82nd MLB All-Star Game

Your Monday Morning Power Rankings

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I didn’t have any get-up-and-go last Monday, so I gave the Power Rankings a miss.  Back at it today, where we find greater separation than we’ve seen so far this year. Which is to be expected. I mean, by late July you are who you are.

As always, the last ranking is in parenthesis. As are parentheticals serving other purposes, but I trust you can figure it out.

1. Red Sox/Phillies (tie; and don’t ready anything into the order; that’s just how I wrote them) (2, 1):  Kind of a cop out, I’ll admit.  Both have been great since the break, but both have done it against a bunch of tomato cans like the Orioles, Cubs, Mariners and Padres. Philly has the better record, Boston the better run differential. Mostly, though, after a week off the ranking plus the All-Star break, I just want to hit reset and go forward from here. Now watch as both Boston and Philly fans tear me a new one in the comments!

3. Yankees (3): Fresh off the A’s, the Yankees now get series against the Mariners and Orioles. Time to make a move on them Sox, gents.

4. Rangers (5): Do they make a deal of some kind?  After that white-hot streak they now sit with a four-game lead over Anaheim.  I’d be content to stand pat rather than chase Heath Bell or Carlos Beltran or whoever, but no one really asked me.

5. Braves/Giants (4, 6): Yeah, another tie, another copout. I think the Braves are better. I don’t feel it, though. Not that I’m objective. I always go for the doom first, warranted or not, when it comes to the Bravos.

7. Diamondbacks (10): They’re dropping like flies due to injuries, but Kirk Gibson keeps them chugging.

8. Angels (7): Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells are all on pace for career-worst seasons, yet the Angels are still more competitive than a lot of folks thought they’d be. Viva pitching: the Halos have the lowest ERA in the American League.

9. Tigers (13): A two-game lead in the AL Central? That’s gigantic! OK, maybe not, but it seems it. The Tigers are a notoriously bad second half team, but they’ve started out 5-4 after the break. Which in the Central is like .750 ball.  OK, maybe not that either, but it seems it.

10. Rays (8): Boston and New York beating them up since the break isn’t terribly surprising. Dropping two of three to Kansas City wasn’t expected, however.

11. Cardinals (9): I don’t get the Colby Rasmus trade talk. He’s at his absolute lowest point as a major leaguer right now.  Even if the Cards want him gone, isn’t it highly likely that he’ll pick it up going forward and thus look way more appealing to other teams this winter, for example?  Dealing him now is the functional equivalent of the Cardinals telling the rest of baseball that he’s worthless.

12. Pirates (12): Nice story notwithstanding, I still think this is smoke and mirrors. The offense is insufficient and the pitching has experienced a lot of good luck.  Let us not mistake a pleasant surprise for a legitimately competitive force.

13. Brewers (11): Did not know this: the Brewers are the worst baserunning team in the game.

14. Indians (13): Four losses in a row to division rivals.

15. Reds (18): Yesterday was the first time in over a month that they won back-to-back games. And yet they’re only three games out. They’ve underperformed their run differential pretty dramatically. I wouldn’t be at all shocked to see them get on a roll soon.

16. Blue Jays (17): Six of their next 12 are against Baltimore, and then they get three against the A’s.  That’s good for them, but just be sure to temper your “hey, look what the Jays are doin’!” talk during that period.

17. Mets (15): They don’t play baseball anymore. They exist solely as the vehicle for Carlos Beltran trade rumors. It’s true!

18. White Sox (20): They begin a stretch against Detroit, Boston, New York and Minnesota. If they survive that, look out. If not: deader than vaudeville.

19. Nationals (16):  2011 Nationals under Jim Riggleman: 38-37 (.507); 2011 Nationals under Davey Johnson: 9-14 (.391).

20. Rockies (21): It’s like a 1967 Camaro that hasn’t left the driveway in a long time. You know it would be awesome if it would ever get running, but the odds of that ever happening grow longer every day it stays up on blocks.

21. Marlins (19): 2011 Marlins under Edwin Rodriguez: 32-39 (.451 ); 2011 Marlins under Jack McKeon: 17-13 (.567).

22. Twins (22): I outsource this one to Gleeman, who writes over at his personal blog:

Yesterday marked the two-thirds point of the 18-day, 19-game stretch that figured to define the Twins’ season leading right up to the July 31 trade deadline. So far they’re 6-6 and seven games out of first place, which is a half-game further back than the start of the stretch and the same deficit as a month ago. For all their getting healthy and turning things around the Twins have basically tread water for a month, leaving only 61 games to close a seven-game gap.

23. Dodgers (24): Does any manager have a tougher gig than Don Mattingly this year?

24. Athletics (25): They’re scoring over five runs a game since the break. That’s somethin’.

25. Padres (26): They’re scoring exactly five runs a game since the break. That’s somethin’.

26. Royals (27): Mike Moustakas is coming around.

27. Cubs (28): The Cubs are going to lead the charge in lobbying against the Astros moving to the American League.

28. Orioles (29): From Jeff Zrebiec’s notes column:

Things could obviously change if the Orioles make a couple of trades before the July 31 deadline, but as things stand, the club may need two starting pitchers, a couple of late-game relievers (assuming Jim Johnson is put in the rotation and Koji Uehara does not return), a power-hitting first baseman, a second baseman (it would be a stretch to count on Brian Roberts right now), a left fielder (Nolan Reimold could have something to say about this) and possibly a DH (Luke Scott is a prime non-tender candidate).

Orioles, you keep saying that word, “rebuilding.” I do not think it means what you think it means.

29. Astros (30): They looked gross against the Cubs and probably are the worst team in baseball but …

30. Mariners (23): … I don’t care what your overall record is. You drop 15 straight, you’re at the bottom of the list. That’s one of my rules. I’m a baaaaad man.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the exception because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.

Report: Yankees sign Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million deal

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Update (12:02 AM EST): Rosenthal adds that Chapman’s contract includes an opt-out clause after three seasons, a full no-trade clause for the first three years of the contract, and a limited no-trade clause for the final two years.

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees have signed closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. Mark Melancon recently set the record for a contract earned by a reliever at $62 million over four years. Chapman blew that out of the water and many are surprised he didn’t fetch more.

Chapman, 28, began the 2016 season with the Yankees but he was traded to the Cubs near the end of July in exchange for four prospects. The Cubs, of course, would go on to win the World Series in large part due to Chapman. The lefty finished the regular season with a 1.55 ERA, 36 saves, and a 90/18 K/BB ratio in 58 innings between the two teams.

Chapman was the best reliever on the free agent market and, because he was traded midseason, he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached to him.

The Yankees don’t seem to be deterred by Chapman’s domestic violence issue from last offseason, resulting in a 30-game suspension to begin the 2016 regular season.