Boston Red Sox Adrian Gonzalez watches his triple against the Milwaukee Brewers during the fourth inning of their MLB inter-league baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston

Your Monday Morning Power Rankings

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I sort of don’t feel like doing little state-of-the-team factoids this week. They are who we thought they were for the most part. There’s an argument for making the Marlins last, but I almost feel sorry for them. There’s an argument to make the Twins even higher, but I’m not sure who to drop below them. There was a lot more bunching up of teams this week than there had been, so it wasn’t the easiest week to rank guys.

Anyway, my little weekend getaway stirred my wanderlust a bit and had me in mind of various other trips I’ve taken and stuff I’ve done, so I’m just gonna blurb little bits about experiences — good, bad, random — I’ve had in the various major league cities. Which may be problematic for Seattle since I’ve never been there, but I’ll worry about it when I get to it.

1. Red Sox (1): Did the Bunker Hill tour when I was a kid. There was a park ranger there — I guess he was a ranger — who tried to impress people by telling them that he could direct you from there all the way to your home without you hitting a red light. Doesn’t matter if you lived in Rhode Island or California. My dad listened to him do this schtick for a few minutes and then said “so, really, all you’re doing is telling people how to get to the interstate near here without hitting a light. Because once you’re in the interstate, you can get anywhere without hitting one.”  The guy was a bit deflated. I felt kind of bad.

2. Phillies (2): I’ve only been to Philly once. Around the fourth of July in 1989. Watched a Phillies-Braves game at the Vet on a Sunday afternoon. John Smoltz pitched a complete game. I cheered loudly for him and not a single person in the Vet said a word to me or took any kind of exception to my open Braves rooting. So I suppose that crazy hardcore Philly fan thing didn’t start until later.

3. Yankees (4): First trip there was as a tourist with my brother and my dad in 1988. My dad carried a map and a camera. My brother wore spandex bike shorts and carried a camera. I wore ugly Jams shorts, a Braves shirt and carried a camera. I’m surprised we all weren’t murdered, mugged and/or raped.

4. Indians (12): I’ve been to Cleveland too many times to count. Mostly on law firm business, as the firms I worked for were based there. I’m mostly over it now, but for a good long while I couldn’t drive into the city without getting a bit antsy from residual stress.

5. Brewers (3): I went to a big Irish festival there in — I think — 1986, at that big downtown fairgrounds place they have. Did you know that in 1986, the Milwaukee fairgrounds was extremely lax in carding people at the beer stands? Even if you were only 13-years-old? It’s true! Of course, back then I wouldn’t know what to do with a beer if you gave me detailed instructions. I think I held it for a while, acted like a big man with my brother and his friend who was with us, took one sip, hated it, and then tossed it someplace. Really, when you get down to a low enough age, youth drinking is a self-policing problem.

6. Cardinals (4): I was a big fan of the combined St. Louis Cardinals-Bowling Hall of Fame museum they had there when I visited in 2003.  Is it still there even though Old Busch Stadium is gone?  If not, what did they do with the big mannequins of Elizabethan English people lawn bowling?  Because if they’re not using them, I’m sure someone else could.

7. Braves (6): I have only been in Atlanta (a) at the airport on layovers; or (b) driving through on the way to Florida on I-75, the last time being 1984 or so.  It’s crazy that I’m such a big Braves fan and have never really stepped foot in that town.

8. Tigers-Rays (8), (11): My parents were both born and raised in Detroit so I spent a boatload of time there as a kid. They tell me about — and I see pictures of — what the city looked like when they grew up in the postwar years though the early 60s. There’s a lot of romanticism at play — my dad lived in Dearborn, which was then a highly-segregated suburb so he was shielded from real urban problems —  but it sounded like it was once a great city.  I hadn’t really been to Tampa until spring training last year. Meh. As I’ve written in the past, Florida doesn’t do much for me.

10. Giants (7): San Francisco is my favorite city in the country. I’ve never not loved life when I was there. I’ve never not wondered why I didn’t live there while I was there. I’m thinking that it’s about 80% weather — I hate the heat — but picking a place to live based on weather is a better reason than a lot of people choose to live places.

