Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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I ain’t gonna lie to you: I’ve probably messed some stuff up here, as I feel like I’m relying a bit too much on the standings this week and not capturing as much of the usual mojo, nuance, juju and other assorted intangibles which usually spice these things up. Vacations will do that to you.

Anyway, feel free to lodge your objections in the comments. But please, show your work and tell me why I’m wrong. Plain old “you suck” doesn’t help anyone.

1. Rays: Just lookin’ ahead: the Rays last ten games of the season break down like this: three against the Mariners, three against the Orioles and four against the Royals. Yeah, I know that all evens out with what the Yankees and Red Sox have done over the course of the season, but ending easy like that has to be a psychological boost for Tampa Bay.

2. Yankees: Can you guess which AL East team has the most losses in the month of August? If you guessed anyone other than “The Yankees” you probably need to see a doctor, because my asking this question in their entry was a pretty big hint, yo. And that’s not why the Yankees are number two instead of number one. At best it’s the third reason behind (a) the many Yankees injuries and/or ineffective starters; and (b) the Rays’ use of “Sweet Caroline” after beating the Red Sox last night which gives them bonus points for style.

3. Twins: Like I said, I’ve not really been following baseball the past several days, but I do get the impression that the Twins have picked up approximately 24 relief pitchers during that time. Am I far off?

4. Padres: The only downside to the Padres’ continued excellence
this year is that when the playoffs start we’ll be subjected to endless
talk about how surprising they’ve been, as if we all didn’t have ample
time over the previous six months to grok the concept.

5. Reds: I’m guessing this has been covered already, but barring Albert Pujols winning the Triple Crown, I’m having a hard time seeing how Joey Votto doesn’t win the MVP. Even if the Cardinals manage to win the division, the calculus on the part of the writers is going to be “Votto and Pujols had substantially similar seasons and we thought less of the Reds when the season began, thereby rendering his season more ‘valuable.'” And that’s before even figuring in the “we’re tired of giving the MVP to Pujols” thing.

6. Braves: Best part of my vacation: I was on a beach, drinking a coldie when that awful loss to the Rockies — after being up 10-1 — went down on Wednesday. Indeed, I wasn’t even aware of it until after the Phillies score came in, so I already had it in my mind that, hey, at least the Bravos didn’t lose any ground. ‘Course, had I been watching it I probably would’ve plotzed, live on the blog, as it was happening.

7. Phillies: Sweeping the Padres in Petco is impressive, but dropping four in a row to the Astros at home pretty much balances that out and prevented movement in both the standings that matter and these silly Power Rankings.

8. Rangers: That “playoff preview” against the Rays a couple of weeks ago didn’t go all that well for them, but the one against the Twins last week was nice.  They gotta go to Minnesota this weekend, though.

9. Red Sox: The Sox are 14-13 in John Lackey starts this year. Take that as evidence that the pickup wasn’t as successful if you will. Take that as mere coincidence if you will. I’ve just seen the stat written by a couple of Red Sox beat guys in the past few hours, so I figured it was worth parroting.

10. Cardinals: I (thankfully) missed the hubub over the Glenn Beck rally with Pujols and La Russa and everything, but did anyone ever ask Beck if his shoutout to the famous animal rights activist La Russa constituted Beck caving to the “radical anti-hunting, anti-gun, animal rights” crowd he warned us about just a couple of short years ago?

11. White Sox: Another thing I missed last week was Guillen’s son talking smack about Kenny Williams on Twitter. I kind of get Ozzie’s “hey, I can’t be responsible for what my kids says” stance. Indeed, the same day Oney Gullien was spouting off, my son was saying “hey, look at that fat kid” while standing approximately five feet away from the fat kid and his parents. Now, my son is five and Oney Guillen is 20, but other than that it’s a totally identical dynamic.

12. Giants: The Giants have had to worry about starting pitching of all things lately. Never saw that one coming.

13. Blue Jays: Nice series win against the Yankees last week. Toronto is 7-5 against New York this season.

14. Rockies: Ubaldo Jimenez — who launched a bunch of “can he win 30?” columns and blog posts earlier this season, has been stuck on 17 wins since August 4th and has only won two games since the All-Star break and has a 4.01 ERA since that time.

15. Athletics: I haven’t done the research, but I’m guessing a plurality of prognosticators picked the A’s to finish last in the AL West this year, so the fact that they’re looking pretty good to finish in second place is something. Not something particularly fulfilling and worthwhile, but not nothing.

16. Marlins: I should probably stick the Marlins in last place simply on the power of their greed and mendacity, but I’ll be fair and put them in a spot that is justified by their record. But seriously, screw Jeff Loria and David Samson.

17. Dodgers: The Dodgers’ most important battle of the season starts today, and it ain’t the three-game series against the Phillies.

18. Mets: Let’s see, look for a silver lining . . . look for a silver lining . . . OK: while there’s a decent chance the Mets will slide behind the A’s in runs scored this season, it’s not really likely that they’ll fall behind Houston, Baltimore, Pittsburgh or Seattle, so no worse than 26th in runs scored is probably clinched.

19. Tigers: Detroit takes two of three from the Royals and splits four with the Jays. That’s about right. 

20. Angels: Can you guess which AL West team has the most losses in the month of
August? If you guessed anyone other than “The Angels” you probably need
to see a doctor, because my asking this question in their entry was a
pretty big hint, yo. 

21. Brewers: Unless you take your Brewers baseball really, really seriously, an argument can be made that the entire season was worth it in light of the fact that it produced this.

