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.

Don Mattingly thinks pace of play can be improved by changing views on strikeouts

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly sits in the dugout prior to a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Monday, April 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo
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Marlins manager Don Mattingly has one potential solution to the pace of play issue: change the way people value strikeouts, the Associated Press reports.

Strikeouts have been rising steadily since 2005. Then, a typical game averaged 6.30 strikeouts. In 2016, there were 8.03 strikeouts per game. There are many explanations for this phenomenon. For one, teams are searching specifically for young pitchers who can throw hard — like triple-digits hard. They figure they can teach them the other pertinent skills in the minors. Second, Sabermetrics has shown that a strikeout is only marginally worse than an out made on a ball put in play. Sometimes, the strikeout is preferable, especially if there’s a runner on first base with less than two outs and a weak hitter at the plate. Sabermetrics has also shown home runs to be the best and most efficient way to contribute on offense. Furthermore, younger players tend to focus more on power in order to get noticed by scouts. Unless it’s paired with other elite skills, a scout isn’t going to remember a player who hit the ball into the hole on the right side, but he will remember the kid who blasted a 450-foot homer.

Here’s what Mattingly had to say:

Analytically, a few years back nobody cared about the strikeout, so it’s OK to strike out 150, 160, 170 times, and that guy’s still valued in a big way. Well, as soon as we start causing that to be a bad value — the strikeouts — guys will put the ball in play more. So once we say strikeouts are bad and it’s going to cost you money the more you strike out, then the strikeouts will go away. Guys will start making adjustments and putting the ball in play more.

[…]

If our game values [say that] strikeouts don’t matter, they are going to keep striking out, hitting homers, trying to hit home runs and striking out.

Simply believing strikeouts are bad won’t magically change its value. However, creating social pressure regarding striking out can change it. Theoretically, anyway. Creating that social pressure is easier said than done.

There is a dichotomy here as well. Home runs are exciting. Strikeouts and walks are not. Often, though, the three go hand-in-hand-in-hand. A player actively trying to cut down on his strikeouts by putting the ball in play will also likely cut down on his strikeout and walk rates. There doesn’t seem to be an elegant solution here. Wishing for fewer strikeouts, walks, and homers doesn’t really seem to give way to a more exciting game.

Sean Doolittle: “Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans.”

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 25:  Sean Doolittle #62 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 25, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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In the past, we’ve commented on Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend Eireann Dolan’s community service. In 2015, the pair hosted Syrian refugee families for Thanksgiving and their other charitable efforts have included LGBTQ outreach and help for veterans.

Athletes and their significant others have typically avoided stepping into political waters, but Doolittle and Dolan have shown that it’s clearly no concern to them. In the time since, the Syrian refugee issue has become even more of a hot-button issue and Doolittle recently discussed it with Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.

I think America is the best country in the world because we’ve been able to attract the best and brightest people from all over the world. We have the smartest doctors and scientists, the most creative and innovative thinkers. A travel ban like this puts that in serious jeopardy.

I’ve always thought that all boats rise with the tide. Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans. But if we include them, we can make the pie that much bigger, thus ensuring more opportunities for everyone.

Doolittle, of course, is referring to Executive Order 13769 signed by President Trump which sought to limit incoming travel to the United States from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. A temporary restraining order on the executive order was placed on February 3, a result of State of Washington v. Trump.

Doolittle spoke more about the plight refugees face:

These are people fleeing civil wars, violence and oppression that we can’t even begin to relate to. I think people think refugees just kind of decide to come over. They might not realize it takes 18-24 months while they wait in a refugee camp. They go through more than 20 background checks and meetings with immigration officers. They are being vetted.

They come here, and they want to contribute to society. They’re so grateful to be out of a war zone or whatever they were running from in their country that they get jobs, their kids go to our schools, they’re paying taxes, and in a lot of cases, they join our military.

Around this time last year, Craig wrote about Doolittle and Dolan not sticking to baseball. They’re still not, nor should they be. Hopefully, the duo’s outspokenness inspires other players and their loved ones to speak up for what’s right.

[Hat tip: Deadspin’s Hannah Keyser]