11. Reds (13): See the Cleveland recap. I went on a stretch of about seven years where every single time I drove to Cincy it was to deal with a hearing or a trial or a status conference for a case that was simply awful or sideways or eight shades of nasty. I’ve gotten over the Cleveland thing for the most part, but even yesterday, driving back through Cincinnati on the way home from Kentucky, the place just made me itch and shake. Forget it Jake, it’s my Chinatown.

12. Diamondbacks (9): The alpha and omega of my Phoenix experience was this past spring training, about which most of you read at the time. I could see liking the area for a few weeks in the winter, but it mostly seemed like a wasteland of freeways, strip malls and vast distances from point A to point B to me. And given that I live in Ohio, which has its own problems with that kind of sprawly stuff, it’s saying something that this bugged me so. Also, I couldn’t stop thinking that the water was about to run out.

13. Rangers (10): Like Atlanta, I’ve only driven through and flown through Dallas. The Winter Meetings will be there this December, so I’ll give it a better look. I was a big fan of Austin, though, and I’m guessing that no matter how much fun I have this December, that Big D won’t be passing up Austin as the coolest Texas town.

14. Mariners (14): I would very much like to go to Seattle some day, but it just hasn’t come up.

15. Rockies (19): I didn’t spend much time in Denver when I drove through Colorado on my big winding road trip back in 2003, but I did decide that if I ever wanted to escape from my world that I would change my name and rent a room above a bar in Salida, Colorado. I felt some serious inner peace in that town. And I hear that the ski place just up U.S. 50 at Monarch Pass isn’t very crowded, so that would be good. I mean, hey, even if you escape from the world, you gotta pass the time, right?

16. Nationals (24): I lived in D.C. for three years when I was in law school. I liked it very much. My love of San Francisco notwithstanding, however, I never really want to live in a city any bigger than Washington. And anymore when I visit Washington I feel like it’s too big for me, at least in terms of traffic and hassle. I’m more likely to move into a fortified compound out in the country than to a big city, I presume.

17. Blue Jays (17): I’ve only been through Toronto on the freeway. We took a family vacation to Nova Scotia when I was a kid though, and I liked that. And yes, I realize that those two things have nothing to do with one another. It’s like when you meet someone from Canada and say “you’re from Canada? Do you know John from Thunder Bay?”  Sorry Canada.

18. Mets (15): I actually got closer to Citi Field while landing at LaGuardia than I ever got to Yankee Stadium. I probably need to apply myself to baseball in New York a bit better.

19. White Sox (16): If you go to college anywhere in the Midwest, you know at least five people who live in Chicago. And you likely spent your early-to-mid 20s (post-college) visiting them from time to time and wondering why they still get to live like they’re in college while you have some adult existence back in whatever city you live in.  The city is like a decompression chamber for people making the transition from college to adulthood. Keeps ’em from getting the bends.

20. Pirates (20): I like driving in to Pittsburgh because one minute you’re basically going through a big forest, and then you hit a tunnel and — bammo! — you’re downtown. You feel like you’re getting away with something.  Also, french fries on a sandwich is so full of win.

21. Twins (27): I have never been to Minneapolis. At least outside of the airport. I suppose Gleeman would show me around if I went.

22. Athletics (28): Obviously a totally different place than San Francisco, but my forays to the East Bay always come on those trips I take to S.F., so all of that deluded magic from which I suffer rubs off on Oakland too. I suppose that the best way for me to become realistic about the Bay Area would be to just go to Oakland for a week and pretend that I, you know, lived in Oakland.

23. Angels (23): My entire impression of Orange County comes from the one Angels game I took in eight years ago, from driving between L.A. and San Diego and from watching “Arrested Development” reruns.  So I’m on a 2-to-1 good impression ratio.

