Phillies' Halladay throws in the fourth inning during their MLB Interleague baseball game with the Athletics in Philadelphia

Your Monday Morning Power Rankings

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Some people didn’t like my little tour of the cities thing last week and said that you’d prefer it if I just stuck to the “Team X has won Y of Z games, so look out for Team X!” blather.  I can’t tell if those people are merely trolls or if there is a genuine thirst for said blather. I was going to test it this week by doing something loony, but loony takes a lot of time, so we’re leaning more toward the blather

But know this: last week wasn’t the last time I’ll get loony with the rankings. I can feel a “most famous ‘Love Boat’ guest star from each team’s city” Power Rankings working its way into creation soon, so be on the lookout.

As usual, last week’s ranking is in parenthesis.

1. Phillies (2): Passing Boston for the top spot. Now they get to play a series against those Red Sox. This shall be good from both a baseball perspective and from a Power-Rankings-Clarification perspective.

2. Yankees (3): Every day it seems like they’re losing someone else to an injury or at least have someone suffering from an ache or a pain. Yet they just keep racking up victories.

3. Red Sox (1): I don’t care if the Pirates are better and the Padres are playing decent baseball lately. Losing back-to-back series to those guys is not something the number one team in the Power Rankings does. Of course, if they beat the hell out of Philly this week, all is forgiven.

4. Brewers (5): Dropped two of three to the Rays, but came back strong by sweeping the Twins.  Braun and Fielder are pulling an Aaron-Matthews act.

5. Rays (8): Hanging tough, but is B.J. Upton on the block?

6. Giants (10): Bumgarner and Lincecum bounce back. Sanchez to the DL. That’s a net gain.

7. Braves (7): If you had no idea what their record was and just watched some random games, you’d conclude that they were in last place. As a fan, those two-hit games are so damn frustrating. And unlike previous Braves teams that were all pitching — which there were many — I’m just not getting the satisfaction out of those good outings from Jurrjens and Beachy and whoever.  Easily the biggest detachment I’ve felt between team quality and game enjoyment since I’ve been watching the Braves.

8. Tigers (8): Back in sole possession of first place. In Verlander We Trust.

9. Diamondbacks (12)Kirk Gibson says this bunch reminds him of the ’84 Tigers.  Which one is Rusty Kuntz?

10. Indians (4):  I think I rank them too high when they have a good week and too low when they have a bad one. I think it’s a smaller battle in the overall war pitting optimism against pessimism.

11. Rangers (13): Texas’ schedule leading up to the All-Star break: Astros, Marlins, Orioles and Athletics.  Time to create some space or else be stuck in a dogfight all season, no?

12. Cardinals (6): They’ve scored 21 runs in the six post-Pujols-injury games, but 12 of those runs came in one game.

13. Nationals (16): I’m torn: I love Davey Johnson and want him to excel, but the Nats are only 3.5 behind my rooting interest for the Wild Card in a division in which it looks like the Wild Card is the only option for the non-Philly teams. Hurm.

14. Reds (11): After series against Tampa Bay and Cleveland, their last seven games before the break are against St. Louis and Milwaukee. Moving time for Cincy, too.

15. Blue Jays (17): I think it has less serious implications than the schedules of the Reds and Rangers — ya think the Jays are contending in the East? — but it is worth noting that they are in the middle of an outrageously brutal stretch of the schedule. Series against the Reds, Braves and Cardinals — a makeup game against Detroit tonight on what should have been an off day — and then series against the better-than-we-thought Pirates, the Phillies, the Red Sox and then the better-than-we-thought Indians.

WARNING: CLUSTERF*** AHEAD. The next six teams are all roughly at around the same record. They’re all in the same general ballpark in terms of run differential. Seattle had the worst week among them so I dropped them the most from last week, but it wasn’t horror-show bad. All of the others were respectable enough on the week. It was hard to rank them, because I’ve been hot and cold on each of them at times and still don’t really know what kind of team they really are. So what I’m saying is, don’t complain about the specific order of the next six, because I could go in any direction, really.

16. Rockies (15): Colorado has a makeup game today too, on what should have been their last offday before the All-Star break. In this case, however, the rainout that is being made up had no rain.

