Red Sox batter Kevin Youkillis celebrates his two-run home during their MLB American League baseball game in Toronto

Your Monday Morning Power Rankings


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.

The Yankees were booed last night. Did they deserve it?

Masahiro Tanaka

The boos came raining down from the Yankee Stadium faithful last night. They started when Brett Gardner grounded out in the eighth inning. More came later. A lot of it was, no doubt, based on Gardner’s disappointing performance late in the season. A lot of it was because, around that time, it seemed like the Yankees had zero shot whatsoever to mount a comeback. Which, in fact, they didn’t. A lot of it was pent-up frustration, I assume, from a late season skid which saw the Yankees lose their lead in the AL East and wind up in the Wild Card Game in the first place.

Anyone who buys a ticket has a right to boo. Especially when they buy a ticket as expensive as Yankees tickets are. It’s obviously understandable to be disappointed when your team loses. Especially when your team is eliminated like the Yankees were. And last night’s game was particularly deflating, with that 3-0 Astros lead feeling more like 10-0 given how things were going.

But isn’t booing something more than a mere manifestation of disappointment? Isn’t a step beyond? Booing isn’t saying “I’m sad.” It’s saying “you suck!” It’s not saying “I’m disappointed,” it’s saying “you should be ashamed of yourselves!” And with all respect to Yankees fans, the 2015 Yankees have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

This was a club expected to miss the playoffs, full stop. Maybe some people allowed for an if-everything-breaks-right flight of fancy, but hardly anyone expected them to play meaningful games late in the year, let alone a playoff game. They were too old. Too injured. There weren’t enough young reinforcements to fill the gaps. Some even went so far as to claim that they were about to spend years in the wilderness.

But then A-Rod broke out of the gate strong. And Michael Pineda had a really nice first couple of months. And Mark Teixeira put up numbers that wouldn’t have been out of place for him several years ago. The bullpen did what it was supposed to do and more, Masahiro Tanaka held together somehow and, eventually, a couple of young players like Greg Bird and Luis Severino came in to reinforce things. The not-going-anywhere Yankees were contenders. And they led the division for a good while. Of course they stumbled late. And of course they lost last night, but by just about any reasonable measure, this was a good team — better than expected — and, unlike a lot of Yankees teams in the past, was pretty darn enjoyable to watch.

Then the boos. I just can’t see how this Yankees team deserved that.

I realize a lot of people in the media have duped a lot of people into thinking that a team with a high payroll is supposed to be dominant. And I realize George Steinbrenner duped a whole lot of people into thinking that anything less than a World Series championship for the New York Yankees is failure. But that’s rhetoric and branding, not reason. In the real world where baseball players play baseball games World Series titles are rare, even for the Yankees. At the end of the season all but one of 30 teams are either at home for the playoffs or went home after suffering a gut-wrenching playoff loss. The Yankees are the most dominant franchise in the history of American professional sports yet they still have finished their year without a title over 75% of the time.

With that as a given, fans are left to judge their team’s performance based on its talent, its health, its heart, its entertainment value and the strength of the opposition which ultimately vanquished it. The Yankees weren’t nearly as talented as many, yet made the playoffs anyway. They were a walking hospital ward, let limped on. They never quit and never got pulled down into the sort of muck a lot of New York teams find themselves in when things start to go sideways. And, ultimately, they were simply beat by a better team. By any reasonable measure the 2015 Yankees were a good story, a successful enterprise, a resilient bunch and no small amount of fun.

It’s OK to be sad that it ended as it did. But that doesn’t deserve to be booed. Not by a long shot.

Collin McHugh will start Game 1 of the ALDS for the Astros

Collin McHugh Astros
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After using ace left-hander Dallas Keuchel to get past the Yankees in the Wild Card game the Astros will turn to right-hander Collin McHugh in Game 1 of the ALDS versus the Royals.

McHugh had an up-and-down year, posting a 3.89 ERA compared to his 2.73 mark last season, but thanks to good teammate support he had a 19-7 record and his 171/53 K/BB ratio in 204 innings was solid. He was particularly good down the stretch, posting a 2.89 ERA and 69/20 K/BB ratio in 72 innings after August 1.

McHugh will match up against Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura in Game 1. Houston hasn’t named a starter for Game 2 yet, while Kansas City is going with Johnny Cueto. And then the Game 3 matchup figures to be Dallas Keuchel versus Edinson Volquez.