I gotta tell ya, no one feels like a number one team right now. Cleveland and Philly have the best records in baseball, but both are flawed teams who played some unexciting baseball last week. Then you have Florida, but Philly beat them two out of three last week, so how can I put them above Philly? Screw it: we ignore overall records at the top of the list this week and go with the hot hands. Oh, and one more thing: there is so much damn compression right now, that you shouldn’t get too hung up on the rankings at the moment. Five slots between teams could represent almost no difference in my perception of their mojo at the moment. I could have done a bunch of three and four-way ties at some of these rankings and it wouldn’t have made a big difference.
1. Reds (10): Are they the absolute best team in baseball? Eh, maybe not, but that’s not what the Power Rankings measure. I’m not sure exactly what they measure, but I know it when I see it, and the way I see it is that if you sweep your division rival and take over first place despite your ace relief pitcher doing a Steve Blass impression, you gotta be number one, at least for a week, OK? In other news, this is the first time that we’ve had two straight weeks of Ohio dominance at the top of the Rankings.
2. Rays (4): Kind of the same here in terms of what I feel about the Rays. Losing two of three to the O’s doesn’t feel like a number two team, but they’ve had a good run of late otherwise and are on top of their division and, dammit, no one else below them really excites me at the moment. Really, aside from these top four teams, everyone is playing kind of blah baseball right now.
3. Tigers (16): The hottest team in baseball. Seven in a row and ten of eleven.
4. Giants (12): If you told me that the Giants would have the second to worst offense in baseball, that Pablo Sandoval would be hurt and Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey would be struggling and that, despite this, they’d be in first place in the West, I wouldn’t have really believed you. But I wouldn’t have called you crazy either. Because you can win with pitching.
5. Indians (1): Don’t read too much into the four-spot drop. Two rainouts on the weekend series and a few scorching-hot teams ahead of them will do that. That said, it just seems like a matter of time before Detroit overtakes them in the real standings too, doesn’t it? Isn’t it time, now that all of the national outlets have gotten on board with their “hey, these Indians are exciting and special!” stories, for a decline? I admit that in this that I’m thinking of them as less of a baseball team and more of a stock, but it just seems to work like that a lot.
6-8. Phillies, Marlins, Braves (2, 5, 7): I guess in that order, because that reflects the standings, but you can make reasonable arguments in any order. They all went 3-3 last week. Braves won two straight series against the Phillies but are kind of getting away with murder as far their offensive holes go and of course they looked bad against the Nats. Phillies beat the Marlins in their mid-week series but in some ways the Marlins have been more consistent than the other two. They’re just all really even at the moment. I continue to believe that the Phillies will be the first to separate themselves, but they haven’t done it yet.
9. Cardinals (6): Remember last year how the Cards and Reds had that brawl, the Cards won the series and everyone said that, boy, this was the spark that was going to allow St. Louis to bury Cincy for good? Well, life doesn’t work like that. As such, you should just ignore any grand pronouncements made about the impact of this past weekends’ series as well, because it kind of doesn’t matter. Same goes for Boston and New York too, by the way.
10. Angels (8): Lost two of three to Texas and two of three to the White Sox last week. The bullpen is a pretty big problem at the moment.
11. Yankees (3): I don’t hate the Yankees or anything, but I really do enjoy reading the tabloids after a weekend like New York just had. There’s no one who pumps success up to the stratosphere or beats struggles into the ground like the New York press.
12. Rangers (14): Josh Hamilton may start a rehab assignment soon. They’re treading water well enough without him, but boy could they use him back in the lineup.
13. Rockies (9): Another bad week for Colorado. If you want to be a playoff team you don’t drop consecutive series to the Mets and Padres.
14. Blue Jays (21): Jose Bautista. Like I need to say more? What’s the earliest anyone has anyone locked up an MVP? Because this smells like one of those kinds of years.
15. Red Sox (17): It’s always nice to sweep the Yankees, but how big a feat is that at the moment? Ah, who cares: the Sox are at .500.
16. Royals (11): Two of three from New York was nice, but the wins stopped and the bats went cold as soon as they got to Detroit. Their next seven games come against Cleveland, Texas and St. Louis, so they had better find that mojo quickly.
17. Athletics (13): Scott Ostler, talking about the A’s offensive troubles and their close-but-no-cigar comeback yesterday, had a pretty good line this morning: “If this had happened 5 miles away, it would be called torture. The A’s don’t do torture. It’s something lighter they offer, more of a sustained frustration.”
18. Mets (23): A 4-2 week on the road with a couple of those wins coming against a pretty good team and the offense clicking nicely. Such a contrast to that dysfunctional team that plays on the other side of town.
19. Brewers (25): Quietly, as the Reds and Cardinals took front stage, Milwaukee had a very good week. Don’t count them out.
20. Nationals (19): Series ahead against Baltimore, Pittsburgh and the Mets. A chance for them to show that they’re more than the ~.500 team they’ve appeared to be?
21. Orioles (27): A 5-1 week for the O’s, who at the very least have shown that no one who expects to win the AL East can expect to do so by feasting on the Orioles anymore.
22. Diamondbacks (20): The Dodgers series salvages what was an otherwise bad road trip.
23. Dodgers (24): The offense is sleeping. Is there a team more dependent on a couple of guys (Kemp and Ethier) than Los Angeles?
24. Cubs (22): Cubs’ offensive output in their last four games: 11, 1, 11, 0. If they score 11 tonight, be sure to tune in Tuesday, because we may see something we’ve never seen before.
25. Padres (26): What’s got 50 thumbs and has scored 46 runs in its last six games? These guys, right here!
26. Pirates (15): The Pirates must have gotten tired of that patronizing “oh look! They’re over .500!” chatter from last week. Dropping five in a row sure showed everyone!
27. White Sox (30): Signs of life: two of three from the Angels and two of three from the A’s.
28. Mariners (18): Sub-headline of Steve Kelley’s story in the Seattle Times about the struggles of the Mariners’ closer: “Should Brandon League remain the Mariners’ closer? Should he be demoted? Does it really matter?” Yep. Pretty much nails it.
29. Astros (28): At least they’ll soon have a new owner and all of the related hubbub that goes along with it to distract everyone from the miserable product on the field.
30. Twins (29): Let’s put it this way: Gleeman’s mom and I have been taking turns calling him every hour to make sure he isn’t harming himself or others.