Adrian Gonzalez

Your inaugural Power Rankings

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Based on my thoughts about Opening Day, you may not be surprised to learn that, like the hyped-up spectacle of Opening Day, I am less than enamored with other kinds of empty hype too.  Something that is usually empty hype: Power Rankings.

Indeed, any team’s peak power — at least before the playoffs start — is both fleeting and, on the whole, irrelevant. A club may very well break out of the gate starting today winning eight of ten and scoring runs like they’re the 1931 Yankees or something. We’ll all swoon and they’ll rocket to the top of the Power Rankings. And it will mean nothing come July when their number two starter has forearm stiffness, their top slugger is 4 for his last 39 and their left fielder has a restraining order against him.  In short, a little snapshot of how teams are doing at any one moment of the season is probably pointless and almost certainly misleading.

So why even bother with Power Rankings, you ask?  Eh, they’re fun. They’re conversation starters. Coming as they do here at HBT (usually) on Mondays they’re a nice way to recap the previous week after we’ve sort of lost the thread during weekend barbecues and stuff.

But one thing they are not is particularly meaningful. As such, keep your complaining to a minimum. Or at least keep your complaining humorous and light.  I’d much rather see some nice funny commenter snark about how far my head is up my butt for any given ranking I give than I would some sober yet obviously insulted comment about how, clearly, I have disrespected Team X for the following ten reasons. Save it.  I don’t care who you root for. I don’t care who I root for. If you take these rankings personally or particularly seriously, you’re not worth the keyboard clicks it took for you to register your disgust.  This is supposed to be fun, so let’s have some damn fun out here, OK?

With that out of the way, our first — and most likely worst — Power Rankings of the 2011 season:

1. Red Sox: Everyone complained yesterday afternoon when ESPN came out with their four dozen or so individual staff predictions and over half of the predictors chose Boston to win it all. East coast bias, it was alleged. How bloody typical!  But really: even if you have another horse winning this race, how is Boston an unreasonable choice? On what planet are they not one of the top two or three best looking teams heading into the season? And if they’re not, who is better?

2. Phillies: I will not fret about this team unless and until the names Halladay, Lee, Hamels or Oswalt appear on the DL.  Until then, it’s pretty silly to pick against the team that will have a better starter going than the opposition will nearly every single night of the year.

3. Yankees: Nowadays everybody wanna talk like they got something to say, but nothin comes out when they move they lips, just a buncha gibberish, and motherf*****s act like they forgot about the fact that the Yankees scored more runs than anyone last year and actually look like they could score more this year.

4. Giants: The addition of Brandon Belt to the roster is encouraging and it’s hard not to love the rotation. But let us not forget that this was a team tailor made for playoff dominance last season, but which struggled through large parts of the regular season. They didn’t make the playoffs until the last day and wouldn’t have if the Padres hadn’t had an epic collapse. They’re better than that now, but not so substantially better that we should crown them as repeat champs already.

5. Braves: They were a trendy pick last year. They’re a trendy pick this year. And most of the people making trendy Braves picks haven’t lived through 25 years of teams that always — always — have one tremendous flaw or another. A flaw that they always come close to working through but which ultimately trumps whatever it was that started those trends in the first place. I don’t know what it is yet here. Could be the outfield again. Could be the back end of the pen. It’s a good team, but it’s a team that always seems more appealing on paper than it does once pitches start being thrown in anger.

6. Rangers: Can’t wait for everyone who thought it important that Neftali Feliz serve as The Established Closer starts screaming about how the rotation is in ruins, seemingly unaware that there might actually be a link between those two things.

7. White Sox: I love Adam Dunn in U.S. Cellular Field, but if there’s an under to bet on his home runs, I’d consider taking it. I haven’t consulted the hit tracker data, but it seems like Dunn’s bombs are always sure things. I don’t know that the smaller park will make as huge a difference in his home run totals as his presence will make a difference for the Sox’ lineup as a whole.

8. Athletics: There is no contending team with a smaller margin for error than the A’s. Everyone needs health to win, but the A’s are depending on young pitching, some of whom have fragile elbows.  This worries me more than a bit.

9. Rockies: What’s the hitter’s equivalent of “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain?”  Because it maybe could work for Tulowitzki and Gonzalez. Though, no, I’m aware of no rule or contingency in baseball which would allow for two players to take multiple lineup slots in one game, so perhaps I should just give up this fanciful endeavor.

