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.

Video: Mike Napoli face-plants into third base after a triple

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Indians DH/1B Mike Napoli has hit ten triples in his 11-year big league career, so sliding into third base after a long run is not something with which he has tons of experience. As such, the slide — and I use that term in the loosest sense possible — he executed — and I use that term as loosely as possible too — when he hit a triple last night against the White Sox was somewhat unconventional.

The best part, though, was that he didn’t even need to slide as the throw from the outfield was delayed due to the outfielder not getting a great handle on the ball and the relay throw which never came was dropped by the infielder. He could’ve gone in standing up.

Thank God he didn’t, though, because this was too good:

Matt Harvey unfairly slammed for snubbing the press

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 24: Starting pitcher Matt Harvey #33 of the New York Mets looks on after allowing a two run home run by Daniel Murphy #20 of the Washington Nationals (not pictured) during the fifth inning at Nationals Park on May 24, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Matt Harvey had yet another nightmare of a game last night in what has become a nightmare of a season for him. He’s been terrible all year, particularly terrible in his past three starts and there are legitimate questions about whether he’s hurt, should be shut down or should be sent down to the minors. It’s not hyperbole to say that his career is at a crossroads right now. He may return to form, as many struggling pitchers do, but for those who don’t, this is what it looks like as things skid out of control for good.

In light of that — in light of the fact that he’s worked his entire life to make the big leagues and now that’s all in jeopardy — it may be understandable if Harvey is at a loss for words. If he doesn’t have any answers about his current plight. If, like most of us when we face a personal or professional crisis, he needs to gather himself in order to make sense of it all.

Matt Harvey is a baseball player, though, and baseball players don’t get that luxury. No, when they face a crisis, they’re expected to talk to reporters about it and, if they don’t, they can expect 800-1,000 angry, critical words thrown at them. Mike Vaccaro from the New York Post throws his angry words this morning:

The joke, of course, is that any of this would be remotely surprising by now. The Mets have abided by the Harvey Rules from Day 1, have tread lightly around him, have allowed him the kind of leeway and latitude that should never be afforded someone with 75 career starts, no matter how promising he used to be.

So why wouldn’t he duck and run now?

Why wouldn’t he leave it for his manager and his teammates to answer for him, to speak on his behalf, after another humbling bell-ringing at the hands of the Nationals, another night when he was less Dark Knight than Pale Pawn, another night when he couldn’t recapture even a fraction of the old magic?

It gets no better from there on. The bile is palpable as Vaccaro catalogs all of Harvey’s foibles of the past three or four years, real or imagined, and lets Harvey have it, all because he left the clubhouse before talking to the media.

To be clear, there is a tiny seed of a point to criticism of a player who doesn’t speak to the press. I’ve written about this in the past, and players and members of the media have talked about it before. That seed: when someone ducks the press, it puts pressure on their teammates to answer for them and they don’t appreciate that too much. That situation is largely inapplicable here, however, and doesn’t defend this vile column, for a couple of reasons.

One obvious reason is that Vaccaro does not appear to be concerned with Harvey’s relationship with his teammates in this column. There are no quotes from anyone about Harvey other than the manager, who would be asked about his starter’s struggles anyway. There is a generic reference to teammates having to answer for someone else, but no suggestion here that Mets players were irked about it last night.

Rather, the ire in this piece was a long time coming. The press has been eager to put the knife in Harvey for years and there is something close to glee spinning off of every word here based on old transgressions, not awkwardness from last night or even a pattern of Harvey ducking the press, which he has not done. If there is any doubt about that:

Maybe that was Vaccaro who said that, maybe it was another columnist, but the notion that these sorts of anti-player screeds are solely about poor teammates who are left to answer for their absent friends is a convenient lie. The press, especially the New York press, likes to torch certain guys and this is a case in which a columnist is gleefully torching a guy with his snub of the press merely being a convenient pretext.

