Your Monday Morning Power Rankings

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The rain really messed with stuff last week. There were so many close calls on the rankings that would have been way easier to make if there was one more game in a given series, but a ton of teams had a game — or two — scratched.  Oh well. April showers and all of that. Anyway:

1. Phillies (2): I had a hard time deciding whether to knock the Rockies to number two and elevate the Phillies to the top spot. Yeah, it was a bit of a rough week for the Rockies, but they were facing the world champs and the hot Marlins. It was likewise a great weekend for the Phillies but, dudes, it was the Padres. And the Phillies are still struggling offensively. At the moment I tend to think that each of these teams are strong yet imperfect, and I believe that the differences between them are pretty small from an overall Power Rankings perspective. But ultimately I think the Phillies are better suited for the long haul of the season and, for the moment, that will serve as a tie-breaker.

2. Rockies (1): See above.

3. Yankees (6): An off day and a postponement made for a short week, but at their age they can use the time off.

4. Rangers (3): Neftali Feliz on the DL is bad news. If Ron Washington’s usual bullpen preferences win out, Feliz will be replaced by a bullpen-by-committee featuring C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison.

5. Marlins (9): Hanley Ramirez continues to struggle, but the Feesh are doing just fine without his contributions at the moment.

6. Indians (4): Because I’m often too lazy to actually log on to MLB.tv, I end up watching more Indians games than anyone else’s. And I gotta admit: they’ve been fun to watch. Even if the winning doesn’t keep up — which I don’t think it will — it’s been great to watch the development of Carlos Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera as well as a resurgent Grady Sizemore.  It’s just an interesting team to watch, which I didn’t anticipate before the season began.

7. Royals (4): Kila Ka’aihue is struggling. Meanwhile, Eric Hosmer is hitting .380 as a 21 year-old in his first go-around at AAA.  You don’t need to be a MacArthur Grant recipient in order to have the sort of creativity required to solve this predicament.

8. Angels (8): I assume the bad series against the Red Sox is a form of mourning for the departure of Brandon Wood.

9. Cardinals (10): The bullpen is still a problem, but taking two of three from the rival Reds is a nice pick-me-up.

10. Brewers (12): Two of three from Philly, two of three from Houston and their star left fielder locked up for a decade. Not a bad week.

11. Reds (7): Miguel Cairo steps in for Scott Rolen for a couple of weeks. I always want to mock when Cairo gets more playing time than he deserves — which seems to happen a lot — but then he does stuff like hit the go-ahead RBI on Saturday night. And it’s not like Rolen was tearing up the pea patch or anything.

12. Tigers (19): I’ve moved them up a lot because they’ve won, but let’s keep in mind that the wins this past week came against the bottom two teams in our Power Rankings.

13.  Giants (11): Brian Wilson’s ERA is 9.82.

14. Rays (18): Hard to find a pitcher who had a better week than James Shields.

15. Blue Jays (13): If there were any illusions on the part of Jays fans about their team’s prospects of challenging in the East, they can look back at the last week and change and note that they lost three of four to Boston, split two with the Yankees and lost two of three to Tampa Bay. No, they aren’t there yet.

16. Dodgers (24): The Dodgers have taken well to being wards of the state, taking three of four from Atlanta and two of three from the Cubs.

17. Athletics (15): The two losses against the Mariners may seem bad on the surface, but they came against Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda. There are a lot of teams that are going to go through that experience over the next couple of years.

18. Red Sox (29): Winners of eight of ten including five straight on the road, with most of those wins coming in convincing fashion.  Yeah, I think the Red Sox are gonna be just fine.

19. Braves (17): Are they the listless and feeble team that got pwned by the Dodgers early last week or are they the explosive and opportunistic team that swept the defending world champs in San Francisco over the weekend?

20. Cubs (16): They may have looked OK against the punchless Padres, but they gave up 27 runs in three games to the Dodgers.

21. Nationals (21): Another team with two postponements in the past week. I sure hope the makeup games don’t end up tiring out the pitching staff before the playoffs begin.

22. Pirates (22): The Pirates got creamed by the Marlins early in the week. They bounced back nicely, however, when a random fan wearing a Pirates shirt was sitting along the left field line at Busch Stadium during last night’s Reds-Cardinals game, got a foul ball and then proceeded to thump his chest and yell “Pirates rule!”  The fire still burns inside for some fans.

23. Mets (27): Four wins in a row for the Mets, an off day today and a week in which the biggest gloomy off-the-field news did not involve them. Ya think they’ll get one day without anyone in the press slamming them?

24. Diamondbacks (25): They get three at home against Philly starting tonight. Except they’re flying back from New York while Philly was in San Diego, chilling on Pacific time and likely relaxing in Phoenix before the Dbacks were. Probably doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but I always wonder what about a home game makes it the most advantageous for the players. The beds they sleep in? Travel fatigue? Crowd? Familiar surroundings?

25. Orioles (20): Well, I guess it was a better week than the week they had before. But man, not good. 21 runs given up to the Yankees in two days.

26. Twins (28): My kids’ school sends home letters when epidemics of various stripes are floating around. Strep throat, head lice, that sort of thing. With all that has ailed the Twins so far this year I suppose their moms are getting the same sorts of letters. But hey, three wins in a row suggest that maybe things are looking up.

27. Astros (26): No one has given up more runs than the Astros have (123).

28. Padres (23): No one has scored fewer runs than the Padres have (63).

29. White Sox (14): They’ve lost 10 of 11 and have tumbled down the Power Rankings accordingly.

30. Mariners (30): They have the worst record and the worst run differential in baseball. They’ve earned this.

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

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UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.