10. Cubs: Wainwright is out for the year and Cueto, Baily and Greinke are on the DL to start the season. And people think I’m nuts to be picking the Cubs in the NL Central. Whatever, dudes.

11. Twins: Their bullpen was just ripped to shreds in the offseason. They have reloaded on the fly and continued to contend before, but it’s a tall damn order this year.

12. Rays: Their bullpen was just ripped to shreds in the offseason. They have reloaded on the fly and continued to contend before, but it’s a tall damn order this year. No, this is not a copy-and-paste error.

13. Reds: The rotation is hurt or has mono or has looked shaky this spring. And the question must be asked: did they peak last year?

14. Cardinals: Every radio host I’ve spoken with this spring has asked me if the Pujols contract situation will hang over this team.  Question: after the first day of spring training, have you heard anything about it?  Nah, me neither.  I think everyone involved in this little dance is old and experienced enough to where it’s not going to be a problem until long after the Cardinals are out of the running. Or, if they’re in the race all year, until after the season.

15. Brewers: I think Brewers fans are tired of hearing people say that the team is “all-in” or “shooting the moon” this year or whatever. I agree, that’s getting tired. Thus I shall henceforth refer to the Brewers in terms of a group of roguish movie criminals coming together for that Last Big Score.  That always turns out well, doesn’t it?

16. Blue Jays: Like the A’s, young pitching, though young pitching without as high as an upside. As is usually the case, though, the Jays will probably be better than I figured and I’ll have, once again, missed the boat on why. I swear, it’s not a Canadian thing. They just sort of elude me.

17. Marlins: I was on a radio show this week and I started talking about how, at worst, even if he never figures anything else out, which I think is unlikely, Mike Stanton could be one of those really fun all-power guys I tend to like such as Rob Deer or Dave Kingman or whoever. The host was probably 25 and based on his response I’m quite sure he had no idea who I was talking about. I am old.

18. Tigers: Too many positions in that lineup where offense is being punted, I believe.

19. Angels: On days where Mike Scioscia decides to go defense-first at first base and start Howie Kendrick over Mark Tumbo, the Halos may well sport the worst offensive infield in the game.

20. Dodgers: People’s impressions of them are clouded by off-the-field problems, but if they get some offense to complement the rotation, they could be interesting.

21. Mets: People’s impressions of them are clouded by off-the-field problems, but if they get any starting pitching to complement the lineup, they could be interesting.

22. Orioles: This feels too low to me but I’m not sure who to demote. If things break right the O’s — were they not in the AL East — will be good enough to be interesting. Sadly, I can’t see them doing much better than fourth in the division they’re in, and for now I have them fifth.

23. Padres: Someone in the comments yesterday asked why everyone was disrespecting the Padres after what they did last year. I know. Totally unfair. I mean, just because you lose your best player and your number one starter is beginning the year on the shelf doesn’t mean you won’t still be good!  Oh, wait. Yes it does.

24. Nationals: I have traveled to the future and obtained a video of every Jayson Werth press conference that occurred between, oh, June 1st and the end of his current contract.

25. Astros: You know those ESPN “expert” predictions I mentioned above? Well, in those, ESPN’s Steve Berthiaume picked the Astros to win the NL Central. And with that, the season’s lone highlight is over.

26. Indians: The worst part about how this season is going to go will be when people — as they have done with the Cavs this year and as they have always done with Detroit — start to equate the team’s struggles with the city’s struggles and do so in a way that disparages Cleveland in some pretty unfair and misleading ways. No, the city isn’t in great shape, I’ll admit that. But it’s a place where, if you know someone who knows it well, you can have a great time. It’s a city with a lot of local pride. Lay off Cleveland, will ya?

27. Diamondbacks: Kirk Gibson started camp by talking about good defense, smart hitting approaches and playing the game “the right way.” I can’t wait, therefore, until the Dimondbacks’ best hitter is Russell Branyan. Between his iron glove and the fact that he is going to grip it and rip it like John Daly, Gibson is gonna have a coronary.

28. Mariners: Seattle’s first game is at 10:05 PM Eastern time tomorrow. You have until then to put your money down in the “what day will Milton Bradley flip the hell out” pool. I have May 19th.

29. Royals: I have this feeling that this is the year Jeff Francoeur really gets it together, figures out the strike zone and finally blossoms into the perennial All-Star that, by gosh, we all know he can be.

