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.

Edwin Encarnacion: “I think [the Blue Jays] got too hasty in making their decision.”

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19:  Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts in the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians during game five of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 19, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion signed a three-year, $60 million contract with the Indians early last month. The 34-year-old had spent the last seven and a half seasons with the Blue Jays, but his future elsewhere appeared to be written on the wall when the Jays signed Kendrys Morales in November to essentially occupy Encarnacion’s role.

Encarnacion spoke about testing free agency for the first time in his career and the situation that led to him leaving Toronto for Cleveland. Via Jorge L. Ortiz of USA TODAY:

“Toronto was always my first option, but I had never been a free agent, and anybody who gets to free agency wants to find out what’s out there,’’ he said. “I think they got too hasty in making their decision, but now I’m with Cleveland and I’m happy to be here.’’

Encarnacion last season hit .263/.357/.529 with 42 home runs and an AL-best 127 RBI. He’s now on the team that defeated his Blue Jays in the ALCS to advance to the World Series. Encarnacion effectively replaces Mike Napoli, who returned to the Rangers.

Sammy Sosa compares himself to Jesus Christ

Sammy Sosa
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I’m on record saying that Sammy Sosa has been rather hosed by baseball history.

The guy did amazing things. Unheard-of things. He was truly astounding at this peak and was incredibly important to both his franchise and Major League Baseball as a whole. His repayment: he’s a pariah. His club won’t claim him and his greatness, by any measure, has not just been overlooked but denied by most who even bother to consider him.

Yes, he had PED associations, but they were extraordinarily vague ones. He’s in the same boat as David Ortiz as far as documented PED evidence against him, but Ortiz will be a first ballot Hall of Famer while Sosa barely clings to the ballot. He hit homers at the same cartoonish rate as Mark McGwire, but while Big Mac has been embraced by baseball and has coached for years, Sosa can’t get into Wrigley Field unless he buys a ticket and even then the Cubs might try to hustle him out of sight. The man has been treated poorly by any measure.

Yet, it’s still possible to overstate the case. Like Sosa did in this interview with Chuck Wasserstrom:

It’s like Jesus Christ when he came to Jerusalem,” Sosa told chuckbloggerstrom.com. “Everybody thought Jesus Christ was a witch (laughing) — and he was our savior. So if they talk (bleep) about Jesus Christ, what about me? Are you kidding me?”

At least he was basically joking about it. Still, it’s a totally unfair and almost offensive comparison.

I mean, anyone who watched Sosa’s career knows that he had trouble laying off breaking stuff low and away. In contrast . . .