Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings: Playoffs edition

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This is not a predictions post, really. We’ll be doing previews of each of the first round series tomorrow and Wednesday. This is more of a snapshot of where the teams sit as we head into the madness that is playoff baseball. For example, I may have the Braves last, but I think they got a serious shot at taking down the Giants. We’ll save that for the previews. For now, just let my subjective judgments wash over you.

1. Phillies: I’m going to be on the “no one can beat Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels” train until someone beats them. No one has shown us that the big Russian can be cut yet.

2. Yankees: I know the Rays won the division. I really don’t care. A-Rod got healthy and hot at the right time. I refuse to believe that Rivera and Jeter and all of the rest won’t simply amp things up a bit now that the playoffs have started. Yes, they try to win every game, but if you asked Lance Armstrong if he felt winning those early sprints were important a few years ago he would have said yes too. Bull. He was saving it for the mountains. I think the Yankees are too, and I’d have a seriously difficult time betting on anyone else coming out of the AL.

3. Giants: In most years Lincecum-Cain-Sanchez would be called the big three of the playoffs. They suffer this year only by comparison. Their infield defense scares the crap out of me, though.

4. Rays: The best defense of any team in the playoffs, but can you depend on anyone in the rotation beyond David Price? I could see them mowing everyone down in the AL, or I can see them losing in the first round 3-1. How does it feel to have so much riding on Matt Garza, Rays fans?

5. Twins:  Say all you want about past playoff history between the Twins and the
Yankees not mattering as much as people say it should, but Minnesota is 18-54 against the Yankees since Ron Gardenhire took over the club and that’s hard to ignore.

6. Reds: The best offense in the NL, but so much of it came at the expense of a really weak NL Central. The thing I’m waiting to see in the first round more than anything else: close game, late innings, Aroldis Chapman coming in to face Utley and Howard.

7. Rangers: Texas was a combined 0-12 at Yankee Stadium, Target Field and Tropicana Field. That’s . . . troubling.

8. Braves: Bright side: Now that they’re in the playoffs they don’t need fourth and fifth starters, really, neutralizing a late-season weakness. Not so bright side: they still have to fill out their lineup card with two guys from the following group in every game: Melky Cabrera, Nate McLouth, Matt Diaz and Rick Ankiel. I’m approaching this like I approach my son’s soccer games: Hey everyone! Let’s just have some fun! There will be snacks afterward!

Great Moments in Not Understanding The Rules

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Bill Livingston of the Cleveland Plain Dealer is a Hall of Fame voter. In the past he has voted for players who used PEDs, but he’s never been totally happy with it, seeing the whole PED mess as a dilemma for voters.

On the one hand he doesn’t like voting for users and doesn’t like harming those who were clean by shifting votes away from them, but on the other hand, he doesn’t want to pretend history didn’t happen and that baseball hasn’t been filled with cheaters forever. What to do?

This year he decided to abstain altogether. A fair and noble act if one is as conflicted as Livingston happens to be. Except . . . he didn’t actually abstain:

Major league baseball will confer bronzed immortality on a few players Wednesday when the results of the national baseball writers’ balloting for the Hall of Fame will be announced.

I had a 2017 ballot. I returned it signed, but blank, with an explanatory note.

A blank ballot, signed and submitted, is not an abstention. It’s counted as a vote for no one. Each “no” vote increases the denominator in the calculation of whether or not a candidate has received 75% of the vote and has gained induction. An abstention, however, would not. So, in effect, Livingston has voted against all of the players on the ballot, both PED-tainted and clean, even though it appears that that was not his intention.

This is the second time in two years a Cleveland writer has had . . . issues with his Hall of Fame ballot. In the 2014-15 voting period, Paul Hoynes simply lost his ballot. Now Livingston misunderstood how to abstain.

I worry quite often that Ohio is gonna mess up a major election. I guess I’m just worrying about the wrong election.

Hall of Fame voters are making news, not exercising democratic rights

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Last month the Baseball Writers Association of America voted to make all Hall of Fame ballots public beginning with next year’s vote for the 2018 induction class. In the past 24 hours or so, as this year’s Hall of Fame voting period comes to a close, a lot of folks have been talking about that. Most notably in Jayson Stark’s piece over at ESPN regarding next year’s brave new public world.

Stark is pro-transparency on the ballots, as are the vast majority of BBWAA members who voted on the public ballot measure (it passed 80-9). Not everyone Stark quotes in his article is on board with it, though:

“I’ve already seen a lot of people change their votes from one year to the next,” said one of the strongest dissenters to this decision, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. “People have changed their votes based on public opinion.”

Two other sources in the story, Scott Miller of Bleacher Report and a voter who asked to remain anonymous equated their Hall of Fame vote with democracy and invoked the sanctity of the secret ballot. “The No. 1 reason I was against this rule is that in this country, it’s a democracy, and everyone has a vote on different things. And I hate to see a blanket rule that forces everyone to go in one direction,” Miller said. Here’s what the anonymous guy said:

“To me, a secret ballot is a fundamental of democracy. You should be able to vote your conscience without having to explain your vote. But once it’s public, you’re open to public pressure. And that’s not what we want in a democracy. We’re not elected representatives. We’re chosen to be part of a voting group.”

This is ridiculous of course. Voting for the Hall of Fame is not exercising democratic rights. It is making news and making history. Hall of Fame voters are making decisions which will fundamentally alter baseball history and which matter greatly to a large number of baseball fans. They are not advancing their own or society’s interests at the ballot box the way citizens do on election day. Despite the fact that the form of their action here is, technically speaking, a ballot, they are making news in the same way a GM makes a news with a trade, the commissioner makes news with a rule change or a team makes news by winning a World Series.

Would any of these voters — who are credentialed members of the media, by the way, and like to style themselves as truth-seeking members of the Fourth Estate — accept silence from the people who make the news on the beat they cover? Would they be content if the newsmakers whose acts they chronicle demanded anonymity the way they themselves do now? Of course they wouldn’t. And if they got the same silent treatment they’d prefer to give, they’d write one of those petulant little columns they love about players who “duck the press” after a game.

Suck it up, journalists. Act the way you expect the newsmakers you cover to act and own your decisions. Don’t pretend for a moment that you’re not the subject of, and not the reporter of, the story when Hall of Fame season comes around.