Did I keep a straight face there? What was my tell? This is important because I’m playing cards this weekend and I’m working on my bluff face.

30. Pirates: PNC Park is only three hours from my house. Nice place! It will be great that so many inexpensive tickets will be available for when I take impulsive road trips.

And with that, Gentlemen: start your whining.

Alex Rodriguez lands on the 15-day DL with a strained hamstring

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez follows through on a single to right off a pitch from Texas Rangers' Shawn Tolleson in the ninth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, April 27, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. The Yankees lost 3-2. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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Yankees DH Alex Rodriguez strained his right hamstring running out a ground ball in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s loss to the Orioles. The club announced it has placed him on the 15-day disabled list and recalled pitcher James Pazos from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Rodriguez lands on DL hitting .194/.275/.444 with five home runs and 12 RBI in 80 plate appearances.

Dustin Ackley replaced Rodriguez in Tuesday’s game, but the Yankees will likely cycle a handful of players in and out of the DH spot while Rodriguez heals.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Wednesday evening’s action

Philadelphia Phillies' Aaron Nola pitches to a Milwaukee Brewers batter during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, April 22, 2016, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)
AP Photo/Tom Lynn
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We were treated to a handful of games this afternoon but we still have eight night games left. Let’s talk about the Phillies.

I wrote this preview of the Phillies just before the season started, predicting them to win only 65 games, which would mark only a marginal improvement over their 63-win season last year. In my defense, I wasn’t alone, as almost every expert as well as the projections had them finishing under 70 wins. And yet, here they are 27 games into the season with 16 wins. That’s on pace for a 96-win season. What the heck.

Aaron Nola pitched seven shutout innings against the Cardinals in a 1-0 victory on Tuesday, marking the Phillies’ sixth shutout of the year, the best mark in the majors. Even as the Phillies prepared to draft him, Nola was described as “major league ready” but no one expected him to be quite this dominant. In his first 19 major league starts, Nola has a 3.37 ERA with a 112/26 K/BB ratio over 117 2/3 innings. This year, not only has Nola been extremely stingy with the walks, but he’s been missing bats at an elite level. He’s only 22 years old.

Nola is joined in the rotation by Vincent Velasquez, the pitcher who highlighted the return from the Astros in the Ken Giles trade. The right-hander made headlines in April with a 16-strikeout performance against the Padres and currently stands with a 1.44 ERA with a 39/10 K/BB ratio in 31 1/3 innings. Unlike Nola, Velasquez was billed as a future ace or a dominant eighth- or ninth-inning guy.

Then there’s Jerad Eickhoff, who came over in the Cole Hamels trade last year. Though he has a ho-hum 4.15 ERA, Eickhoff is occasionally dominant as evidenced by his 32/5 K/BB ratio over 30 1/3 innings. He has a pretty curve. Look at it. Eickhoff probably won’t be an ace, but he wasn’t considered to be a future mainstay in the rotation when the Hamels trade went through. All he’s done so far is exceed expectations. Nola-Velasquez-Eickhoff makes for an outstanding start to a long-term starting rotation.

The offensive tools aren’t quite where the pitching is yet for the Phillies, as third baseman Maikel Franco has wavered between looking like Mike Schmidt and looking completely lost at the plate. He has only five hits (zero home runs) in his last 37 plate appearances. Shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford isn’t there yet, nor is outfielder Nick Williams, catcher Jorge Alfaro, and outfielder Cornelius Randolph. There’s certainly a lot of hope on the horizon.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a Phillies fan, but wearing rose-colored glasses isn’t a crime of which I’ve been often accused over the years. It has been one headache after another being a Phillies fan between 2012-15. The front office under former GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. was stubborn and out of touch. Now, under new president Andy MacPhail and GM Matt Klentak, the team has a goal and is seeing it through. No, the Phillies won’t win 96 games this year — they probably won’t even win 80 — but they’re certainly further along than a lot of us gave them credit for being.

The Phillies play game three of a four-game set in St. Louis tonight at 8:15 PM EDT. Lefty Adam Morgan will oppose the Cardinals’ Mike Leake.

