Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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The Phillies tightened their grip on the top spot by taking two of three from the Red Sox. What else that could have shifted the fundamental balance of power in the baseball universe went down in the last week?

As always, last week’s rankings are in parenthesis. Thought about going with those fancy-looking bracket things once — {  } — but I grew up in West Virginia, and that’s too hoity-toity for me.

1. Phillies (1): Two of three from the Sox, two of three from the Jays and now the chance to smack down both Florida and Atlanta before the break. Everything is coming up red pinstripes right now. Just imagine if they truly did have four aces as advertised before the season began.

2. Yankees (2): 14-4 without Jeter. And now he’s back. Let’s count the wins for the next 18 games, shall we?

3. Red Sox (3): The Astros showed up at just the right time. They cruise into the break with Toronto and Baltimore.

4. Braves (7): I actually want to be harder on my Braves than this — like I said last week, they are hard to take at times and seem to play worse than their record suggests — but they have both the fourth best record in baseball and the fourth best run-differential. The pitching remains fantastic and there are signs — small ones — that there could actually be some offense hanging around this team in the second half. Really, I looked, and I am having a hard time ranking anyone besides those top three ahead of them here.

5. Rays (5): A mezzo-mezzo week, but it came against some good competition in the Cardinals and Reds.

6. Giants (6): They have a half game up overall on the Rays, but their run differential is not as good and their own mezzo-mezzo week was against worse teams.

7. Indians (10): There is a very decent chance Cleveland finishes the first half in first place. I didn’t think that was possible even after they had been in first place for a while.  Query: how much does this tell us about the Indians and how much does this tell us about the AL Central as a whole?

8. Cardinals (12): I’d probably hate being a fan of a Cardinals division rival. Everything always seems to break right for them. Cy Young pitcher goes down? They find decent replacements. Outfield has holes? They stick Lance Berkman into the juvenation machine and, just as always seems to happen in St. Louis and hardly anyplace else, it works.  Albert Pujols goes down until sometime in mid-to-late August and … he ends up coming back a good month early.  NL Central foes have to think there’s a certain unfairness to this.

9. Brewers (4): Getting swept by the Yankees in New York is not the worst thing that has ever happened to a contender, but losing two of three to Minnesota is not cool.

10. Diamondbacks (9): Getting beat by Rich Harden, like they did on Friday, has to be the baseball equivalent of getting struck by lighting. I mean, you know that if lightning is on its game, it can totally lay you out. But you just figure the odds of ever meeting up with it are too damn low to worry about.

11. Rangers (11): I have them a notch ahead of the Angels, with whom they’re tied and against whom they’ve split six games this year. The reason? Eh, no good ones other than the cut-of-their jib and my sense that they’ll eventually pull away. But then again, I’ve been thinking they’d do that for a while now and they haven’t done it.

12. Angels (20): They were not impressed with either the new-look Nationals nor the bankrupt Dodgers last week.  A really strange and streaky team.

13. Tigers (8): Anyone remember the last team that fired a pitching coach mid-season and then saw a sudden and dramatic turnaround? I can’t. This seems like a deck chairs move.

14. Pirates (18): One and a half games out of first place. The Pittsburgh Pirates. Do you believe it?  A fun team to watch too. At least they would be if I wasn’t blacked out of watching Pirates games by MLB.tv for some damn reason. Middle of Ohio is supposed to be Pirates territory, Major League Baseball? Really?

15. Reds (14): Only two games back, but the Reds feel like the team that is wasting more of its potential than anyone this year.

16. Mets (17): If Joel Sherman’s report about the Mets offering Jose Reyes a big deal is true, will that be the biggest victory of the season for them?

17. Rockies (16): Crushed by the Royals yesterday and, as an added bonus, Carlos Gonzalez got wheeled off the field after crashing into a wall. Not a banner day.

18. Blue Jays (15): They dropped four of six to the Pirates and Phillies last week. I think they’re happy to be done with Pennsylvania for the year.

19. White Sox (19): For as bad as it has been in the first half, they are still only 3.5 out and head into the break with series against the totally hap-free Royals and Twins. See the above comment about the AL Central, which is pretty darn hapless as a whole itself.

