Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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Since a whole lot hasn’t happened in the last week thanks to the All-Star Game, the comments accompanying the rankings this week focus less on the overall state-of-the-ballclub and more on what they need, both at the trade deadline or otherwise.

1. Yankees: The Bombers need A.J. Burnett to quit flaking out, Andy Pettitte to make a quick return and no one important to the organization to die for a little while.

2. Rays: A big bat at DH would be nice. B.J. Upton to remember that he used to be good would be useful as well.

3. Padres: A little offense wouldn’t hurt. The Padres could also do without the Boston media continuing to treat them like roadkill whose only purpose in life is to trade Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox.

4. Braves: An outfielder who can hit. And while they really don’t want it or need it, it would probably do the Braves some good as an organization to see Yunel Escobar thrive for Toronto in the second half. I mean, yeah, the corporate culture has usually worked for Atlanta, but Bobby Cox and his gravitas aren’t going to be around next year and eventually the team is going to have to figure out how to get the most out of talented but flawed players rather than ship them out at the first sign of trouble.

5. Rangers: An owner would be nice, but that’s crazy talk. Otherwise the Rangers have pretty much made their moves this year. Maybe they can shore up the bench a bit with a bat who could cover for Chris Davis in the event he goes into a deep slump. Mostly it’s time to think about playoff roster optimization, though, because I don’t see the Angels being able to mount a sustained threat.

6. White Sox: A DH and a starter. Though really, given that one of their most talked about trade chits — Gordon Beckham — is starting to heat up, does Chicago really have the ability to land one? Maybe if they can convince Roy Oswalt to come to Chicago and agree to pick up the bulk of his salary they could get him for a song in terms of players going south.

7. Rockies: The healthy return of Troy Tulowitzki is important, but if Brad Hawpe and/or Todd Helton can’t hack it going forward, they’re going to need a corner infielder. Oh, and they need someone to silence Jon Miller before he gets too close to the shocking truth!
 
8. Cardinals: A starter would be nice, as would a mild but temporarily debilitating case of food poisoning to circulate through the Reds’ clubhouse for a couple of weeks. Those guys are pesky.

9. Reds: Some help in the bullpen, mostly. And if they’re really auditioning Jason Isringhausen, they need some help with looking in the right places to look for such help.

10. Giants: Pablo Sandoval to remember that he knows how to hit. Short of that a big outfield or first base bat. For his part, umpire Phil Cuzzi needs the Giants to either make the playoffs or at least to finish more than one game out of the running, or else someone’s likely to put a bounty on him.

11. Red Sox: For like five minutes to pass without someone pulling, straining, breaking, tweaking or rupturing something. And they totally need the Padres to realize that they have no choice but to abort their own feeble playoff run and hand over Adrian Gonzalez as God and Nature intends them to.

12. Tigers: Some relief help. The ability to NOT go on a swoon at the same time either the White Sox or the Twins do. Really, it’s like they want to play in a game-163 again this year.

13. Twins: They need a starter. They also need Joe Mauer to repudiate the bargain he made with his mother, Lara, to have the rays from the red Kryptonian sun drain him of his powers to that he could be with the love of his life, Lois Lane. By the way, in this little flight of fancy, I envision Ozzie Guillen in the General Zod role, which I think he’d find hilarious.

14. Mets: Like everyone else, a starter. Though a long-lasting but ultimately non-violent kidnapping of Oliver Perez may be the most useful thing for roster management purposes.

15. Phillies: A time machine to undo the Cliff Lee trade. Chase Utley to accidentally stumble into the faith-healing tent at some country revival except, in his case, have it actually work.

16. Dodgers: Frank McCourt to loosen the purse strings and allow Ned Colletti to make a move for some pitching. Well, hell, maybe not. Last time he let Colletti go out and get a veteran he traded Carlos Santana away.

17. Angels: A rent-a-first baseman. An exorcist who specializes in Scott Kazmirs.

18. Blue Jays: Another team to unload a “problem” player as good as Yunel Escobar.

19. Athletics: Bud Selig to get off the pot on the whole Oakland/San Jose thing. I mean, the A’s are almost certain to continue alienating the current Oakland fans, but it would at least be nice if they could start to woo the future San Jose fans to make up for it.

20. Marlins: For Selig and MLBPA head Mike Weiner to accidentally knock heads and suffer amnesia long enough so that Larry Beinfest can trade away all of the players who make money before anyone remembers that the Marlins agreed to keep payroll up.

21. Cubs: Derrek Lee to get cool with the idea of going to Anaheim. Ted Lilly giving them the go-ahead-and-trade-me-but-don’t-worry-I’ll-come-back-to-Chicago-in-free-agency-this-winter wink in return.

22. Brewers: Prince Fielder to go on on 20 for 30, 12 home run tear, thereby convincing someone that, price aside, THEY MUST HAVE HIM.

23. Nationals: The Nats need everyone who can’t get in on Prince Fielder to realize that Adam Dunn is a better option.

24. Royals: Kansas City needs everyone who can’t get in on Prince Fielder and Dunn to realize that David DeJesus, while not as good as either of those two, is a hell of a lot cheaper and is probably way more useful in the very short term.

