identical records and only a two-run difference in run differential. The Giants enter the break on an upnote and the Cardinals on more of downnote, but I like the Cardinals’ chances better simply because they have fewer good teams to contend with and a ton of games left against some really, really bad ones.

17. Angels: An ugly and uninspiring series against the White Sox and the Rangers getting Cliff Lee makes for a pretty dispiriting week in Anaheim. But hey, All-Star Game is in town.

18. Blue Jays: It’s just astonishing to me how big a difference there has been between Adam Lind and Aaron Hill in 2009 and Adam Lind and Aaron Hill in 2010. Oh, and if you’re going to have a silly little Home Run Derby anyway, what’s the point of leaving Jose Bautista out of it? I mean, he only leads the majors in home runs and stuff.

19. Marlins: Jeff Loria would like to thank LeBron James for taking the focus off the Marlins for the rest of the season and likely for the next several years.

20. Athletics: Any A’s fans looking for something to cheer them up in this pretty down season should read yesterday’s editorial from Andy Dolich in the Chronicle: “When fans of the Green and Gold are celebrating their fifth world
championship, it will be in Oakland.” Hey, delusion can be cheering!

21. Royals: Optimism is at an all-time high in Kansas City right now. Well, maybe not “all-time” but at least a recent high. I’m not believing that talk about the Royals being playoff contenders — leave that to the Yostafarians out there — but it’s certainly nice for the Royals to not be a laughing stock for once.

22. Nationals: Frankly, having the season descend into crud like it has is the best possible thing for the Nats, inasmuch as it allows them to simply shut down Strasburg when he reaches his innings limit and will give them the flexibility to make some moves. I mean, yeah, I like Adam Dunn a lot, but if he can be flipped for some useful parts, it will be a good for the long term outlook to trade him.

23. Cubs: Owner Tom Ricketts said on Friday that “no one could have predicted the difficulty we’ve had” this far this
season.  Oh really? OK, I was wrong about Zambrano bouncing back and was overly concerned about Ted Lilly, but they looked like a fourth place team to me back on April 1st and at the All-Star break they’re in fourth place.

24. Brewers:  I know the Brewers draw well, but I hadn’t really thought of it in these terms before: “The Milwaukee Brewers play in baseball’s smallest market, but they have
sold more tickets this year than the New York Mets.”

25. Astros: Better play of late, but firing hitting coach Sean Berry and replacing him with Jeff Bagwell is a joke move. Like it’s Sean Berry’s fault the Astros suck. Like Jeff Bagwell will be able to do anything to turn things around. The reason Houston is terrible is because of Drayton McLane and Ed Wade, not because of the coaches. Unless Berry keyed Wade’s car or something, this move is all about making a scapegoat out of someone and is borne of the cynical belief that the identity of the hitting coach will get fans excited about a terrible team.

26. Mariners: Maybe the biggest failure in Seattle this year was the expectations game. So much activity in the offseason — and a lot of “Lee and King Felix a the top of the rotation!” hype — fooled a lot of people into believing that this team would do more than it was truly capable of. Objectively speaking, though, the Lee trade-and-flip worked out for them nicely and they’re a better team today than they were last week because of it. If they hadn’t brought Griffey back and if Jack Z. had said “hey, we’re rebuilding” a few times over the winter, people probably wouldn’t have been so down on the M’s in the first half.

27. Indians: Matt LaPorta and Carlos Santana have been great so far and give the Indians hope for the future. Sadly, however, departed superstars and hope for the future is not the sort of thing that’s going to make Cleveland fans feel good right now. Cliff Lee trade? LeBron James insanity? When does Browns camp start?

28. Diamondbacks: Headline “Dan Haren looking for strong second half for season.” Unspoken context: “for whom?”
 
29. Orioles: Of all the disappointments in Baltimore this year, perhaps the most surprising and the most depressing has been Matt Wieters’ .245/.315/.357 line in the first half. Remember back in the day when he inspired this kind of thing?

