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.

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

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United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.

Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.

U.S. blanks Puerto Rico 8-0 to win first World Baseball Classic title

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The United States handed Puerto Rico its first loss in the World Baseball Classic, winning 8-0 for its first title in the fourth iteration of the tournament.

Puerto Rico starter Seth Lugo was matching Marcus Stroman zero-for-zero through the first two innings, but the U.S. broke out for a pair of runs when Ian Kinsler deposited a two-run home run just beyond the fence in left-center at Dodger Stadium. The U.S. tacked on two more in the fifth on RBI singles from Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen, pushing the lead to 4-0.

Meanwhile, Stroman was dealing. The right-hander, normally seen in a Blue Jays uniform, held Puerto Rico hitless through his first six innings, giving up just a lone walk. The U.S. put together a long rally in the top of the seventh, scoring three runs on three hits, two walks, and a hit batter. Stroman came back out for the seventh but immediately served up a double down the left field line to Angel Pagan. U.S. manager Jim Leyland immediately lifted Stroman from the game, bringing in Sam Dyson who escaped the inning without any further damage.

Pat Neshek allowed a leadoff single to Yadier Molina to begin the eighth, but induced a double-play, then worked around a two-out walk by striking out Kenny Vargas to end the frame.

In the ninth, David Robertson took over. He induced an infield pop-up from Enrique Hernandez. After Pagan singled up the middle, Francisco Lindor sharply grounded out to Eric Hosmer at first base for the second out. Finally, Robertson closed it out, inducing Carlos Correa to ground out to third base, making the U.S. 8-0 victors over Puerto Rico to win the World Baseball Classic.

Puerto Rico had an admirable run, defeating Venezuela, Mexico, and Italy to get out of Pool D undefeated. Then, in Pool F, it beat Venezuela again as well as the U.S. and the Dominican Republic to move to the semifinals. It narrowly edged Netherlands 4-3 in the semifinals to get into the finals.

The U.S. lost to the D.R. but beat Canada and Colombia to get out of Pool C. In Pool F, the U.S. lost to Puerto Rico and defeated the D.R again as well as Venezuela. The U.S. took down Japan in the semifinals to advance to the finals to play Puerto Rico.

The U.S. joins Japan (twice, 2006 and ’09) and the Dominican Republic (2013) as countries to win the World Baseball Classic. The 2017 tournament was a rousing success, setting attendance records, drawing over one million fans to ballparks to take in the games. It will hopefully encourage commissioner Rob Manfred and others to make a concerted effort to make the 2021 tournament bigger and better.