Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings


Gosh, I hope everyone below number four in last week’s rankings was holding on tight, because the Padres could have easily knocked them off the ladder as they plummeted.

1. Yankees (2): Winning eight in a row helps the Bombers take control of the Power Rankings for now, but they have seven games with the Rays in an 11 day period starting next week.

2. Rays (1): Dropping two of three to the Orioles isn’t nearly as embarrassing now as it would have been a month or two ago, but it’s still not something a team that hopes to win the AL East should be doing.

3. Twins (3): If they win the division by a game should they send Alfonso Marquez a check, or does he accept money orders?

4. Reds (5): They dropped two of three to St. Louis, sure, but — by definition — the Cards still have to outplay the Reds by eight games to win the division. That doesn’t seem very likely.

5. Phillies (7): Yeah, I know they’re a game behind Atlanta right now, but they’re just playing better baseball. Phillies fans bitch about Kyle Kendrick. At least they’re not running Kenshin Kawakami and Derek Lowe out there 40% of the time.

6. Braves (6): I have no idea what the Marlins all-time record is against the Braves, but in my mind they always, always, always beat ’em, and usually ruin their season in important ways. And I will not be dissuaded of this by “facts” and “empirical evidence.”

7. White Sox (11): Manny Ramirez hasn’t scored or driven in a run for the White Sox yet, but they are undefeated since they acquired him. I figure that even if he hit .375/.500/.700 after coming over, he’d be the scapegoat if the White Sox missed the playoffs. In light of that, I think we should give him the credit if the Sox win the division, even if he goes hitless the rest of the way.

8. Giants (12): Behold the power of the Rally Thong.

9. Padres (4): A broken team. A cracked polystyrene team. That just crumbles and burns.

10. Rockies (14): What with the Padres’ collapse and the Rockies good play of late, I’ve been hearing references to “Rocktober.” Sorry, but it’s not “Rocktober” to me unless Randall amps, BC Rich guitars, and a second-tier coliseum or armory and a classic rock radio station sponsorship are prominently involved.

11. Rangers (8)/Red Sox (9): Each of them took two of three from a bad team and got swept by an AL Central contender last week. That’s worthy of a tie in my book.

13. Cardinals (10): The best part of all of the Colby Rasmus stuff is that Tony La Russa will be sitting in his retirement lounger or in a broadcast booth when the gravity of his mishandling of the situation dawns on the majority of Cardinals fans. 

14. Blue Jays (13): Yankees and Rays. Tough week.

15. Marlins (16): In Jeff Loria’s defense, he would have given Bobby Cox some sort of retirement gift, but he couldn’t get the final vote from the Dade County Commissioners approving payment to Things Remembered for the engraving on the faux-crystal clock.

16. Athletics (15): Though everyone else will judge this team by its performance against the Yankees last week because no one ever stays up to watch the A’s play at home and against their division, we probably shouldn’t. They are a bat or two from making serious noise in the West.

17. Dodgers (17): Yeah, they dropped two of three in both of their series,
but the Phillies and the Giants are a pretty tough back-to-back draw, so they can keep the same slot as last week.

18. Tigers (19): Hey: a Matt Nokes sighting!

19. Astros (23): I probably had them underrated last week. They’re playing damn fine baseball.

20. Mets (18): Courtesy of D.J.: Ike Davis is batting .370 (20-for-54) with a .500 on-base percentage and 14/14 K/BB ratio over his last 16 games.

21. Angels (20): The Detroit Lions look at the Angels offensive production lately and say “damn!”

22. Cubs (24): There’s been a lot of Ryne Sandberg and Fredi Gonzalez talk, but word on the street is that the players really like Mike Quade.

23. Brewers (21): This is merely a baseball blog and we have like six guys who can take the controls when necessary. The Brewers have a gigantic retractable roof on a gazillion dollar stadium and apparently only one dude who can operate it? Makes sense.

24. Nationals (22): You know those signs they have up at construction sites that say “This
work site has gone ___ days without an accident”? We should rig one of
those things up on this site for Nyjer Morgan and appearances of The

25. Orioles (27): The O’s take it to the Rays. Achieve (I think) their highest ranking all year.

26. Diamondbacks (28): Not sure how I feel about the kinder, gentler Kirk Gibson. I’d like to think that he still has a perpetual case of the red ass.

27. Royals (25): When you’re a Royals fan, you have a lot of time on your hands once September rolls around.

28. Indians (25): Not that they’re doing anything to make themselves worthy of headlines, but the extent to which the Tribe has been banished to the murkiest depths of Ohio sports pages in favor of the Buckeyes and Browns makes me sad. I mean, I’m an OSU fan and I love fall more than any other season, but the near-disappearance of baseball from the newspaper is always a sad time for me. Solution: I think I’ll cancel my newspaper subscription.