17. Mets (18): I guess you don’t want to see your old manager succeed with a division rival, but really folks, Davey Johnson hasn’t worked for the Mets since a couple of months before the song “Ice Ice Baby” was released as a single. Time to let it go, ya know?

18. Pirates (20): Tied with the Reds in the standings, 48 runs behind them in run differential.

19. White Sox (19): The race in the Central would be more interesting if Adam Dunn hadn’t been a complete bust so far. I still figure that he has to turn it around, right? The Sox are only 4.5 out, so if he does, it could make things interesting.

20. Angels (23): Winners of five of seven and only two back. Someone’s gotta win the AL West, right?

21. Mariners (14): Still the best pitching in the American League, and series against a bunch of offensively-challenged teams between now and the break.

22. Orioles (24): Signs of life from Derrek Lee. For whatever that’s worth.

23. Padres (28): I still don’t think they’re any good, but two of three from both Boston and Atlanta is a damn fine week, and is deserving of a few-notch bump.

24. Dodgers (25): All comments on this team are pending approval of the bankruptcy trustee.

25. Athletics (22): They went 2-4 on the road trip against the Mets and Phillies, but they were close games. I dunno, it’s something.

26. Marlins (27): Small bright spot in an otherwise dismal month? Hanley Ramirez seems to be waking up a bit in the past few games, going 6 for his last 17. Small, but maybe something to cling to.

27. Royals (26): Mike Moustakas (12 for 50, 1 HR) is not quite taking the bigs as well as Eric Hosmer has. And Hosmer has cooled down a bit.

28. Twins (21): Reports of their resurgence were apparently exaggerated.

29. Cubs (29): I get this sense that people aren’t appreciating how bad they are by virtue of the fact that Houston is even worse. But really, they’re terrible.

30. Astros (30): The thing about the Astros is that they can lose any number of ways. They can lose the high scoring games, they can lose the low scoring games. Just a really, really versatile crappy team.

Adams homers in 16th to lift Cardinals over Dodgers 4-3

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ST. LOUIS — Matt Adams homered in the 16th inning to lead the Cardinals to a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night for St. Louis’ season-best fifth straight victory.

It was the second consecutive game that the Cardinals won in their final at-bat. They beat the Padres on Thursday after scoring a run in the ninth inning.

Adams homer came with one out off Bud Norris (5-9), who gave up six runs as a starter in an 8-1 loss at Washington on Wednesday.

Seth Maness (1-2) picked up the win with a scoreless inning of relief for St. Louis, which was playing its longest game of the season.

Jedd Gyorko hit a two-out homer off closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth to tie the game 3-3.

Justin Turner and Howie Kendrick homered for the Dodgers. Los Angeles has lost four of six. The red-hot Turner has seven homers and 17 RBI this month. He hit two homers in a 6-3 win over Washington on Thursday.

Turner blasted his career-high 18th homer of the season off Seung Hwan Oh in the ninth to break a 2-2 tie.

Corey Seager had four hits and drove in the first run of the game. He had hit in seven successive at-bats before flying out in the ninth.

Kendrick’s solo shot in the sixth tied the game 2-2. He has hit in 14 successive games trying Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon for the longest current streak in the majors.

Los Angeles starter Brandon McCarthy allowed one hit and two runs over 6 1-3 innings, the longest of his four starts this season. He left with leg cramps. McCarthy struck out four and walked three.

St. Louis starter Michael Wacha allowed two runs on 10 hits in six innings. He struck out four and walked one.

Dodgers reliever Adam Liberatore recorded his 28th successive scoreless outing by retiring two of four batters in the seventh. He has not allowed a run in 41 of 42 appearances this season.

Minor League Players’ Wage Suit against Major League Baseball suffers a huge setback

The judge's gavel is seen in court room 422 of the New York Supreme Court at 60 Centre Street February 3, 2012. REUTERS/Chip East
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A judge handed minor leaguers looking to hold Major League Baseball liable for underpaying and exploiting them a huge setback today, ruling that the case cannot go forward as a class action. Minor leaguers who want to sue over their pay and treatment still can, but they’ll have to do it individually. The ruling saps the minor leaguers of their leverage, as Major League Baseball would likely be able to fend off individual cases which, by themselves, might only amount to several thousand dollars per claim.