30. Pirates: There are a lot of sad comments that could be made about the Pirates, but maybe the saddest comes in the Post-Gazette’s first-half wrap up story in which it lists the season’s “high point” as the second game of the season when they had a big crowd for a game in which a boatload of tickets were discounted to $1.

Ichiro was happy to see Pete Rose get defensive about his hits record

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 14:  Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Miami Marlins warms-up during batting practice before a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on June 14, 2016 in San Diego, California.   (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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You’ll recall the little controversy last month when Ichiro Suzuki passed Pete Rose’s hit total. Specifically, when Ichiro’s Japanese and American hit total reached Rose’s American total of 4,256 and a lot of people talked about Ichiro being the new “Hit King.” You’ll also recall that Rose himself got snippy about it, wondering if people would now think of him as “the Hit Queen,” which he took to be disrespect.

There’s a profile of Ichiro over at ESPN the Magazine and reporter Marly Rivera asked Ichiro about that. Ichiro’s comments were interesting and quite insightful about how ego and public perception work in the United States:

I was actually happy to see the Hit King get defensive. I kind of felt I was accepted. I heard that about five years ago Pete Rose did an interview, and he said that he wished that I could break that record. Obviously, this time around it was a different vibe. In the 16 years that I have been here, what I’ve noticed is that in America, when people feel like a person is below them, not just in numbers but in general, they will kind of talk you up. But then when you get up to the same level or maybe even higher, they get in attack mode; they are maybe not as supportive. I kind of felt that this time.

There’s a hell of a lot of truth to that. Whatever professional environment you’re in, you’ll see this play out. If you want to know how you’re doing, look at who your enemies and critics are. If they’re senior to you or better-established in your field, you’re probably doing something right. And they’re probably pretty insecure and maybe even a little afraid of you.

The rest of the article is well worth your time. Ichiro seems like a fascinating, insightful and intelligent dude.

There will be no criminal charges arising out of Curt Schilling’s video game debacle

Curt Schilling
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In 2012 Curt Schilling’s video game company, 38 Studios, delivered the fantasy role-playing game it had spent millions of dollars and countless man hours trying to deliver. And then the company folded, leaving both its employees and Rhode Island taxpayers, who underwrote much of the company’s operations via $75 million in loans, holding the bag.

The fallout to 38 Studios’ demise was more than what you see in your average business debacle. Rhode Island accused Schilling and his company of acts tantamount to fraud, claiming that it accepted tax dollars while withholding information about the true state of the company’s finances. Former employees, meanwhile, claimed — quite credibly, according to reports of the matter — that they too were lured to Rhode Island believing that their jobs were far more secure than they were. Many found themselves in extreme states of crisis when Schilling abruptly closed the company’s doors. For his part, Schilling has assailed Rhode Island politicians for using him as a scapegoat and a political punching bag in order to distract the public from their own misdeeds. There seems to be truth to everyone’s claims to some degree.

As a result of all of this, there have been several investigations and lawsuits into 38 Studios’ collapse. In 2012 the feds investigated the company and declined to bring charges. There is currently a civil lawsuit afoot and, alongside it, the State of Rhode Island has investigated for four years to see if anyone could be charged with a crime. Today there was an unexpected press conference in which it was revealed that, no, no one associated with 38 Studios will be charged with anything:

An eight-page explanation of the decision concluded by saying that “the quantity and qualify of the evidence of any criminal activity fell short of what would be necessary to prove any allegation beyond a reasonable doubt and as such the Rules of Professional Conduct precluded even offering a criminal charge for grand jury consideration.”

Schilling will likely crow about this on his various social media platforms, claiming it totally vindicates him. But, as he is a close watcher of any and all events related to Hillary Clinton, he no doubt knows that a long investigation resulting in a declination to file charges due to lack of evidence is not the same thing as a vindication. Bad judgment and poor management are still bad things, even if they’re not criminal matters.

Someone let me know if Schilling’s head explodes if and when someone points that out to him.