Context matters too. It’d be one thing if Harvey was having a little snit last night over a bad performance and just peaced out of the clubhouse and left others holding the bag. That’s not what happened. What’s happening is a guy’s livelihood and identity flashing before his eyes. A pitcher suddenly losing it and having no idea why or how to arrest his slide. That there is zero empathy for that — zero understanding that a guy may not know what to say or how to say it when he’s asked about it — is pretty sad. I’m sure most Mets players, even ones who may not like Harvey, have been in that situation before and are willing to give him more leeway than this acidic column would suggest. I’m sure they’re worried about their teammate on some level and are just as baffled and worried as he is.

Should Matt Harvey talk to the press? Probably. MLB and its clubs want players to do that and it’s the custom. If a player routinely ducks this responsibility or if he does so because he’d rather make it to the nightclub than be there for his ballclub, yes, he should be criticized. But that’s not what’s going on here. What’s going on here is a press corps that has jumped on Matt Harvey for every little thing, however benign it may have been — a press corps which even turned a scary medical moment he experienced into the basis for jokes — jumping on him once again.

The glee with which they’re doing it is pretty telling. Far more telling than a man not wanting to talk to that same press corps mere hours after a personal and professional nightmare grew even darker.

Yasiel Puig benched after he failed to run hard out of the box

Yasiel Puig
Associated Press
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On Sunday Yasiel Puig made a pretty significant base running blunder, failing to advance to third base on an bunt which, in turn, led to the Dodgers playing eight extra innings of baseball. Last night the Dodgers right fielder made another mental mistake, also involving lackadaisical base running, and it bought him a seat on the pine.

Puig hit a deep fly to right in the sixth inning. He clearly thought he got all of it and began slowly walking to first base out of the box. The ball didn’t go out, however. It hit the wall. For anyone showing even a bit of hustle that would’ve been a double but Puig’s lack of effort held him to a single. He would come around to score — ironically because of hustle on the base paths, reaching home from second on a headfirst slide — but it was too little too late for manager Dave Roberts who was upset at the earlier loafing and removed Puig from the game.

Roberts after the game:

“He needed to be on second base. We talk about playing the game the right way.”

Puig:

“I thought it was a home run, and then I didn’t run out the ball, obviously. It was [Roberts’] decision to take me out of the game. It was a decision well made, because all my teammates are out on the field working hard, and I should have run out that ball.”

Those are the right words to say in that situation, but it’s a situation that shouldn’t come up and words that should go without saying. Especially in a year where Puig has tried to recast himself as a hard worker. And especially in a year in which he’s been struggling at the plate overall.

Here’s Puig after the game:

Here’s Roberts:

Somewhere, Don Mattingly is nodding.

 

And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

SEATTLE, WA - MAY 24:  Leonys Martin #12 of the Seattle Mariners reacts after hitting a two-run, walk-off homer to defeat the Oakland Athletics 6-5 at Safeco Field on May 24, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Rays 4, Marlins 3: The Rays won and guys did cool things and all of that but my favorite part of the game was how Kevin Cash brought in a lefty to face Giancarlo Stanton, who promptly homered off of him. Obviously Stanton has been struggling and obviously it didn’t matter to the outcome of the game but I do want to know what the thought process is to “I’m going to bring in a lefty to face the most powerful right handed hitter in baseball in this spot.”

Cubs 12, Cardinals 3: Jason Hammel allowed one run while pitching into the eighth and had a two-run double in the six-run first inning as Chicago ends a three-game losing streak. Michael Wacha gave up eight runs in four innings and has lost five consecutive decisions. Which isn’t really good.

Yankees 6, Blue Jays 0: The Yankees are back to .500 for the first time since April 14, which was the eighth game of the season. Carlos Beltran homered and drove in two and Nathan Eovaldi tossed six shutout innings. Only two hits in the whole game for the Blue Jays, who are near the bottom in the AL for runs per game this year. Last year they ran away with the Best Offensive Team in Baseball title. So yeah, there’s that.

Nationals 7, Mets 4: Yeah, so the Matt Harvey situation is getting pretty dire. The Mets’ erstwhile ace was lit up for five runs on eight hits in five innings. One of those hits was a Daniel Murphy homer. Two others were gopher balls given up to Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon. Meanwhile, Stephen Strasburg struck out 11 in six and two-thirds. Terry Collins on Harvey:

“We’ve got to think what’s not just best for Matt, but what’s best for us moving forward at the moment. There are a lot of things to consider. We’re not going to make any rash judgments tonight. We’re going to sleep on it.”

