Asdrubal Cabrera, Orlando Cabrera

Your Monday Morning Power Rankings

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1. Indians (5): They’re on pace to win 107 games. Even if they go .500 the rest of the way they’re an 87-88 win team. Does anyone think that won’t win the AL Central?

2. Cardinals (9): Not just winning — a 6-1 week — but winning impressively. They have the second best run differential in baseball after the Indians.

3. Giants (4): On the other hand, the Giants continue to win the close ones.

4. Phillies (6): Chase Utley comes back today, hitting third. Given how well they’re doing despite how little they’re scoring — really, any other team would be on a hellacious skid with their offense —  even a half-effective Utley should allow them to press down on the accelerator in the NL East.

5-7. Yankees, Rays, Red Sox (11, 2, 15): Or pick your order, I don’t care, because there isn’t a big difference between 5 and 7 in my mind.  A half game separates all three of them. Run differential is crazy, though: Yankees: +50, Rays: +25, Red Sox: +5.  But they don’t decide divisions by run differential, and for now we have a helluva race shaping up.

8. Marlins (7): A nice performance from Javier Vazquez on Saturday. If that’s a harbinger of things to come, the Marlins’ prospects are way brighter.

9. Reds (1): Cleveland is good now, so it’s not quite the same, but no one looks at the schedule back in March and says that getting swept by the Pirates and the Indians is part of the plan.

10. Brewers (19): The mood around this team has perked up in the past week as they seem to be turning the corner from erratic, sometimes good, sometimes bad play to something a lot more sustainable.

11. Blue Jays (14): The immediate future holds three against the Yankees, four against the suddenly-respectable White Sox and then three against the Indians. Not the easiest week if they expect to make the three-team AL East race into a four-team race. Not sure their week was worthy of a three-spot jump, but (a) I probably undersold them last week; and (b) I really needed to drop some teams ahead of them. Believe it or not, these rankings aren’t an exact science.

12. Braves (8): Don’t expect this position to last. Heyward to the disabled list, McLouth out, Fredi Gonzalez continuing to trade one nickel for two pennies when it comes to his offensive strategy.  I see a plummet in their future.

13-14. Rangers, Angels (12, 10):  Hard to separate these two at the moment, but with Josh Hamilton coming back soon, don’t expect that state of affairs to last.

15. Rockies (13): Jeckyll and Hyde: they won three of four games against the Giants/Phillies and then get rolled by the Brewers. And don’t look now, dudes, but you’re about to get passed up by the Diamondbacks.

16. Tigers (3): They went from the hottest team in baseball to one of the coldest, just like that. You can’t see it, but I just snapped my fingers.

17. Diamondbacks (22): Wins against the Padres, Braves and Twins count too, and Arizona got a bucket of them last week.

18. Mariners (28): Like Arizona, not the toughest schedule lately, but in a division that none of the contenders seem to want to take control of, the putatively non-contending Mariners sit one and half games back and sport a killer rotation. I ain’t gonna make any predictions about where this is heading, but I will say “hmmmm.”

19. Mets (18): Personally I think they’re treading water just fine and, if anything, are more respectable this year than many figured they’d be. But who am I to second-guess the team’s owner? So, “shitty” they are.

20. Athletics (17): After getting swept by both the lowly Twins and their cross-bay rivals, those couple of wins against the Angels early in the week seem like a long time ago.

21. Pirates (26): Two wins against the Reds and two against the Tigers combined with some improving attendance numbers make for a nice week.

22. Royals (16): I still can’t get my mind around how they walked 13 Cardinals yesterday while taking one walk themselves.

23. White Sox (27): 5-2 in the past week and they still stand nine games back. Just puts the size of hole they dug for themselves in perspective.

24. Orioles (21): They went 2-4 against Tampa Bay, Boston and New York in this last little stretch, but the road gets a bit easier going forward with Kansas City Oakland and Seattle.

25. Nationals (20):  The Nats’ offensive output over the past five games: 0, 0, 17, 3, 1.  One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn’t belong.

26. Cubs (24): I would just like to go on record and blame my pick of the Cubs to win the NL Central on swamp gas, weather balloons, my rough upbringing and society.

27. Dodgers (23): A bad series in Chicago as, in addition to losing, they left banged up.  This is turning into a totally lost season for L.A., both on the field and off.

28. Padres (25): My brother got tickets to Saturday’s Padres-Mariners game. He isn’t necessarily a Padres fan, but he’s been in San Diego for close to 15 years now and is getting there. His response to the game: “I didn’t think I’d have much fun and probably wouldn’t have gone if someone didn’t give me the ticket. But man, that Michael Pineda kid sure can bring it.”  Padres fever: catch it!

