Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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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
Crazy.

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.

And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 29: Rain falls during a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium on September 29, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights.

Oh, and here is my take on the idiotic ending to the Reds-Cardinals game which could potentially cost the Giants a playoff berth.

Nationals 5, Diamondbacks 3: Wilmer Difo hit his first major league homer. Pedro Severino hit his second. No National succumbed to season-ending injuries. So a rare success for Washington in these final days of the regular season.

Yankees 5, Red Sox 1: CC Sabathia allowed one run and four hits while pitching into the eighth inning. It was only his ninth win of the year — his first win in a month — but he lowered his ERA to 3.91. He strike out fewer guys than he used to, walks more and allows more hits. But the fact that he made 30 starts this year and made at least a modest return to form suggests that, maybe, Sabathia still has something in the tank. Not as an ace, of course, but at least as a guy who can give you some respectable innings at the back of a rotation. In other news, the Yankees were eliminated in the middle of this game by virtue of the Orioles beating the Blue Jays. Inevitable, but the mere fact that they staved off elimination until game 159 is pretty impressive given all that has happened this year.

Cubs 1, Pirates 1: You don’t see many ties in baseball. Unless it’s spring training. Or, like, 1912 or something and it gets dark. Thank Mother Nature for the game being called at 1-1. Thank this game having no playoff implications whatsoever for it not being resumed at a later date. It was the first tie in a regular season game since 2005.

Orioles 4, Blue Jays 0: Ubaldo Jimenez and two relievers combined on a three-hit shutout. Jimenez allowed one of those hits in his six and two-thirds innings. The O’s and Jays are tied in the Wild Card standings with Detroit (1.5 back) and Seattle (2 back) the only ones left who can break up their postseason party.

Braves 5, Phillies 2Freddie Freeman‘s 30-game hitting streak ended but the Braves won for the 10th time in 11 games. The Tigers play Atlanta in the season’s final series. A month or two ago that looked like a nice way to end things. Right now, however, there’s a decent chance that the Braves help end the Tigers season. If that comes to pass, please say a prayer for those Braves fans you know who are engaged to grumpy Tigers fans come Sunday. Not, um, that I know any of those.

Twins 7, Royals 6:

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-6-51-30-am

Same.

Cardinals 4, Reds 3: Not sure what else there is to say at this point that I didn’t say here. I dunno, Yadier Molina and Jedd Gyorko hit solo homers. Wheeeeeee.

Rays 5, White Sox 3: Congratulations to Chris Archer for avoiding his 20th loss of the season. Pitcher wins and losses mean little about the skill or prowess of a pitcher, but it’s better not to be the answer to a trivia question like that.

Dodgers 9, Padres 4Joc Pederson doubled twice and drove in three as the Dodgers avoided a sweep. The Dodgers are two games behind the Nationals with three to play in the race for home-field advantage in their division series matchup. Between that and possibly keeping the Giants out of the Wild Card game, they have a lot to play for this weekend in San Francisco.

Mariners 3, Athletics 2: Mike Zunino hit a go-ahead home run in the seventh inning to keep the Mariners alive for at least one more day.

Giants 7, Rockies 2: Johnny Cueto started out a bit shaky, giving up two in the top of the first, but he settled down and didn’t allow anything else in his remaining six innings. It was close until the sixth when the San Francisco pulled ahead, thanks in part to an uncharacteristic defensive blunder by Nolan Arenado. The Giants control their own destiny in the Wild Card, standing a game ahead of St. Louis with three to play.

Indians vs. Tigers: POSTPONED: The leaves of brown came tumbling down

Remember in September in the rain
The sun went out just like a dying amber
That September in the rain

To every word of love i heard you whisper
The raindrops seemed to play our sweet refrain
Though spring is here to me it’s still September
That September in the rain

The idiocy of baseball’s replay system was on full display in St. Louis last night

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 29: Matt Carpenter #13 of the St. Louis Cardinals scores the game-winning run against the Cincinnati Reds in the ninth inning at Busch Stadium on September 29, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Baseball’s current instant replay system, in place since the beginning of the 2014 season, has experienced hiccups, but it has generally avoided extreme controversy or high profile failures. Last night in St. Louis, however, the replay system failed in spectacular fashion, potentially costing a team a playoff berth.

We wrote about the play last night: bottom of the ninth in a tied Reds-Cardinals game, Matt Carpenter on first base, Yadier Molina at the plate. Molina hits a ball which should’ve been a ground rule double, halting Carpenter at third. The umpires missed the ball bouncing out of play, however, and Carpenter was allowed to run home, scoring the winning run. Due to the noise and confusion of the Cardinals’ apparent walkoff win, Reds manager Bryan Price could not hear the phone call from his video coordinator telling him to challenge the play. By the time the message got to Price, he was told his challenge was too late. Game over.