25. Indians: The Tribe needs all of those teams who claim they need pitching to at least pretend to be interested in Jake Westbrook. Because really, I can’t think of an obviously available starter who has had less chatter about him these past few weeks than Westbrook.

26. Astros: Houston needs Roy Oswalt to broaden his horizons a bit in terms of where he’d agree to go, but more than that they need to realize that Oswalt makes way too much for most teams to stomach and consider kicking in more cash in order to get a deal done.

27. Mariners: With Lee gone they don’t have much to sell, and they sure as heck aren’t buyers. I think, more than anyone, they need to simply close their eyes and pray for October to come as quickly as possible.

28. Diamondbacks: Arizona needs yet another team to talk themselves into the whole “Adam LaRoche is a second half god” thing. And having Edwin Jackson shape up a bit so they can shop him without people thinking that A.J. Hinch killed his arm in that no-hitter would be nice too.

29. Orioles: For the “Ty Wigginton is everything you could possibly need” meme that has been circulating lately to last for another ten or eleven days before everyone comes to their senses.

30. Pirates: Steelers camp to open.

Don Mattingly thinks pace of play can be improved by changing views on strikeouts

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly sits in the dugout prior to a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Monday, April 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo
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Marlins manager Don Mattingly has one potential solution to the pace of play issue: change the way people value strikeouts, the Associated Press reports.

Strikeouts have been rising steadily since 2005. Then, a typical game averaged 6.30 strikeouts. In 2016, there were 8.03 strikeouts per game. There are many explanations for this phenomenon. For one, teams are searching specifically for young pitchers who can throw hard — like triple-digits hard. They figure they can teach them the other pertinent skills in the minors. Second, Sabermetrics has shown that a strikeout is only marginally worse than an out made on a ball put in play. Sometimes, the strikeout is preferable, especially if there’s a runner on first base with less than two outs and a weak hitter at the plate. Sabermetrics has also shown home runs to be the best and most efficient way to contribute on offense. Furthermore, younger players tend to focus more on power in order to get noticed by scouts. Unless it’s paired with other elite skills, a scout isn’t going to remember a player who hit the ball into the hole on the right side, but he will remember the kid who blasted a 450-foot homer.

Here’s what Mattingly had to say:

Analytically, a few years back nobody cared about the strikeout, so it’s OK to strike out 150, 160, 170 times, and that guy’s still valued in a big way. Well, as soon as we start causing that to be a bad value — the strikeouts — guys will put the ball in play more. So once we say strikeouts are bad and it’s going to cost you money the more you strike out, then the strikeouts will go away. Guys will start making adjustments and putting the ball in play more.

[…]

If our game values [say that] strikeouts don’t matter, they are going to keep striking out, hitting homers, trying to hit home runs and striking out.

Simply believing strikeouts are bad won’t magically change its value. However, creating social pressure regarding striking out can change it. Theoretically, anyway. Creating that social pressure is easier said than done.

There is a dichotomy here as well. Home runs are exciting. Strikeouts and walks are not. Often, though, the three go hand-in-hand-in-hand. A player actively trying to cut down on his strikeouts by putting the ball in play will also likely cut down on his strikeout and walk rates. There doesn’t seem to be an elegant solution here. Wishing for fewer strikeouts, walks, and homers doesn’t really seem to give way to a more exciting game.

Sean Doolittle: “Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans.”

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 25:  Sean Doolittle #62 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 25, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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In the past, we’ve commented on Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend Eireann Dolan’s community service. In 2015, the pair hosted Syrian refugee families for Thanksgiving and their other charitable efforts have included LGBTQ outreach and help for veterans.

Athletes and their significant others have typically avoided stepping into political waters, but Doolittle and Dolan have shown that it’s clearly no concern to them. In the time since, the Syrian refugee issue has become even more of a hot-button issue and Doolittle recently discussed it with Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.

I think America is the best country in the world because we’ve been able to attract the best and brightest people from all over the world. We have the smartest doctors and scientists, the most creative and innovative thinkers. A travel ban like this puts that in serious jeopardy.

I’ve always thought that all boats rise with the tide. Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans. But if we include them, we can make the pie that much bigger, thus ensuring more opportunities for everyone.

Doolittle, of course, is referring to Executive Order 13769 signed by President Trump which sought to limit incoming travel to the United States from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. A temporary restraining order on the executive order was placed on February 3, a result of State of Washington v. Trump.

Doolittle spoke more about the plight refugees face:

These are people fleeing civil wars, violence and oppression that we can’t even begin to relate to. I think people think refugees just kind of decide to come over. They might not realize it takes 18-24 months while they wait in a refugee camp. They go through more than 20 background checks and meetings with immigration officers. They are being vetted.

They come here, and they want to contribute to society. They’re so grateful to be out of a war zone or whatever they were running from in their country that they get jobs, their kids go to our schools, they’re paying taxes, and in a lot of cases, they join our military.

Around this time last year, Craig wrote about Doolittle and Dolan not sticking to baseball. They’re still not, nor should they be. Hopefully, the duo’s outspokenness inspires other players and their loved ones to speak up for what’s right.

[Hat tip: Deadspin’s Hannah Keyser]