Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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As always, last week’s rankings are in parenthesis and this week’s ranking are kind of pulled out of my butt:

1. Yankees (1): I’ve lost track, but we’ve got to be approaching Boyz II Men “End of the Road” territory for consecutive weeks at number one for the Bombers. After that they only have Boyz II Men “I’ll Make Love to You” and, um, Boyz II Men/Mariah Carey “One Sweet Day” territory ahead of them. Man, what the hell was up with Boyz II Men?

2. Rays (2): The Rangers come in for a little ALDS preview. Actually, I think if this were the ALDS they’d be playing in Texas, but that’s quibbling. Easily the most interesting series of the week.

3. Padres (4): I think what strikes me most about what the Padres are doing is that it’s not like there are a bunch of guys here performing above their pay grade.Yorvit Torrealba, maybe, but it’s not like several players are playing substantially above their heads.

4. Rangers (3): Losing Nelson Cruz to his third hamstring injury of the year is not good news, but at least they have a cushion.

5. Braves (5): I’ll tell you this: if the Braves do get overtaken by Philly, I’m not going to bitch about injuries. For one thing, Philly had more injuries to more significant players than the Braves have. For another thing, bitching about injuries is one of my least favorite whines in all of sports. NFL coaches are the worst for this (“Not makin’ excuses, but boy, if it wasn’t for all these injuries . . .”), but baseball has gotten pretty bad about it. No, the fact is that I said back in March that this is an Atlanta team that — while promising — needed everything to break right. Until recently things did break right. If they go south now that just speaks to the fact that they had way less margin for error than other contenders, and that’s just how things go sometimes, ya know?

6. Twins (8): My comrade D.J. Short tweets that the Twins are first in all of baseball in batting average, on base percentage, OPS and runs since the All-Star break, all without Justin Morneau in the lineup. They took two of three from the Chisox last week and now get ’em at home Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. There’s still a ton of time, but the Twinkies could go a long way towards sewing up the division this week.

7. Phillies (6): The other side of the Braves-Phillies coin: it’s really hard for me to get worked up at the Phillies being the team most likely to overtake the Braves. I’ve spent all season trying to drum up a hatred for them, and I just can’t. The most aggravated I get is when the Dodgers or someone blow a lead against them like they did last Thursday or the ump blows a call like in that Marlins game the week before and that’s hardly the Phillies’ fault. And I like Charlie Manuel a lot. And one of my favorite team-specific blogs is The Fightins. Almost makes me wish the Mets were better this year so the division can have a proper villain.  

8. Cardinals (10): Quite a letdown losing two of three to the Cubs and losing the division lead after the emotional sweep of the Reds. But like Earl Weaver said: This isn’t football; we do this every day. As such, emotion doesn’t have a hell of a lot of place in this sport. It certainly can’t sustain you.

9. Reds (9): Not that the sweep meant nothing. I can’t in good conscience put the Reds ahead of the Cards after they got smacked down by them last week.

10. Red Sox (11): I bet Jacoby Ellsbury could really go for some spare ribs right now. Get it? SPARE ribs? Anyone? Hello? Is this thing on?

11. Giants (12): If the Giants season starts to go down the drain right now, some of the people in this room will point to the acquisition of Jose Guillen as the reason why, simply because of the timing. That would be wrong, of course, because there are many things that contribute to losing. That being said, I would be fine with such a misapprehension holding, because the world needs to be warned against things like acquiring Jose Guillen for the stretch run. 

12. White Sox (7): I was on MLB Network Radio last night, and host Mike Ferrin did a little “Empire Strikes Back” baseball associations quiz. One of the questions was which team’s bullpen is the most Lando Calrissan-like, meaning they can’t be trusted. I went with the Phillies on inertia, but I really should have gone with the White Sox. Back to back blown saves by J.J. Putz following a few notable Bobby Jenks meltdowns. I’m just trying to figure out who Lobot is.

13. Blue Jays (13): One of my favorite blog posts of the last week comes from Dustin Parkes over at Drunk Jays Fans comparing Jose Bautista to that girl you met on the rebound while beer goggling. Such analogies can be useful to understand sports. Such analogies can also go on a tad too long for comfort.

14. Rockies (15): In that same vein, Andrew Martin from Purple Row explains how the Rockies 2010 season is kind of like having to move on a Wednesday instead of a Sunday. It may not be as colorful an analogy as the Jays one, but at least it doesn’t inspire me to think of Jose Bautista sitting in a pickup bar.

15. Angels (19): A big jump this week. Bigger than they really deserve, actually, due to some demotions and the fact that I didn’t want to think too hard about them to be honest. Why? Because they have the Red Sox, Twins and Rays in their immediate future and I’m just gonna have to adjust them dramatically one way or another after that, I imagine.

16. Dodgers (16): They probably should have been docked several spots simply for that metldown against the Phillies on Thursday.

17. Mets (17): The Mets are making one of their patented second half runs!

18. Athletics (14): Losing two of three to the Mariners is worse than dropping all three to the Twins.

19. Marlins (18): Their next ten come against the Pirates, Astros and Mets. If they’re not at least 6-4 on this stretch people should just stop going to their games.

20. Tigers (20): I know the Tigers are saying that yesterday’s dustup between Armando Galarraga and Alex Avila is much ado about nothing, the fact that Gerald Laird came out of it looking like the most reasonable one of the bunch means something. I’m not sure what it means, but based on his recent history, it’s something significant.