24. Orioles (22): While walking around the Inner Harbor in 1996, I passed Richard Belzer. He was wearing a black suit, a black shirt and shades. It has occurred to me that the change in Detective Munch’s wardrobe from the early seasons of “Homicide” on though his time on “Law and Order” were inspired by Belzer’s own tastes.  Which is kind of sad, because the Munch character was an interesting one early on — kind of an angry, disheveled sad sack — and became far less interesting as Belzer and his shows’ writers turned him into a cartoon character/self-parody. Oh well.

25. Dodgers (21): I have a friend from college who lives in L.A. who I visit every couple of years. He lives a decidedly non-9-to-5 existence, so he doesn’t fight traffic that much, doesn’t go out shopping into the retail hellscapes or any of that. When I hang out with him, I am lulled into a false sense of “I could live in L.A.-itis.”  I realize, however, that I would probably take hostages if I had to be in that dystopia for more than a few days at a time. And yes, that’s the case even if it is a somewhat pleasant dystopia due to the weather and stuff.

26. Royals (26): I am not a man of faith, but I had a near-religious experience at Arthur Bryant’s once, so that has to count for something.

27. Marlins (18): I had a bad impression of Miami based on childhood vacations (see link above in the Rays entry), but Old Gator took me to a great Cuban restaurant when I was down there last year, and that helped a lot. I have this feeling that I’d have a much better appreciation of Macondo if I bunked at Gator’s place for a week or so.

28. Padres (25): My brother lives in San Diego. It’s positively lovely there. The only thing keeping me from putting it up with San Francisco on my “I’d live there in a hearbeat” list is that, well, my brother lives in San Diego.

29. Cubs (29): Yes, I drank Old Style at 10AM before a noonish start at Wrigley once. See that stuff above about Chicago being a way station for post-college life.

30. Astros (30): Never been to Houston. And not even the best Hayes Carll songs make me really want to change that.

Report: Chase Utley’s family received death threats from Mets fans after controversial slide

DENVER, CO - APRIL 22:  Chase Utley #26 of the Los Angeles Dodgers warms up onthe on deck circle as he prepares to take an at bat against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on April 22, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the Dodgers 7-5. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Even before Chase Utley broke former Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada‘s leg with a slide during the playoffs last year, the second baseman was persona non grata in New York. Utley, playing for the rival Phillies, made the right field corner his — literally — with his performance at Citi Field. He was booed during his introduction at Yankee Stadium before the 2009 All-Star Game, prompting him to say audibly, “Boo? F— you.”

The slide put New York’s hatred of Utley into overdrive. Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times reports that after Utley broke Tejada’s leg, his family received death threats from angry Mets fans. In order to protect himself and his family, Utley didn’t stay at the team hotel after Game 2 of the NLDS.

His teammate, Clayton Kershaw, wasn’t happy with the way Utley was treated. He said, “Chase was playing the game the way he’s always played. Obviously you never want anybody to get hurt. The game being in the playoffs, and all that stuff, magnified everything. But there’s been a whole lot of slides a lot worse than that over the course of baseball [history] . . . Some of the stuff he had to go through, it wasn’t fair.”

The Mets host the Dodgers for a three-game series beginning on Friday. As McCullough notes, the two clubs didn’t get into any retaliation business when they played each other in Los Angeles earlier this month.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Thursday evening’s action

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 15:  Joe Ross #41 of the Washington Nationals pitches in the third inning during a baseball game against the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park on May 15, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
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Early Thursday afternoon treated us to a pair of games: Diamondbacks/Pirates and Marlins/Rays. We have an abbreviated slate from the late afternoon onwards, with only six contests.

Let’s use this opportunity to talk about Nationals starter Joe Ross, who will take on the Cardinals in the opener of a four-game home series beginning at 7:05 PM EDT tonight. Ross will oppose Mike Leake.

With Stephen Strasburg off to a great start and having signed a seven-year, $175 million extension, and with Max Scherzer having authored just the fifth nine-inning 20-strikeout game, it’s understandable why Ross hasn’t made headlines. The brother of Padres starter Tyson Ross, Joe has put up a 2.70 ERA with a 37/15 K/BB ratio in 46 2/3 innings spanning eight starts thus far. Only 19 qualified starters across baseball have put up a better ERA than Ross.