The background: in 2014, former Miami Marlins player Aaron Senne sued Major League Baseball, Bud Selig, and three major league clubs claiming that minor leaguers are underpaid and exploited in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. He was later joined by former Royals minor leaguer Michael Liberto and Giants farmhand Oliver Odle. Eventually others joined and the suit had been expanded to 22 teams as defendants.

The upshot of the case is that, while the minor league season lasts only part of the year, players are required to do all sorts of things outside of merely playing games for which they are not compensated. Training, meetings, appearances and the like. When all of that time is added up, the players claim, their already low salaries are effectively far below minimum wage in violation of the law. Major League Baseball has countered this by claiming that minor leaguers are basically part time seasonal workers — like landscapers and pool boys — who are not subject to federal labor laws.

Last year the judge gave the case conditional certification, allowing the players to try to establish that it should go forward as a class action. This would streamline the case from the plaintiffs’ perspective and give them the power of collective action by asserting hundreds or more similar cases into one proceeding. The judge’s ruling today, however, was that the cases really weren’t factually similar and thus collective action was not appropriate because figuring out how many hours each player worked and what was required of him varied too greatly among the players.

From his order:

“The difficulties associated with determining what activities constitute ‘work’ in the context of winter training are compounded by the fact that there appear to be no official records documenting these activities. Because it may be impossible to determine from official records the types of conditioning activities in which the players engaged, membership in the state classes based on winter training would depend largely upon the players’ ability to remember, with a reasonable amount of detail, what they did during the off-season (often for multiple years and for many, several years in the past) to stay fit.”

The judge said that, in light of this, each case would be unique and would require “individualized inquiries” to find damages and liability. That phrase –“individualized inquiries” — constitutes magic words which sink would-be class actions. If a company overcharges all of its customers by $8 due to an error repeated a million times, it’s easy to look at one set of facts and judge them together. If you had to look at a million different wrongs, that’s no class action. And so it is not a class action for the players.

As many courts who have dealt with these sorts of cases have noted, for many plaintiffs, a class action is the only practical method of adjudicating Fair Labor Standards Act cases because individual plaintiffs are frequently unable to bear the costs of separate trials. They are, by definition, (allegedly) exploited workers. They’re not going to be able to pay legal costs and fight off a multi-billion dollar business in order to collect the few thousand dollars they were underpaid. At the same time, however, the defendants have rights too and, if the facts of each players’ treatment truly differ (e.g. the Yankees make their minor leaguers do more than the Brewers do) it’s not fair to bind one defendant’s defense to the acts of another.

So, where does this leave the players? Not dead. Not yet, at least. Their claims have not been dismissed on the merits. They have only been denied the right to act collectively. The individual plaintiffs can now file separate lawsuits against their former employers and Major League Baseball under the same theories. It would be harder to land a big blow in such a scenario, but if enough do, it could end up being death by a thousand cuts for the clubs and the league. Their legal fees might go up and, eventually, if they lose enough of these cases, more might be filed. There are a lot of former minor leaguers, after all, and once there’s some blood in the water, more of them — and their lawyers — may enter the frenzy. Decertification is certainly a win for the league right now, but it’s not necessarily a permanent win.

There are likewise some other quasi-collective forms this case could take such as multi-district litigation in which the cases, while individual, are coordinated in a loose fashion. That could lead to some efficiencies for suing players even if it’s not as robust as a class action.

We’ve written quite a bit about minor league pay and treatment in this space by now, so you probably know where we stand on it. We believe that minor leaguers are exploited and underpaid and we believe that Major League Baseball has been happy to exploit and underpay them for some time. Ultimately we believe that this state of affairs cannot and will not persist and that eventually, somehow, baseball will either see fit to pay its workers fairly or, more likely, will be forced to do so by a court or by collective bargaining of some fashion.

Today, however, was a big setback for the minor leaguers. Today’s ruling will give Major League Baseball and its clubs more time and more comfort in which to underpay them. There’s no doubt about it.