Sounds like someone has either a DL stint or a trip to Las Vegas in his future.

Pirates 12, Diamondbacks 1: Gregory Polanco had three hits including a three-run homer and drove in five. Dbacks starter Shelby Miller was lit up for six runs on eight hits in five innings and saw his ERA climb above seven. Even Matt Harvey looks at that and goes “damn.” Pittsburgh reliever Arquimedes Caminero was ejected in the eighth after hitting a pair of batters in the head, one of whom — Jean Segura — was sent to the hospital with concussion symptoms. Dude seems to have no idea where the ball is going and has no business pitching right now.

Red Sox 8, Rockies 3: Jackie Bradley Jr. extends his hitting streak to 28 games or, as we say in the business, .5 DiMaggios. OK, we don’t say that in the business. I’m not even sure what “the business” is, actually. I sit on a couch with my cats all day. Pretty good business but I’m not sure if it’s representative of a professional class into which I can even plausibly shoehorn myself. David Price won his seventh game, allowing three runs over seven innings. David Ortiz went 2-for-4 and drove in four. No that does not entitle you to ask him if he is going to reconsider his decision to retire.

Tigers 3, Phillies 1: Justin Verlander struck out ten over eight shutout innings. Francisco Rodriguez notched his 400th career save. Miguel Cabrera stayed hot, driving in two. When your ace, your closer and your slugger are the three dudes who get mentioned in a short game description, it’s pretty much the Platonic ideal of a winning baseball game.

Brewers 2, Braves 1Scooter Gennett hit a tiebreaking single in the eighth to put the Brewers over. Julio Teheran struck out 12 while allowing one run in seven innings but got the no-decision and his team lost because such is the hellscape that is the Atlanta Braves 2016 season. For what it’s worth, he’s got a 0.89 ERA over his last six starts while striking out 42. He’s 1-2 in that span.

Rangers 4, Angels 1: Martin Perez tossed six shutout innings and Nomar Mazara hit a two-run homer in the sixth. The Rangers got an insurance run when Mazara was caught stealing and stayed in the rundown long enough to let another runner score, so give him an assist or something.

Indians 6, White Sox 2: Chris Sale lost. I repeat: Chris Sale lost a baseball game. The Indians got to him for six runs in three and a third innings, in fact, which seems damn nigh impossible this year, but box scores don’t lie. Heck, Sale had allowed only six runs in his previous five starts combined. Josh Tomlin, meanwhile, remains undefeated after tossing eight innings and allowing two runs.

Royals 7, Twins 4Salvador Perez stayed hot, hittting a two-run homer, and Lorenzo Cain had four hits and two RBI. Wade Davis got the save despite loading the bases with nobody out in the ninth. That’s an interesting way to do things. Maybe he’s just lacking excitement in his life and is looking for ways to make the adrenaline surge.

Astros 3, Orioles 2: Carlos Correa hit a walkoff single in the 13th, ending the Astros’ four-game losing streak. It was set up by Tony Kemp hitting a leadoff triple over Adam Jones‘ head. Astros pitchers struck out 19 Orioles batters. Sixteen of those strikeouts came from the Houston bullpen, which didn’t enter the game until there were two outs in the sixth inning.

Giants 8, Padres 2: The Warriors are bringing everyone in the Bay Area down but at least they still have the Giants. Brandon Crawford drove in four runs and Jarrett Parker homered as the Giants win their fourth in a row and 12th of 13. The Padres have lost all eight meetings with the Giants this year.

Mariners 6, Athletics 5: The Mariners were down 5-2 after the A’s batted in the eighth inning but then they rallied for four over the next two frames, topped off with a Leonys Martin two-run walkoff homer. Robinson Cano hit a two-run homer of his own in the eighth. Brutal loss for the A’s.

Dodgers 8, Reds 2: Nine losses in a row for the Reds who continue to be a great opponent for struggling contenders to face. Eight straight for the Dodgers over the Reds. Mike Bolsinger got the win after allowing two runs in a little under six innings. Your Aunt Tilly could get a win against the Reds right now, even if she was having trouble locating her offspeed stuff.