Ross was rated one of baseball’s top-100 prospects entering last season and he proved why, as he pitched well in 13 starts and a trio of relief outings following his promotion on June 6. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, featuring a fastball that averages 92 MPH. He compliments that with a slider and a change-up. Ross has good command of the strike zone and mixes up his pitches well enough to keep hitters off balance. He turned 23 years old last Saturday, so he has plenty of time to get even better.

The Cardinals, though, will be a hard match-up for Ross. They’re averaging 5.43 runs per game, a mark bested only by the Cubs (5.61) and one which is more than a full run per game above the league average (4.28).

The rest of Thursday’s action…

Toronto Blue Jays (J.A. Happ) @ New York Yankees (CC Sabathia), 4:05 PM EDT

St. Louis Cardinals (Mike Leake) @ Washington Nationals (Joe Ross), 7:05 PM EDT

Colorado Rockies (Jon Gray) @ Boston Red Sox (Clay Buchholz), 7:10 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Wily Peralta) @ Atlanta Braves (Matt Wisler), 7:10 PM EDT

Baltimore Orioles (Kevin Gausman) @ Houston Astros (Lance McCullers), 8:10 PM EDT

Chicago White Sox (Miguel Gonzalez) @ Kansas City Royals (Danny Duffy), 8:15 PM EDT

Major League Baseball issues a statement about the Padres national anthem thing

SAN DIEGO - APRIL 06:  The grounds crew works on the field before the start of the game between the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres during Opening Night at Petco Park on April 6, 2007 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
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I figured the last word on the Padres National Anthem thing came the other day when everyone seemed to apologize to everyone else and ask for fired people to be rehired and all of that stuff. But no, it appears that there is more.

A coda anyway. From Major League Baseball which apparently used its Department of Investigations to suss everything out about the whole affair. And here you thought all they did was walk a questionable ethical line when investigating drug use.

Anyway, here is their statement. One more false ending to this thing and I’ll feel like we’re in a sequel to the movie “Clue.” Which is massively underrated, by the way. Tim Curry’s second-best movie, easily, and Lesley Ann Warren’s absolute best.

The statement:

Major League Baseball announced today that it has completed its investigation into the unfortunate events of Saturday, May 21st, when members of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus had been scheduled to perform the Star-Spangled Banner before the Padres’ “Pride Night” home game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Petco Park.  The review, which was conducted by MLB’s Department of Investigations, included a dozen interviews with individuals who were involved in the situation.

The Department of Investigations has concluded that the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus has performed the Star-Spangled Banner multiple times before a Padres game; that Saturday’s regrettable situation was a product of human error; that the situation was exacerbated by the fact that the lead entertainment supervisor was involved in a car accident on Friday night and thus was unable to work on Saturday and handle his typical responsibilities; that employees involved in the matter were handling new duties with which they were insufficiently familiar; and that the employees involved had no malicious intentions and, in fact, universally relayed contrition for how the incident unfolded and the adverse impression that it created.

MLB received the full cooperation of Padres management, which expressed its deepest apologies.  MLB believes that the Padres’ efforts to remedy the situation, including its invitation to the Chorus to return to a future game to perform the National Anthem, are appropriate and has every expectation that the Club’s longstanding record of inclusion will be evident in the future. 

 

A-Rod off the disabled list and back in the Yankees lineup

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez watches his RBI single during the first inning of a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday, April 19, 2016, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
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Alex Rodriguez has been activated from the disabled list and will be batting fifth in his return to the Yankees lineup this evening.

A-Rod has been on the DL since May 4 with a strained right hamstring. He was off to a slow start this year but began to slowly heat up just before going down with the injury. Overall he’s He’s hitting .194 with five home runs in 20 games.

It’s hard growing old. Partially because of the injuries. Partially because jerks remind you of things like the fact that you went 3-for-5 with a solo homer in a loss against the Royals on the day the Dodgers starting pitcher for tomorrow night’s game was born.

Anyway, welcome back A-Rod.