The lack of a replay review in that situation was huge. The call would’ve, without question, been overturned if it were reviewed. If that had occurred, there is a possibility that the Cardinals would’ve lost that game, putting them two games back of the Giants with three to play. Instead, they were gifted a win and are now one game back with three to play. At the very least, this will cause the Giants to have to play one more meaningful game this weekend than they might’ve otherwise had to, in turn giving them one less game to rest players and set up their pitching staff for the Wild Card game. It could also, of course, prove to be the difference between them making the Wild Card game and going home after Sunday’s finale against the Dodgers.

If this comes to pass, Major League Baseball will no doubt characterize Thursday night’s events as a freak occurrence. Just one of those things that you could never predict and thus could never prepare for. If you don’t buy that they’ll admonish you that this outcome would’ve occurred the same way had it happened before replay was instituted in 2014 and, hey, we’re doing the best we can. If you’re still not satisfied, baseball will ignore you and pivot to the fans who care less about it, casting the replay failure as a charming and memorable historical event, a la Merkle’s Boner, the Pine Tar Game or Don Dekinger’s blown call at first base in the 1985 World Series. One which, however bad it seemed at the time, is poised to become just another chapter in baseball’s grand history, ready for highlight reels and preroll ad-sponsored video clips. Baseball will turn the page on this, so why can’t you?

Don’t buy any of that. Not for a second. Don’t buy the notion that this was some sort of freak play because freak plays are, by definition, unforeseeable. And while the narrow specifics of last night’s replay failure in St. Louis may not have been predicted, the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of instant replay as implemented were foreseeable from the moment baseball idiotically decided to use a challenge system to initiate replay reviews.

We sharply criticized the use of a challenge system for instant replay in baseball at the time it was adopted in August 2013. Indeed, we sharply criticized a challenge system almost a year earlier when it was merely suspected that baseball would go in that direction with all of this. The reasons were pretty straightforward. Conceptually speaking, it should not be the responsibility of managers to correct the mistakes or oversights of umpires on the field, which is what a challenge system requires. Moreover, a challenge system, and its rules limiting the number and manner of challenges, subordinates getting the call right to strategy and gamesmanship with respect to when and how to use the arbitrary number of challenges granted, and that makes zero sense when the point is to simply correct mistakes.

The problems with a challenge system were not all conceptual, however. Some were practical. In January 2013, Mike Port, who served as Major League Baseball’s vice president in charge of umpiring between 2005 and 2011, talked about how managers were the weak link in a challenge system, saying “you would be amazed how many managers, coaches, and players are not conversant with the rules.” He might’ve added, as others have, that managers cannot possibly see everything that happens on the field from their vantage point, including balls hit to the boundaries. As a result, the notion that a manager can always instantly and knowledgeably pop out of the dugout to challenge a call is unrealistic. He’s going to need some help.

Which is why every team hired a video coordinator, sitting in the clubhouse watching the plays, ready to call the manager in order to tell him when to challenge and when not to. This arrangement solved one problem — the manager’s inability to see it all — but created others. For one thing, it creates potential inefficiencies and inequalities, with some clubs inevitably having more savvy or highly-skilled coordinators, giving them an edge that fair and impartial umpiring would never have created. For another, it necessitated the use of technology — video and phone lines — and technology can always fail. Just as it did last night when Bryan Price’s phone could not be heard over the roar of the crowd in a pre-playoff frenzy.

It was a technological failure that last night’s crew chief, Bill Miller, implied could’ve been fixed if Price had “made eye contact” or something but, hey, he didn’t, so the game was over. When baseball first announced the challenge system in 2013, John Schuerholz, tasked with defending it, said that it would create “a happy balance that will retain the uniqueness and charm of baseball.” I suppose there’s something “charming” about the need for a major league manager to have to gaze into the eyes of an umpire in order to get a blown call corrected, but one would hope that, in 2016, there are better ways to handle things.

Of course it was obvious that there were better ways to handle it in 2013 when Major League Baseball came up with this dumb system. Baseball’s managers, who did not want a challenge system, knew it. Baseball’s former umpire chief knew it. Even dumb bloggers in their mother’s basement knew it. In 2013, baseball had carte blanche and the support of everyone in the game to institute a system that got calls right. They chose, however, to go with a system that, by definition, does not have getting calls right as its sole objective and by necessity limits the ability for calls to be reviewed in the first place due to managers not being omniscient and omnipresent and due to technological limitations.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of an answered phone call, a playoff spot might be too. It never had to be this way, but baseball wanted it this way. If the Giants end up sitting at home next week rather than playing the Mets in a Wild Card game, I’m pretty sure they won’t be comforted by whatever baloney Major League Baseball dishes out to tell everyone why this is all OK.