29. Astros (29): With the losing and the new owners coming in, the talk of the team now is who gets traded and when.

30. Twins (30): It’s not fun for Twins fans, but it is somewhat amusing for non-Twins fans who have been beaten over the head for years with the largely erroneous “Minnesota is fundamentally sound and does all of the little things right!” talk to hear the team’s downfall this year blamed largely on being fundamentally unsound and not doing the little things right.

A-Rod will be back on Fox for the playoffs

Alex Rodriguez
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Alex Rodriguez made for a shockingly good analyst during last year’s playoffs. He’s clear and concise and is able to criticize players without being a jackass. That’s key, as so many current and former players who spend time doing analysis seem loathe to call out a player despite the fact that that’s what they’re there for.

Fox obviously liked what they got out of A-Rod, because he’s coming back:

Now, if they can refrain from hiring Pete Rose and if TBS brings back A.J. Pierzynski, tuning in to the pregame and postgame shows may actually be worth your time this October.

Blame Baseball’s copycat behavior for its lack of diversity in the executive ranks

Rob Manfred
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Following on yesterday’s stuff about baseball’s marked lack of diversity in the executive ranks comes a Ken Rosenthal column which digs into it a bit.

I might observe that, while, Rosenthal is right on all of the facts, there is a whiff of pushback in the story. As if MLB folks were hearing the criticisms Murray Chass and others have leveled in recent days about the lack of women, minorities and other candidates who don’t fit the “30-something MBA from an Ivy League school” mold of so many of today’s top execs and wanted to get some points out there. The league’s search firm is examined and there is a bit of “well, here is an exception; and here are a few more . . .” to it. Which, hey, that’s fair. Like I said, Rosenthal has his facts right and treats the issue seriously.

I think Rosenthal’s best bit, however, is the point he hits on at the end, when he says “homogeneity is dangerous in any industry, particularly when bright people are excluded.” That’s probably the key word to think about when you think about baseball’s hiring practices. “Homegeneity.” Baseball has a distinct lack of women and minorities in key positions, but I don’t think it’s because baseball is maliciously racist or sexist. Rather, it’s because baseball is acutely prone to copycat behavior that breeds homogeneity.

Everything about baseball culture, from the first day of a player’s minor league career-on and from the first day an intern is hired to get coffee for an assistant general manager is about not being different. About not sticking out. About emulating successes. You may mess up or you may fail, but if you do it while going about your business the way other, successful people went about theirs, you’ll be way better off than if you did things differently or stuck out.

This is true of all industries to some degree, but it seems far more prevalent in baseball. It’s a smaller world with fewer opportunities than business at large. It’s a more conservative world in terms of temperament. It’s one where you’re far more likely to have a reporter ask you about why you did something than, say, the accounting industry. It makes people afraid to take chances and makes people far more likely to do what that last successful guy did than to go out on even the shortest of limbs.

Not that things don’t change. Indeed, today’s preference for 30-something MBAs is radically different than the old model of hiring some old “baseball man” to run baseball operations. But it only came to the fore after the sabermetric and analytical model forced its way into the conversation with success and/or efficiencies that were impossible for even the crustiest old baseball man to ignore. That said, it was a transformation that was so difficult and radical that it was literally turned into a book and a movie and led to a decade and a half of arguing. A philosophical change which may have been casually noted in another business and then quickly emulated played out like some sort of cultural civil war in baseball circles. Change came, yes, but it wasn’t easy.

But here we are again, with the old baseball men replaced by the “Moneyball” disciples, who have become the new normal. A normal which one deviates from at great risk in baseball’s conservative world. I don’t believe that baseball’s homogeneity in the executive ranks is a function of bad people who believe bad things making bad decisions. I think it’s about fear and conformity more than anything else. Now there is a fear that not hiring that Ivy League MBA is the radical and perilous move. And if that Ivy League MBA was one who worked under another Ivy League MBA with another, all the better. And the easier we can sell him to fans as “the next Theo Epstein,” well, the better. And it sure would be easier to do that if he looked like Theo Epstein! Comps are the lingua franca of old baseball scouts. They’re the lingua franca of baseball decision makers too.

Whatever the causes, the net effect of all of this is no different than if there were virulent racism and sexism in the hearts and minds of baseball’s decision makers. It’s the same rich white boys club that maliciousness and bigotry could’ve created, even if it was created via more benign means. If baseball’s leaders truly believe that diversity in their leadership ranks is important — and I believe them when they say they do — they need to attack the problem of its homogeneity in the same manner they would if there was something malicious afoot. They need to stop throwing up their hands and saying “well, that’s what clubs do” or “that’s what our search firm gave us” and make achieving diversity a goal with an action plan, not just a goal which is merely stated.