29. Mariners (29): Worst part of domed baseball in Seattle: there, more than anyplace else, would be a great place to assemble a pitching staff consisting of “Felix Hernandez and four days of rain.”

30. Pirates (30): A good friend of mine just emailed me from the Braves-Pirates game just getting underway. She says: “Seriously, what beats the sun, the Yuengling and the game? Nothing, my friend, nothing.” Two thoughts: (1) I should totally be at that game right now; and (2) no matter how bad your local rooting interest is — and the Pirates are really, really bad — it’s not hard to find bliss at the ballpark.

Jessica Mendoza and Chris Archer were great in the booth

Jessica Mendoza

Not news: Jessica Mendoza, who has been excellent on all of the ESPN broadcasts she has done since taking over for Curt Schilling, was excellent last night too.

She was great on the nuts and bolts, continued to show that she can describe hitting mechanics better than most color commentators — way more of them seem to be more comfortable talking about pitching — and was a seamless presence in the booth in terms of flow, timbre and all of the aesthetic aspects of broadcasting. If she has a fault thus far it’s that she leans on some cliches about hitters’ mindsets and desire to win sometimes. This puts her in with approximately 100% of all other color commentators in baseball now and throughout the history of baseball, of course, so it’s not really a demerit.

Ultimately, the true test of a good commentator is whether they (a) add insight; and (b) do so without distracting or upstaging the game. In this Mendoza is superior to most commentators in baseball and clearly superior to the “stop and listen to me” brand of analysts the major networks have employed on national broadcasts in recent years.

Indeed, the best compliment I think I can give Mendoza is that she was — in the literal sense, not the judgmental sense — unremarkable. Meaning: during the game and after there was nothing she said or did that was worthy of the highly-critical remarks almost every broadcaster gets, going back through Schilling, Kruk, Harold Reynolds Tim McCarver, Joe Morgan and everyone else ESPN and Fox have forced upon us in their history doing playoff baseball. I’m on Twitter during most playoff games and sometimes the broadcaster bashing is more interesting than the game. Mendoza gives the would-be bashers very little material.

At least those who would bash on the actual merits. There remains a group of deadenders who are irked by her very presence in the booth because she is a woman. The New York times rounds up some of the less mouth-breathery types today, but God knows there are many, many worse. Some of them even in professional media. At least for now. Whether you choose to ignore those people or choose to engage them — which, their dead end opinions notwithstanding can be a useful exercise in my view — know that they are out there being miserable and sexist as God and the First Amendment intended them to be.

While there are many who slam Mendoza on the faulty premise that she lacks credentials and experience in the booth, there was one person in the ESPN booth last night, at least for a while, who was a total TV noob. His name was Chris Archer. He pitches a bit for the Tampa Bay Rays. And lo and behold, he was pretty damn good himself.

Archer needs some polish for style — he has a lot of “ummms” and “uhhhs” about him — but his analysis is both sharp and quick. Meaning he was RIGHT ON the points when he needed to be without any of the usual prompting guests in the booth need from the play-by-play guy. At one point he even flowed into play-by-play and did a pretty good job of it.  Chris: if that pitching stuff doesn’t work out, you have a bright, bright future in television.

So, on the first night of the playoffs, there were no complaints about the broadcast. Mostly because the broadcasters weren’t the stars of the show. The game was. And it was complemented nicely by a couple of good voices.

And John Kruk.

NL Wild Card Game: Cubs vs. Pirates lineups

Jake Arrieta

Here are the Cubs and Pirates lineups for tonight’s Wild Card game in Pittsburgh:

CF Dexter Fowler
RF Kyle Schwarber
LF Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
3B Tommy La Stella
2B Starlin Castro
C Miguel Montero
SS Addison Russell
SP Jake Arrieta

Cubs manager Joe Maddon wanted Tommy La Stella in the lineup over Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan, so he starts at third base and Kris Bryant shifts to left field. Bryant started just four games in left field all season, compared to 136 starts at third base. Also of note: After batting Addison Russell ninth–behind the pitcher–116 times this season Maddon has him in the more traditional eighth spot tonight.

RF Gregory Polanco
3B Josh Harrison
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Starling Marte
C Francisco Cervelli
2B Neil Walker
SS Jordy Mercer
1B Sean Rodriguez
SP Gerrit Cole

Pedro Alvarez started 119 games at first base for the Pirates and with right-hander Jake Arrieta on the mound he was the presumed starter tonight, but instead manager Clint Hurdle has benched the 27-homer slugger in favor of utility man Sean Rodriguez. Alvarez is vastly superior to Rodriguez offensively, especially versus a righty, but he’s also very shaky defensively. During the regular season Rodriguez started a grand total of one game at first base against a right-hander, so this qualifies as a hunch by Hurdle.