21. Astros (23): Correlation != causation!

22. Nationals (22): I love that Stephen Strasburg is the guy talking about how Bryce Harper needs to sign his deal. If Strasburg had clicked the ballpoint pen he used to sign his contract last year a couple of extra times he would have blown past deadline himself.

23. Cubs (26): If you had taken a Cubs fan forward in time from last spring and plopped him down this past weekend and allowed him to watch Chicago take two of three from the Cardinals on the back of a strong Carlos Zambrano start and a handful of Derrek Lee homers he likely would not have guessed that the team was sitting 17 games out of first place.

24. Diamondbacks (28): Can I tell you how happy I am t
hat Kirk Gibson is rocking the stache like it’s still 1986?

25. Brewers (21): This seems harsh, I suppose, but you can’t drop three of four to the Dbacks and not get docked a bit.

26. Indians (25); 27. Royals (24): Massive battle for these two teams this week. Who will emerge as the sole owner of last place in the AL Central?!

28. Mariners (30): Who said that firing everyone wouldn’t solve the teams problems? The Mariners fired everyone a little over a week ago and they beat up the Athletics and the Indians. They should fire the coaching staff once a month!

29. Orioles (27): I told you this morning that I’d dock them a place in the rankings because of the orange uniforms. That was a lie. I docked them two places after looking at the pics again. Not all throwbacks are created equal, my friends.T

30. Pirates (29): Pat Lackey of the Where Have You Gone Andy Van Slyke blog: “Does anyone doubt the Pirates are the worst team in the league anymore?
They reel off six-game losing streaks as easily as most people eat
breakfast.”  And Pat is not one of your bigger gloom-and-doomers as far as bloggers for bad teams go. Oy.

Columnist calls for Sammy Sosa to “come clean.” He probably shouldn’t.

15 Sep 1998:  A silhouette portrait of Sammy Sosa #21of the Chicago Cubs taken in the dug-out as he looks across the field during the game against the San Diego Padres at Qualcomm Park in San Diego, California. The Cubs defeated the Padres 4-2
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Yesterday Sammy Sosa — quite ridiculously — compared himself to Jesus Christ. The idea: he has suffered greatly since retirement, having been shunned by the Cubs and disparaged by the baseball establishment and . . . well, I don’t know how that makes him Jesus, but forget it, he’s rolling.

Today, predictably, a Chicago columnist does what columnists have been doing for years with respect to guys suspected of PED use: argues that Sosa should “come clean” if he wants to come in from the cold. Here’s David Haugh of the Tribune:

The game welcomed back Barry Bonds and McGwire from steroid exile after both separately acknowledged their involvement with performance-enhancing drugs. Fox Sports employs Alex Rodriguez, who admitted to PED use during his career. The door back to baseball is open for Sosa, but only if he follows the same path his contemporaries from the steroid era did. The Cubs have made this clear to Sosa, in no uncertain terms, yet he continues to paint himself as the victim.

This is not accurate. Bonds has never “come clean” about his PED use. He was in litigation over it until 2015 and wasn’t giving any confessionals about it. When the Marlins hired him he said nothing. He made allusions to being “an idiot” in an interview last summer, but that was clearly focused on his cagey attitude, not his drug use. There was no deal with the Marlins that his job was prefaced on his “coming clean,” and he never did.

The same can be said for McGwire. Big Mac was hired by the Cardinals as a hitting coach on October 26, 2009. His acknowledgment of PED use came months later, just before spring training in January 2010. While it may be plausible that the Cardinals told McGwire that they would not hire him absent a confession of PED use, that’s not how it tracked in real time. At his hiring, John Mozeliak and Bill DeWitt each said there was no set blueprint for how McGwire would proceed as far as his public statements went and they allowed him to control the timeline. His confession seemed to be very much a function of heading off spring training distractions and questions from the press which would have access to him everyday, not some precondition of his employment.

But even if we grant the apparently erroneous premise that Bonds and McGwire “came clean” to return to baseball’s good graces, such a road map is of no use to Sosa. He’s not looking to coach or, as far as we know, even be employed by a club. If the study we talked about four years ago remains accurate, coming clean about PED use makes an athlete look worse in the eyes of the public than those who deny. Ask David Ortiz how that works. It likewise will do nothing for his Hall of Fame vote totals. Ask McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro how that works.

Sosa may be engaging in some unfortunate hyperbole, but as far as can be determined, he’s not asking for a whole hell of a lot. He’s not asking for a coaching job or to have his number retired or for them to rename Wrigley Field after him. He’s asking to be acknowledged as a part of Cubs history. He’s asking for the same kind of treatment other retired greats receive from time to time. A first pitch? A public appearance or two? Some minor role as a team ambassador? The bar for that isn’t very high.

The Cubs, who benefited greatly from Sosa’s production — and, necessarily, by whatever juicing Sosa did to achieve it — aren’t being asked to do much. Just to be decent to a person who is an important part of their history. That should not require that Sosa give a weepy interview about steroids which will serve no one’s purpose but the tut-tutting media. A media which, if McGwire’s example is any guide, will still slam Sosa if he comes clean and claim that his confession wasn’t good enough and his contrition wasn’t genuine. If he does confess, bank on that reaction. Bet the mortgage on it.

All of which makes me wonder if it’s the media, and not the Cubs who are the ones who really want to see such a thing.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.