The rest of Wednesday’s action…

Detroit Tigers (Anibal Sanchez) @ Cleveland Indians (Corey Kluber), 6:10 PM EDT

New York Yankees (CC Sabathia) @ Baltimore Orioles (Tyler Wilson), 7:05 PM EDT

Texas Rangers (Colby Lewis) @ Toronto Blue Jays (Aaron Sanchez), 7:07 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Rubby De La Rosa) @ Miami Marlins (Jose Fernandez), 7:10 PM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers (Alex Wood) @ Tampa Bay Rays (Drew Smyly), 7:10 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (Clay Buchholz) @ Chicago White Sox (Carlos Rodon), 8:10 PM EDT

Minnesota Twins (Phil Hughes) @ Houston Astros (Mike Fiers), 8:10 PM EDT

The Marlins are suing a season ticket holder

Atlanta Braves v Miami Marlins
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A couple of years back the Marlins threatened to sue a season ticket holder who didn’t want to pay because the view they had wasn’t what they expected and the Marlins wouldn’t accommodate their request to move. That apparently got worked out without litigation. A new dispute, however, is now a matter for the courts.

The Marlins filed a lawsuit a little over a year ago against a season ticket holder named Mickey Axelbrand. The suit is just heating up now because the Marlins didn’t move to serve the defendant with the suit until recently. The suit is a straightforward breach of contract case in which the Marlins say that Axelbrand paid for two season tickets on a two-year contract, covering 2011-12, and that Axelbrand didn’t pay for the second year. The Marlins claim that he owes the team $24K+ plus other damages. Seems straightforward, no? You don’t pay, you get sued, right?

Well, there are two sides to every story. I spoke with Axelbrand’s lawyer, Daniel Rose of Delray Beach, Florida, this afternoon. He says Axelbrand has been a Marlins fan since the advent of the team and was as season ticket from the team’s first season in 1993 until the dispute arose. He says that the reason Axelbrand withheld payment was because “most of the exclusive amenities were taken away,” from the ticket holder. Specifically, he said that the Marlins ceased operation of the complementary food service for this exclusive seating area in the 6th inning and that exclusive parking areas and an entrance area for people at this expensive season ticket level were made open to the general public. While that sounds like a first world problem to a lot of us, clubs like the Marlins market these super high-priced tickets to people like Axelbrand on the basis of such exclusivity and people like Axelbrand come to expect it. Not unreasonably.

The suit is in its early stages now and discovery is just getting going. Only then will the merits of the competing claims be determined. For now we just have a claim and a defense and the facts will fall where they may. For what it’s worth, Rose believes he can get financial discovery from the Marlins, opening at least part of their books. I’m a bit rusty by now, but for what it’s worth I’m not sure I see how it gets that far. At the very least, however, Jeff Loria will probably have to spend some time and money fending off discovery requests that go beyond the ticket office.

I think the larger takeaway here is that this appears to have been a dispute between a customer and a business that festered for at least three years and one presumes that there were complaints made to the team and a lot of back and forth before everyone lawyered up. One wonders how a baseball team couldn’t resolve this short of litigation if, as Axelbrand and his attorney claim, it was a dispute over amenities and the like. There are probably a million ways for a club to make this right with a fan that don’t require legal fees. I can’t ever recall a team suing a season ticket holder (update: Oh, yeah, that’s the ticket!) I suppose it happens, but if there’s one thing most teams do better than anything it’s accommodate season ticket holders with the sort of customer service niceties which are in the dang wheelhouse of professional sports teams catering to rich folks. Lunch with Giancarlo Stanton anyone?

As a matter of law it’s for the courts to decide. But I can’t help but wonder how this wasn’t decided as a matter of customer service a long time ago.

The Rangers trade Chris Gimenez to the Indians

Texas Rangers' Chris Gimenez, left, and Rougned Odor celebrate Gimenez scoring during the fourteenth inning of Game 2 in baseball's American League Division Series, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, in Toronto. Texas won 6-4. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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The Cleveland Indians just announced that they’ve acquired catcher Chris Gimenez from the Texas Rangers in exchange for cash considerations.

Gimenez knows his way to Progressive Field. Indeed, this will be his third stint with the Indians organization. He was their 19th round pick in the 2004 draft, made his big league debut with the club in 2009 and stayed through the 2010 season. He came back in 2014 for eight games, now he’s back again. He has yet to play in 2016 due to a ankle issue. He as doing minor league rehab before being DFA’d by the Rangers yesterday.

Come back to Cleveland, Chris. You always will have a home in Cleveland.