Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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It continues to be the Yankees world. We’re all just livin’ in it.  Last week’s rankings are in parenthesis:

1. Yankees (1): I’m struggling to think of what could knock them out of the top spot. Joba Chamberlain could go on a tri-state killing spree, I guess, but if you listen to some Yankees fans you’d think he went and did it already.

2. Rays (2): The Rays making a big move with one of their many, many prospects to add a bat could possibly change things. They are emerging from their month-long funk now, and they are probably best equipped to gird their loins for the the playoffs. Well, Carl Crawford won’t be girding his loins, but everyone else will be.

3. Padres (3): Mat Latos recovered from his debilitating sneeze to beat the Pirates on Saturday. In fact all of the Padres got well in Pittsburgh. And they get them again in a couple of weeks. Between that and the divisional matchups against Arizona, there have been a lot of free passes for the Pads lately.

4. Rangers (5): Three of four from the Angels makes it seem pretty safe for Texas to start printing playoff tickets, no? Sure, the Angels got Dan Haren, but he can only pitch every fifth day. The Rangers are better than the Angels top-to-bottom seven days a week.

5. Braves (4): Everything has broken right for the Braves this year, but if they count on an outfield of Jason Heyward and a bunch of guys who have no business starting on a playoff team, the Braves won’t be a playoff team.

6. Giants (10): San Francisco is currently above the league average in runs scored a game. The last time they finished a season above average in runs scored was 2004.

7. Cardinals (8): Losing two of three to the Cubs is no good, but staring straight ahead at nine games against the Mets, Pirates and Astros has the Cardinals licking their chops.

8. White Sox (6): Ozzie Guillen is going to put Bobby Jenks back in as closer soon. He says he’s not being emotional about Jenks’ bad performances. He has a plan, saying “we’re not crazy what we’re doing here.” Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

 9. Reds (9): Scott Rolen is probably not going to start in Milwaukee tonight, making it ten games out since he hurt his hamstring. I’m not sure I can recall a guy missing ten games without going on the DL. Lucky for Cincinnati it hasn’t really come back to bite them. Miquel Cairo (!) has actually filled in quite nicely.

10. Twins (13): Some signs of life these past few days — although it’s hard not to show signs of life against Baltimore. The question is how long can they keep it up without Justin Morneau, who doesn’t seem to be anywhere close to returning from his concussion?

11. Phillies (15): Some signs of life these past few days against a better brand of team than the Twins faced. And dead ahead are games against the Diamondbacks and Nats.

12. Dodgers (16): Anson Williams — who played Potsy on “Happy Days” sang “God Bless America” at the Dodgers-Mets game yesterday. Weisman said he did a good job. Of course he did, because Potsy was never anything if not a total pro. But you’re in Los Angeles, California and that’s the best you can do for in-game talent? Potsy doesn’t even make the cut for dinner theater in the Midwest.

13. Red Sox (11): A split against the current incarnation of the Mariners is a pretty sad statement.

14. Tigers (12): Inge down, Ordonez gone. Eventually you just run out of warm bodies.

15. Rockies (7): The current east coast swing has been terrible, but at least they (a) get Troy Tulowitzki back tomorrow; and (b) get to face the Pirates.

16. Athletics (19): They just started filming the movie version of “Moneyball” in and around the Coliseum this week. I was going to complain about the fact that they have this guy playing this guy, but given that they’re currently making a movie about how Billy Beane is a genius, I’m assuming it’s a fantasy piece anyway.  Enough bashing, though: the A’s took two of three from the Chisox. They’re playing good ball right now.

17. Blue Jays (18): I was worried that I have only been talking about the Jays insofar as they have players other teams want, ignoring them for actual, you know, baseball purposes. But on Saturday I did a radio spot on 590 The Fan in Toronto, and the sense I got from them was that’s all Jays’ fans are really paying attention to as well.

18. Mets (14): Heard this: Omar Minaya is considering firing the person who books the Mets’ charter flights. Who else could be responsible for such a lousy road trip?
 
19. Marlins (20): The Feesh are back at .500.  If form holds, they’ll now go on a 3-7 skid and then win four or five games via walkoff hits and then slowly make their way back to .500 again.  These guys would give me an ulcer if I followed them on a daily basis.

20. Angels (17): Spanked by Texas and still in need of a bat. But hey, given that Arizona didn’t make them give up anything major to pick up Haren, perhaps they make a trade for another bat.

21. Brewers (22): 7-4 since the break. Does a respectable second half save Ken Macha? Well, at least until his contract expires and he’s sent packing in October anyway?

22. Cubs (21): Not sure how you lose two of three to Houston and then take two of three from St. Louis, but that’s what they did this past week.

23. Indians (25): You’d think the good play of late from the youngsters would actually cover up for other problems, but it actually just makes the problems — like what to do with Travis Hafner — stand out all the more.

24. Royals (24): I so want to believe that the Royals and Mets are going to do a trade where Jeff Francoeur, Ollie Perez, Luis Castillo, Kyle Farnsworth, Jose Guillen and Gil Meche all change teams, but I think it’s just a case of Rosenthal getting into the peppermint schnapps and having fun with all of us.

25. Nationals (23): The Nats should keep Adam Dunn around. He reminds me of Frank Howard and I really like Frank Howard.

26. Astros (26): Ed Wade is treating Roy Oswalt like I treated my 1963 Wally Moon card: valuable to me, but nowhere near as valuable to others for obvious reasons. I never managed to trade that bad boy either.

27. Mariners (27): Don Wakamatsu looks like he’s gonna get canned, don’t he? In hindsight this wasn’t as good a Mariners team as a lot of people thought it would be, but it shouldn’t have been this bad and they can’t go a week or two without some clubhouse problem. Maybe not Wakamatsu’s fault, but like they say, you can’t fire the players.

28. Diamondbacks (28): I’m thinking the Haren trade is only the beginning of the fire sale.

29. Pirates (30): The Pirates are on pace for their worst season since 1985. Back then they at least had the excuse of being coked to the eyes. What gives now?

30. Orioles (29): Getting Matt Wieters, Brian Roberts, Luke Scott and Mike Gonzalez back will be quite helpful in the push to top the 1988 Orioles. Dare to dream.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the exception because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.

Report: Yankees sign Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million deal

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Update (12:02 AM EST): Rosenthal adds that Chapman’s contract includes an opt-out clause after three seasons, a full no-trade clause for the first three years of the contract, and a limited no-trade clause for the final two years.

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees have signed closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. Mark Melancon recently set the record for a contract earned by a reliever at $62 million over four years. Chapman blew that out of the water and many are surprised he didn’t fetch more.

Chapman, 28, began the 2016 season with the Yankees but he was traded to the Cubs near the end of July in exchange for four prospects. The Cubs, of course, would go on to win the World Series in large part due to Chapman. The lefty finished the regular season with a 1.55 ERA, 36 saves, and a 90/18 K/BB ratio in 58 innings between the two teams.

Chapman was the best reliever on the free agent market and, because he was traded midseason, he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached to him.

The Yankees don’t seem to be deterred by Chapman’s domestic violence issue from last offseason, resulting in a 30-game suspension to begin the 2016 regular season.