22. Nationals: I’ve cited a number of reasons why I’m glad I was gone last week, but here’s a reason I wish I was blogging last week: In the wake of the Strasburg news, I would have been able to post this.

23. Astros: Houston has played spoiler for the Braves and Phillies in recent weeks. Now they get the Cardinals.

24. Cubs: There wasn’t a ton of baseball talk during my week in northern Michigan, but the topic that came up the most when chatting with random sunbathing and beer drinking Michiganders on holiday was Alan Trammell getting slighted by not being selected interim manager when Piniella stepped down. I don’t know that it was really a slight — the Cubs probably weren’t considering him for the full time job anyway — but Tigers fans of a certain age are rather protective of the guy.

25. Indians/Royals: The battle for fourth place in the AL Central has been neck and neck. Can’t say it’s been inspiring or exciting or anything, but it sure has been neck and neck! And yes, I know the Royals are up right now, but Cleveland has a much better run differential, so I feel pretty comfortable calling this a tie.

27. Orioles: Playing well, but the Orioles are the first team to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs so I can only place them so high. I wonder how much money MLB made selling Orioles playoff ticket licenses?

28. Diamondbacks: The Diamondbacks are considering changing the
dimensions of Chase Field in order to make the park less hitter
friendly. I wonder if this option appeared above or below “get a decent
bullpen” on the list of run-suppression action items.

29. Mariners: I was trying to think of something good to say
about the Mariners and couldn’t come up with anything. Thank God, then,
for Carson Cistulli, who gives Mariners fans some reasons for optimism. [minutes pass]. OK, I just read that all the way through. I don’t think that was really meant to make anyone feel any better.

30. Pirates
: The Pirates have five starting pitchers with 10 or more losses this year. Don’t see that very often.

Joe Mauer reveals he’s had blurred vision since 2013 concussion

Joe Mauer
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After a decade as the best all-around catcher in baseball Joe Mauer suffered a concussion in August of 2013 that forced him to change positions and marked the end of his time as a great hitter.

Mauer was doing his usual thing at the time of the concussion, hitting .324 with a .404 on-base percentage and .880 OPS. Since returning from the brain injury he’s hit .270 with a .348 on-base percentage and .725 OPS while seeing his numbers decline across the board.

Mauer revealed today to Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that “lingering symptoms occasionally blurred his vision at the plate the past two seasons” and “he will experiment hitting with sunglasses for the first time to improve his pitch tracking” this season.

Here’s more from Murphy:

Bright sunshine sometimes triggered blurred vision that Mauer links to the concussion with which he was diagnosed in August 2013 after absorbing at least “two significant blows” from foul tips while he was still catching.

“I don’t want that to be kind of an excuse. If I’m out there, I’m out there. That’s just the way I am,” Mauer said. “There are times I’ve gone up to the plate and I just couldn’t pick up the ball. That’s part of the frustration because I’m trying to do everything I can to get back. It just takes time.”

There are more quotes along those same lines and Mauer’s numbers in night games were much better than his numbers in day games last season.

I live in Minnesota and it has been incredibly frustrating to see such a large (or at least vocal) segment of the Twins fan base treat Mauer’s steep decline as if it has nothing to do with the significant brain trauma he suffered. I’m hopeful that Mauer going public about literally struggling to see the baseball while at the plate will convince people to treat him more humanely, but that’s probably wishful thinking at this point.

What a shame, on every level.

Masahiro Tanaka can’t say for sure if he’ll be ready by Opening Day

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Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka said today that he “can’t say for sure” whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day.

Tanaka underwent arthroscopic surgery in late November to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. Tanaka threw off a bullpen mound Tuesday for the first time since undergoing a cleanup procedure on his right elbow last October and, while healthy, may be behind other pitchers.

Tanaka posted a 3.51 ERA and a 139/27 K/BB ratio across 154 innings last season. He also has a partially torn UCL he’s been pitching through for some time which is always something the Yankees have on their mind when it comes to schedules and workouts for their ace.

Denard Span, not Angel Pagan, will be Giants’ center fielder and leadoff hitter

Denard Span
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Making official what was assumed when the Giants signed Denard Span to a three-year, $31 million contract last month, manager Bruce Bochy announced that Span will start in center field and bat leadoff.

That means 34-year-old Angel Pagan, who’s been the Giants’ starting center fielder and primary leadoff hitter for the past four seasons, will slide to left field and bat further down in the lineup. About a month before the Span signing Bochy said Pagan would remain in the center fielder/leadoff role, but the situation obviously changed.

It’s a move that makes sense, because Span–if healthy following hip surgery–is a superior defensive center fielder with better on-base skills. And if Pagan doesn’t bounce back following a rough 2015 season then having him in left field will make it easier for the Giants to platoon him or bench him in favor of, say, Gregor Blanco or a bigger bat.

Pitchers to receive new visor-like protective headgear

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MLB/MLBPA
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For the past few years MLB, the MLBPA and cap and helmet manufacturers have been working on various models of protective headgear for pitchers. Some of the models have been unworkable, some of them have not met the satisfaction of pitchers and others have, well, looked a little odd. At present the only pitcher who routinely wears any headgear is Alex Torres, who wears the bulky isoBLOX helmet.

Now, however, there is a new option. And, as you can see above it’s a bit different than what we’ve seen before. It’s more or less like a visor, which will have a nylon top on them to give a full cap-like appearance. The ear flaps will be lefty and righty-specific, given that righties are more likely to be hit on the right and lefties on the left given their follow-throughs.

The new caps will be given out to players this spring and, like the old ones, will be used or not used at the choice of the players. You can read more about the new helmet at ESPN’s Outside the Lines report.