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.

Yadier Molina gets cast removed from surgically-repaired thumb

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Yadier Molina underwent surgery to repair a ligament tear in his right thumb shortly after the Cardinals were eliminated from the NLDS by the Cubs, and then he needed a followup procedure two months later.

It’s been an offseason of rest and rehab for the seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glover, though he’s about ready to ramp up the intensity of workouts with the beginning of spring training approaching …

Brayan Pena was signed to a two-year, $5 million free agent contract this winter to provide more reliable depth behind the plate. He’ll be the Cardinals’ starter at catcher come Opening Day if Yadi isn’t quite ready.

Molina started a whopping 131 games behind the plate in 2015.

Jose Fernandez wants $30 million a year, Marlins don’t plan on paying

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You’ve heard the stories by now. Jose Fernandez does not get along with Marlins management and is doubtful to sign a long-term contract with the team.

There’s still time for those relationships to be repaired — Fernandez can’t become a free agent until after the 2018 season — but we also have a monetary issue at play.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes Sunday that the Marlins are “under the impression” Fernandez and his representatives want $30 million per year on a long-term deal, a figure the Marlins “have no plans to meet.”

If the Marlins won’t pay, Fernandez and his reps will seek that number when the ace right-hander reaches free agency. That could be the same offseason Bryce Harper tries for $500 million.

A friend of Fernandez told Jackson that the 23-year-old native of Cuba was upset about some of the trades the Marlins made last summer and the removal of pitching coach Chuck Hernandez. You probably heard talk of Miami shopping Fernandez this winter, but the asking price was predictably sky-high.

Fernandez has been limited to 19 starts over the last two years because of Tommy John surgery and a biceps injury, but he boasts a stellar 2.40 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 10.5 K/9 in 289 career major league frames. He will make $2.8 million in 2016 and carries two more years of arbitration eligibility.

If he can put together a run of 30-start, 200-inning seasons, Fernandez will get that $30 million per year and probably much more.

Michael Brantley’s timetable off shoulder surgery is “hazy”

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Paul Hoynes at the Cleveland Plain Dealer has an in-depth look at how the Indians will manage their outfield during the early part of the 2016 season, in the absence of star Michael Brantley.

Brantley underwent labrum surgery on his right shoulder this past November and has not picked up a bat all winter. “In the off-season people know I love to hit,” Brantley acknowledged to Hoynes late last week. ”I hit a lot. It’s just been a change in my timetable.”

Hoynes says the projected date for Brantley’s 2016 debut is “hazy,” guessing that it might happen around late April or early May if everything continues to go smoothly. Shoulders can be tricky, for hitters and pitchers.

Rajai Davis, Abraham Almonte, and Lonnie Chisenhall figure to make up Cleveland’s primary starting outfield while Brantley is finishing his rehabilitation. Collin Cowgill and Joey Butler could also be in the mix. It’s a lacking group, tasked with replacing one of the most productive players in baseball.

Brantley, 28, has slashed .319/.382/.494 over the last two seasons, tallying 35 home runs, 90 doubles, 181 RBI, and 38 stolen bases in 293 games.

Could the talented Tribe be in for another slow start?

Shouldn’t this club be spending more money?

Jose Bautista had a courtside view of Saturday night’s epic NBA Slam Dunk Contest

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Zach LaVine of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic put on a tremendous show in Saturday night’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest up in Toronto, Canada. The stars were out to see it at the Air Canada Centre, and Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista had one of the very best views in the house. Check out this video he posted to Instagram of LaVine’s final dunk, a between-the-legs jam from just inside the free throw line …

Its a wrap!!! #BackToBack #SlamDunk #Champion @zachlavine8 🙌🏽🙌🏽🙌🏽🙌🏽

A video posted by Jose Bautista (@joeybats19) on

That is Toronto’s very own Drake going wild in the pink jacket. Gordon probably had the best individual dunk of the night, though, if we’re being really real …

Back to your regularly scheduled baseball programming. Pitchers and catchers report Friday.