Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

7 Comments

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.

Mets closer Jeurys Familia receives a 15-game suspension for domestic violence

Getty Images
9 Comments

Mets closer Jeurys Familia has received a 15-game suspension for domestic violence.

Familia was arrested in October following an incident at his home. Criminal charges were dropped in December. As we know, however, MLB’s domestic violence policy does not require criminal proceedings to be commenced, let alone completed, before the leveling of league punishment. MLB has been investigating the incident for the past several months.

Familia saved 51 games for the Mets last year while posting a 2.55 ERA. The Mets are expecting Addison Reed to fill in at closer until he returns.

Familia has released a statement:

Today, I accepted a 15-game suspension from Major League Baseball resulting from my inappropriate behavior on October 31, 2016. With all that has been written and discussed regarding this matter, it is important that it be known that I never physically touched, harmed or threatened my wife that evening. I did,however, act in an unacceptable manner and am terribly disappointed in myself. I am alone to blame for the problems of that evening.

My wife and I cooperated fully with Major League Baseball’s investigation, and I’ve taken meaningful steps to assure that nothing like this will ever happen again. I have learned from this experience, and have grown as a husband, a father, and a man.

I apologize to the Mets’ organization, my teammates, and all my fans. I look forward to rejoining the Mets and being part of another World Series run. Out of respect for my teammates and my family, I will have no further comment.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has a statement as well:

My office has completed its investigation into the events leading up to Jeurys Familia’s arrest on October 31, 2016.  Mr. Familia and his wife cooperated fully throughout the investigation, including submitting to in-person interviews with MLB’s Department of Investigations.  My office also received cooperation from the Fort Lee Municipal Prosecutor.  The evidence reviewed by my office does not support a determination that Mr. Familia physically assaulted his wife, or threatened her or others with physical force or harm, on October 31, 2016.  Nevertheless, I have concluded that Mr. Familia’s overall conduct that night was inappropriate, violated the Policy, and warrants discipline.

It is clear that Mr. Familia regrets what transpired that night and takes full responsibility for his actions.  Mr. Familia already has undergone 12 ninety-minute counseling sessions with an approved counselor specializing in the area of domestic violence, and received a favorable evaluation from the counselor regarding his willingness to take concrete steps to ensure that he is not involved in another incident of this type.  Further, he has agreed to speak to other players about what he has learned through this process, and to donate time and money to local organizations aimed at the prevention of, and the treatment of victims of, domestic violence.

2017 Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Milwaukee Brewers.

Every year, Major League Baseball plays host to two casts of characters: the contenders and the rebuilders. You might find slight variations — the rebuilders who stand a chance of contending, the contenders on the verge of rebuilding, or those stuck somewhere in between — but by and large, the lines are clearly drawn.

The 2017 Brewers, for better or worse, are rebuilders. Sure, you won’t find them at the bottom of the NL Central come October (that place is unequivocally reserved for the Reds), but neither will you see them snag a Wild Card berth or run away with the division title. This is the year of cultivating a fertile farm system, giving their big league prospects room to stretch and grow and figuring out whether Ryan Braun has a future in Milwaukee beyond 2017.

If the Brewers did anything right this winter, it was deepening their reserves at nearly every position. Behind the plate, Andrew Susac, Manny Pina and newly-acquired Jett Bandy bandied for the spot. Susac injured his back during camp, and while the MRI results didn’t reveal any significant damage, it doesn’t look like he’ll be healthy in time for Opening Day. Milwaukee skipper Craig Counsell has yet to identify a full-time catcher and could start the year with Pina and Bandy in a hybrid role after both backstops impressed during spring training.

Eric Thames replaced Chris Carter at first base, and while he’s expected to split duties with Jesus Aguilar, appears to be an unconventional acquisition for the Brewers. On paper, the two look miles apart. Carter slashed .222/.321/.499 with 41 home runs and an .821 OPS for the club in 2016, pairing his league-leading homers with a league-leading 206 strikeouts. Thames, meanwhile, flamed out in the majors in 2012 and has not returned to the major league stage since. Never mind that he has only ever played the outfield or that he’s technically made only 181 big league appearances in the last five years, though. Over the past three seasons, he mashed an incredible .349/.457/.721 with 124 home runs and a 1.178 OPS for the NC Dinos of the Korean Baseball Organization, and the three-year, $16 million contract he signed with Milwaukee will look like a steal if he can replicate those numbers in the United States.

The outfield posed another set of questions for the team, who was looking to fill right and center field with a combination of Keon Broxton, Hernan Perez, Domingo Santana, Lewis Brinson, Ryan Cordell, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Kyle Wren. Broxton and Santana claimed spots in center and right, respectively, with Nieuwenhuis beating out the rest of the backup candidates to secure his position as the team’s fourth outfielder. Braun will resume his station in left field after a quiet spring training, during which he declined to participate in the World Baseball Classic or most of the Cactus League competition in order to stay healthy for the upcoming season. (At least, that’s one plausible reason. He also told the Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal’s Todd Rosiak, “I just don’t feel like I need at-bats to feel ready for games.”)

Of course, every team in the throes of rebuilding has at least one weak spot, and the Brewers are no exception. The starting rotation lacks clarity and talent outside of Junior Guerra and Zach Davies, both of whom flourished in their sophomore campaigns with Milwaukee in 2016. The club acquired left-hander Tommy Milone on the cheap, adding him to a lengthy list of candidates that included right-handers Chase Anderson, Wily Peralta, Matt Garza and Jimmy Nelson. Spring training did little to illuminate a clear path for the rotation: Garza imploded, Peralta shone, and Nelson and Anderson proved inconsistent at best.

The bullpen doesn’t look much better beyond newly-minted closer Neftali Feliz, who signed a one-year, $5.35 million deal with the Brewers after polishing off a healthy, productive season with the Pirates in 2016. While his bounce-back season looked like a good omen for Milwaukee, Feliz struggled through a rough spring, working 10 hits, six runs, three walks and seven strikeouts through nine innings in camp. He appears to be fully recovered from the “biceps fatigue” that curtailed his last season in Pittsburgh, and Counsell believes that he’ll improve with more reps this spring.

Elsewhere in the bullpen, the club is hurting for left-handed relief after optioning their only lefty candidate, Brent Suter, to Triple-A Colorado Springs last week. A suitable replacement for Suter has yet to be named, but there’s some chatter that Milone could assume a position in the bullpen if necessary.

Overall, the Brewers didn’t improve their major league roster as much as they stabilized it, opting for low-cost stopgaps while they condition younger, less-seasoned players waiting to break through to the bigs. A plethora of high-caliber prospects crowd the upper rungs of their farm system, so much so that the club has had difficulty trying to find enough room for all of them to develop at the appropriate level. Just take Triple-A Colorado Springs, which boasts a talented outfield of Lewis Brinson, Ryan Cordell and Brett Phillips and rotation battles among Hiram Burgos, Josh Hader, Paolo Espino, Wilkerson, Taylor Jungmann, Wei-Chung Wang and the aforementioned Brent Suter, among others.

Milwaukee is looking at a bright future, to be sure, but that future won’t be fully realized right now. The Brewers’ 2017 season will undoubtedly be more satisfying for its front office than its fans, unless those fans also have a ticket to Security Service Field. Given a few more years to develop their prospects and build out their farm system, however, these rebuilders could begin to look something like contenders.

Prediction: 4th place in NL Central.