20. Nationals (13): They’re 4-6 since Jim Rigglemen called it quitsies. I have this feeling they’d be around 4-6 no matter what happened, but Washington either taking off or falling off a cliff would certainly help us writers with our narratives, you know?

21. Mariners (21): Only 11 runs were scored in the entire M’s-Padres series over the weekend. But hey, nine of them were from the M’s, so that’s something.

22. Athletics (25): The bright spots of the season are (1) Gio Gonzalez taking great strides forward; (2) Jemile Weeks impressive debut; and (3) Firing the manager? Really, is there a third here that I’m missing?

23. Padres (23): See the Mariners’ comment above and reverse it.

24. Marlins (26): A 4-2 week. Seems like the ship has been righted. The mast is still broken and they’re out of emergency flares, but at least the ship has been righted.

25. Orioles (22): Zach Britton’s offensive numbers: 5 for 8, 2B, HR 2 RBI, 1.750 OPS.  Vlad Guerrero: .277/.307/.377.  Sample size, schmample size, let’s make Britton the DH!

26. Dodgers (24): The team went 2-4 and bankrupt. Frank McCourt is still in control and could be for a while.  Hey, at least there wasn’t a major earthquake or anything.

27. Twins (28): There has been more talk about a closer controversy on this team than I can recall for any sucky team in recent years. It’s like everyone up in Minnesota forgot that no one really cares when a sucky team’s closer situation isn’t solidified.

28. Cubs (29): They really don’t deserve to move up because I truly think they’re the second to the worst team in baseball overall, but let’s acknowledge that they had a better week than Kansas City and give them a little something other than misery and doom. Congrats: you’re 28th. Don’t get used to it.

29. Royals (27): A 1 -5 week, but it ends with a monster game by Eric Hosmer. Such is the essence of a team on a promising rebuild.

30. Astros (30): I’m guessing that, if there was a panel who voted on these Power Rankings rather than it just being me pulling them out of my keister,  Philly at number one and Houston at 30 would be the only unanimous choices.

Rob Manfred talks about playing regular season games in Mexico

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The new Collective Bargaining Agreement commits the players and the league to regular season games on foreign soil. Most of the focus of this has been on games in London, for which there has been a lot of activity and discussion.

Yesterday before the Astros-Tigers game in Houston, however, Commissioner Rob Manfred talked about playing games in Mexico. And not as just a one-off, but as a foot-in-the-water towards possible expansion:

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that the time had come to play regular-season games in Mexico City as Major League Baseball weighs international expansion.

“We think it’s time to move past exhibition games and play real live ‘they-count’ games in Mexico,” Manfred said. “That is the kind of experiment that puts you in better position to make a judgement as to whether you have a market that could sustain an 81-game season and a Major League team.”

A team in Mexico could make some geographic sense and some marketing sense, though it’s not clear if there is a city that would be appropriate for that right now. Mexico City is huge but it has plenty of its own sports teams and is far away from the parts of the country where baseball is popular (mostly the border states and areas along the Pacific coast). At 7,382 feet, its elevation would make games at Coors Field look like the Deadball Era.

Monterrey has been talked about — games have been played there and it’s certainly closer — but it’s somewhat unknown territory demographically speaking. It’s not as big as Mexico City, obviously. Income stratification is greater there and most of the rest of Mexico than it is in the United States too, making projections of how much discretionary income people may spend on an expensive entertainment product like Major League Baseball uncertain. Especially when they have other sports they’ve been following for decades.

Interesting, though. It’s something Manfred has talked about many times over the years, so unlike so many other things he says he’s “considering” or “hasn’t ruled out,” Major League Baseball in Mexico is something worth keeping our eyes on.

 

Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig had a brutal collision in right center field

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The score was tied in the top of the 10th inning in last night’s game between the Dodgers and the Cardinals. Yadier Molina was up to bat, facing Kenley Jansen and drove one to deep right center field.

Yasiel Puig was in full run for the ball as center fielder Joc Pederson ranged hard for it himself. Puig caught the ball, but not before slamming into Pederson. Both men went down, but Pederson went down harder, taking an elbow to the face from Puig before crashing head-first into the outfield wall.

Watch:

 

Pederson came out of the game, apparently bleeding from his head. There will be an update on his condition today.

UPDATE: Oops, there was an update last night: