Your Monday Morning Power Rankings

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As usual, the number in the parenthesis was last week’s ranking.

1. Red Sox (5): I had them ranked number one to start the season. I was only two-and-a-half months off!

2. Phillies (3): A good week, but the Cubs and Dodgers aren’t exactly fearsome, nor were the Nats and Pirates, who they faced the previous week. Things get tougher towards the end of the month.

3. Brewers (7): En Fuego, to the point where I thought about putting them above Philly. Maybe I should have. You tell me.

4. Yankees/Cardinals (2, 1): A very schizophrenic week for New York, looking awful against Boston but like world-beaters against the Tribe. The Cards’ showing against Milwaukee was a bit troubling. Maybe St. Louis is just taking a different tack this year than they did last year with the Reds, feeling free to drop the head-to-head meetings and rather make up ground against others.

6. Braves (11): Six straight wins but, like Philly, it wasn’t against the toughest competition (the Marlins are reeling, the Astros merely bad). And the biggest concern about this team remains the feeling that all of these close, low-scoring games they’re playing are going to catch up to those arms in the pen which, while really damn effective, aren’t indestructible.

7. Giants (6): Tim Lincecum’s struggles are a real concern. But really, between their recently defective ace and the number of big injuries they’ve had, it’s amazing that the Giants are still in first place. It suggests that they don’t have a real challenger in the west and that, if they can continue to work through these recent issues, they’ll be pretty comfortable come August and September.

8. Tigers (12): Percentage points behind the Indians, but one gets the sense they’ll tussle for the AL Central title far more with Chicago as the summer wears on, not Cleveland.

9. Diamondbacks (9): A bit of an offensive awakening over the weekend.  If the Giants can ever be had, now is the time to make a move.

10. Rangers (4): In light of the Mavs’ thing, now would be a great time for the Rangers to release any bad news they have floating around. Middle infielders with attitude problems. Dead hookers in trunks. That sort of thing.

11. Rays (14): A 5-1 week on what has been a very up-and-down season.  You know how Joe Maddon likes to dress up his team in themed costumes for road trips? How about dressing them up as a consistent ballclub?

12. Indians (8): Talking to Indians fans around my Ohio home has had me feeling like a grief counselor. Only that Indians fans seemed to have moved very quickly through the shock, denial, anger and bargaining phases and have settled into a mildly depressive but more or less accepting posture.

13. Reds (16), 14. Mariners (15), 15. Mets (20): This is less of a tie than a group comment: all three of these teams moved up a lot. Seems like too much based on their weeks, but the fact is that there are a lot of free-falling teams below who made room.

16. White Sox (22): Same could go for these guys too, but really, there has been a ton of improvement here and I wouldn’t be shocked to see them challenging the Tigers soon.

17. Blue Jays (10): Too extreme a drop? I dunno, I’m having a hard time remembering a team get so humbled as the Jays did this past weekend against Boston.

18. Marlins (13): They weathered Hanley Ramirez’s slump well enough, but his absence has been another story. You can’t pretend to contend for too long without your best player contributing.

19. Rockies (19): A treading water kind of week. Ubaldo Jimenez continues to struggle. One gets the sense that they could just as easily fall nine games back of the Giants in the next several days or go on a 14-2 run.  The Rockies have been the most perplexing team in all of baseball over the past few years.

20. Pirates (18): A nice schedule break forthcoming with series against Houston, Cleveland and Baltimore. I have to say that after rooting for the Braves in the east, I’m probably rooting for the Pirates to finish above .500 this year more than anything else in baseball, though it is a distant second place.

21. Dodgers (21): There is no better gauge of how the Dodgers season is going at any given moment than by going to the L.A. Times’ Dodgers page and reading the top three headlines. If at least two of them are about the team, things are going fine. If they’re about Frank McCourt, Bryan Stow or any of that unpleasant stuff, things aren’t going so well.

22. Orioles (24): Hey, they got Bob Geren fired last week. That’s good, right?

23. Angels (17): Losers of nine of 11 and then shut out by Vin Mazzaro? Yuck.

24. Nationals (25): You know, a 6-5 west coast swing for a not-so-great team is not-so-bad.

25. Padres (26): By the same token, losing 3 for 4 to the Nats at home when you’re a west coast team ain’t-so-great.

26. Royals (27): The early season surge notwithstanding, everyone knew that this was not going to be a competitive year. That they occasionally win a game they have no business winning is a bonus; that they occasionally stink on ice should not be taken too hard. That Eric Hosmer is hitting pretty well and Mike Moustakas looked good in his first weekend of work is the most important thing here.

27. Twins (30): Signs of life in Minnesota!  Winning nine of eleven should maybe have vaulted them up more than three spots over the past couple of weeks, but I feel like waiting one more week to see how real this is. The hole they dug for themselves was pretty deep.

28. Athletics (23): Nightmare fuel. But hey, with Geren gone at least they’re a happier losing bunch, right?

29. Cubs (28): This hurts. I’m not sure who it hurts more, but it hurts.

30. Astros (29): It feels like they’re going to be here for a while.

Report: The Yankee Stadium charity is a secretive, self-dealing boondoggle

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The New York Times has a blistering report on the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund. The Fund is the charity the Yankees created in 2006 as a means of making up for the negative impact the construction New Yankee Stadium had on the surrounding community, primarily via its taking over 25 acres of parkland.

The idea of the Fund was a good one: to distribute $40 million in cash grants and sports equipment, and 600,000 free baseball tickets to community organizations in the Bronx over four decades. And it has been distributing funds and tickets. As the Times reports, however, the manner in which it has done so raises some red flags. Such as:

  • Charitable donations have, in an amazing coincidence, often gone to other charities which share common board members with the New Yankee Stadium Fund;
  • Funds have gone to many wealthy groups in affluent parts of the Bronx far away from the Stadium while the area around the stadium remains one of the most impoverished in the nation. For example, a private school in a wealthy part of the borough and a rec center in a gated community have gotten a lot money that, one would think anyway, could be and should be devoted to organizations closer to the ballpark that are in greater need; and
  • There has been almost no transparency or oversight of the Fund. Reports which were supposed to have been submitted have not been. And no one, apart from the Times anyway, seems to care. The Yankees certainly don’t seem to. Indeed, as the article notes, the team has worked hard to keep the Fund’s operations out of its hands. They just got their new ballpark and write the checks and hand out the tickets. Everything else is someone else’s problem.

Cronyism in private philanthropy is not uncommon. As is a lack of oversight. Often it’s the best connected people who receive the benefit of such funds, not the people most in need. This is especially true in charities whose creation was not born of a philanthropic impulse as much as it was born of a need to put a good face on some not-so-good business dealings.

If the Times’ report is correct — and the lack of anyone coming forward to dispute it on the record despite the Times’ requests that they do suggests it is — it appears as if the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund is one of those sorts of charities.

Who is the fastest sprinter in baseball?

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We’re not talking the 100 meters here. We’re talking practical baseball sprinting. That’s defined by the StatCast folks at MLB as “feet per second in a player’s fastest one-second window,” while sprinting for the purposes of, you know, winning a baseball game.

StatCast ranked all players who have at least 10 “max effort” runs this year. I won’t give away who is at the top of this list, but given that baseball’s speedsters tend to get a lot of press you will not be at all surprised. As for the bottom of the list, well, the Angels don’t pay Albert Pujols to run even when he’s not suffering from late career chronic foot problems, so they’ll probably let that one go. I will say, however, that I am amused that the third slowest dude in baseball is named “Jett,” however.

Lately people have noticed some odd things about home run distances on StatCast, suggesting that maybe their metrics are wacko. And, of course, their means of gauging this stuff is proprietary and opaque, so we have no way of knowing if their numbers are off the reservation or not. As such, take all of the StatCast stuff you see with a grain of salt.

That said, even if the feet-per-second stuff is wrong here, knowing that Smith is faster than Jones by a factor of X is still interesting.