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.

Mike Scioscia and the Angels played yesterday’s game under protest

KANSAS CITY, MO - JULY 27: Matt Shoemaker #52 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim throws to first as he tries to get the out on Raul Mondesi's #27 of the Kansas City Royals bunt in the seventh inning at Kauffman Stadium on July 27, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. Shoemaker's throwing error lead to Mondesi advancing to third and Alex Gordon and Paulo Orlando scoring.  (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Getty Images
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The Royals beat the Angels last night, but Mike Scioscia is hoping Joe Torre and the Commissioner’s Office gives him a do-over.

The Angels played the game in protest following what they believe to be a rules misinterpretation following a base running incident in the seventh inning. That’s when Raul Mondesi reached on a bunt single which scored two runs following a throwing error from Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker, whose attempt to put out Modesi sailed into right field. Watch the play:

Mike Scioscia came out claiming interference, arguing that Mondesi was not running within the baseline. The play was reviewed for over six minutes but the call — everyone’s safe and two runs scored — was upheld. After that Scioscia indicated tht he was playing under protest.

The thing about protests, though, is that they cannot be based on judgment calls. Rather, they have to be based on misapplication of rules by the umpires. Running outside of the baseline is a judgment call, though, right? So how can Scioscia protest it? Here’s his explanation:

“It’s not a judgement call. I would not have protested if I was not 100 percent correct on this. This is a misinterpretation of a rule. It was very clear. Phil Cuzzi, the home plate umpire, had Mondesi running inside the line in jeopardy the whole way, and stated that it’s okay because he was stepping back toward the bag, which is wrong.”

For his part, Royals manager Ned Yost believed it was a judgment call. For everyone’s part, protests are almost never upheld in baseball and, despite Scioscia’s comments, baseline calls are generally considered judgement calls.

If Scioscia is right, the game will be replayed, resuming with one out in the seventh inning and the runners where they started. But don’t hold your breath.

Politician behind the Braves new ballpark deal voted out of office

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Associated Press
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Tim Lee was the Cobb County commissioner who led the charge to build a new stadium for the Atlanta Braves in the northern suburbs. The operation, despite being taxpayer-funded, was not passed on by the voters beforehand and was cloaked in secrecy at every turn. Best of all, once Lee and his fellow commissioners started taking heat for it, he held his critics in contempt and shut down any effort to examine the deal in public meetings or to allow dissent to it by the people he claimed to represent.

That’s not a great look for a public official. Which is why Lee is now a former public official:

Incumbent Chairman Tim Lee lost his reelection bid Tuesday to challenger Mike Boyce, a retired marine colonel, in a runoff seen by many as a litmus test for support of the deal to bring the Atlanta Braves to Cobb.

Boyce beat Lee, winning 64 percent of the vote, with all precincts reporting.

If you read that linked article, you’ll be amused to see that Lee’s supporters blame his defeat on Donald Trump and general anti-incumbent sentiment. To the folks watching that race, however, it was obvious that this was a referendum on bringing the Braves to Cobb County in the manner that Lee did. His opponent, also a Republican, ran a grassroots campaign that was explicitly about Lee’s lack of transparency and, in many respects, total secrecy in spending hundreds of millions of public dollars on the sort of project which study after study has shown does not provide economic benefits to the public in any way approaching the degree to which it simply enriches the owners of professional sports teams. Lee’s opponent, Mike Boyce, said this after his victory:

“Cobb County is a very conservative county and people simply want the respect shown to them that if you’re going to use their money, you have to ask them,” Boyce said.

Doesn’t seem all that controversial, Trumpian or anti-incumbent to me. That just seems like good sense.

Not that Lee is going away quietly. After his defeat, he said this:

I wanted to make a positive difference for my community. Thirteen years later, I can safely say that I’ve done that. In my last term, Cobb County landed the biggest economic development deal in its modern history. That investment – however unfairly maligned and misrepresented – is already paying off and will enrich this community long after many of us are gone . . . The election is over; our friendship is not. How about we catch a ballgame together? I know a great place about to open up. It’s in the neighborhood.

I’m assuming Lee will have free Braves tickets for life after what he did for them so, yes, he’ll always be at the ballgame. And yes, I’m sure he’ll always consider the stadium to have been economically beneficial because he’ll just point to a ballpark full of fans and, eventually, a winning Braves ballclub and claim that makes everyone’s life better. If he chooses to measure the ballpark’s economic impact the way actual economists do, however, as opposed to the way professional sports teams and their crony politicians do, I’m guessing he’ll have to reassess that stuff about how great all of this has been.

Not that I ever expect him to measure it that way. No one in power ever does. They’re too busy hobnobbing with retired ballplayers and team executives in the luxury suites and explaining away their failure to fund true public works and services as either something wholly unavoidable or the fault of someone else.