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.

Sure, Carlos Gomez is the problem in Houston

Houston Astros' Carlos Gomez (30) reacts after hitting a double in the second inning of a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Associated Press
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No one will claim that Carlos Gomez is playing up to his ability. He’s got a .634 OPS in the 65 games he’s played for the Astros between last year and this year. Not good at all.

Still, he seems to be taking an outsized amount of the blame for the Astros’ slow start to this year. I do a weekly radio hit on a Texas station and Gomez has been the talk for three weeks when the Astros’ troubles are mentioned. Today Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle spends a whole column going at Gomez, with the usual dash of “you can’t be flamboyant if you can’t back it up” sentiment often given to players like Gomez when they struggle but which is seemingly never given to players whose act is more “tough guy.” Funny that.

More notable: nowhere in the column is it mentioned that, overall, the Astros’ offense is above league average and that, in reality, it’s the pitching that’s killing them. Gomez may not be carrying his weight, but his teammates in the lineup are for now, as teammates do for every hitter at one time of the year or another. Meanwhile, Smith doesn’t seem to be writing columns about how three of the Astros’ five starters have ERAs above 5.00 and how the bullpen has been a disaster. Gomez, however, gets a “Rally Killer” subheading in reference to his performance in a game his team actually won, primarily due to the offense.

There’s also an unfortunate quote in the article. Specifically, Smith quotes Gomez as saying “For the last year and this year, I not really do much for this team. The fans be angry. They be disappointed.”

I’m sure that’s what he said, but it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the quote’s imperfect English fits satisfyingly into a column designed to rip Gomez and that it’s going to play right into stereotyping a certain sort of reader who has just HAD it with those allegedly lazy, entitled Latino players likes to engage in. For the record, its not uncommon for other players whose grammar is less than perfect to get [the bracket treatment] to make the mistakes less noticeable. Or, if the quote is less than clear or enlightening, to get the paraphrasing treatment and have his sentiment conveyed in keeping with the intent of the sentiment. I guess Gomez doesn’t get that treatment. He gets to be portrayed in such a way that a certain sort of reader will unfortunately interpret as him being too dumb or too lazy to learn proper English or something.

And no, it’s not just sensitive old Craig noticing that:

Empathy is the key word here, I think. Smith as no interest in portraying Gomez as a player who, like all players, struggles from time to time. He has to be the bad guy who is responsible for all of the Astros’ woes, it seems.

Puerto Rico official calls MLB’s likely series cancellation “an act of touristic terrorism”

Ricardo Arduengo -- Associated Press
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On Tuesday it was reported that Major League Baseball is on the verge of cancelling the upcoming series in Puerto Rico between the Marlins and the Pirates due to Zika concerns. Puerto Rico is not particularly pleased with that.

As this story from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review makes clear, their displeasure is being expressed in totally calm and rational terms:

“It’s an outrageous situation,” Rep. Angel Matos, head of the tourism commission for Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives, told the Tribune-Review. “The reality is that this cancellation is unfair, disproportionate, and makes our country look bad. It’s an act of touristic terrorism.”

I will grant that a cancellation wouldn’t be great for Puerto Rico. I will also grant that an expert cited in the same article claims that the odds of any players contracting Zika are very, very long. Indeed, he compares it to someone hitting 20 homers in a single game. Which, sure, Giancarlo Stanton is involved here so you can never totally rule it out, but it’s super unlikely.

But MLB, the union and the players involved aren’t in the business of dealing with the probability of disease contraction. They’re dealing with a bunch of players being really nervous about something vs. a two-game series in May that, while carrying big meaning for Puerto Rico, is sort of meaningless to them in a lot of ways, even if they won’t say so publicly. They’re weighing this a lot differently than tourism commission executives.

My guess is that it still gets cancelled. My guess is that, even if it does, Puerto Rico will survive this act of alleged “touristic terrorism.”

Yasiel Puig caught a big fish

Los Angeles Dodgers' Yasiel Puig looks to the dugout for signs as he steps out of the batter's box while facing Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jordan Lyles in the first inning of a baseball game, Sunday, April 24, 2016, in Denver. Puig drew a walk, the first of three in a row yielded by Lyles. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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I know I’m in the tank for Puig and have been for years now, but it’s a pretty fun tank so I don’t care.

Lately I’ve been taken with his hashtag game. Last week we encountered #PuigYourFriend. This one is not as good, but #PuigHungry is pretty solid too.

I just hope this isn’t ruined by word that he’s hired some social media professional to curate his feed. It’s possible and maybe likely, but I just don’t want to hear about it if it’s the case:

 

And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber delivers against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, May 4, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
Associated Press
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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Indians 4, Tigers 0: Corey Kluber with a five-hit shutout in a game which ended in a tidy two hours and nineteen minutes and featured only three pitchers in all. It’s like it was the 1970s or something.

Red Sox 5, White Sox 2: Sox win!

OK, I can’t just leave it at that for the second day in a row. David Ortiz hit a two-run shot for what ended up being the winning runs. It was Ortiz’s 509th career homer, which ties him with Gary Sheffield for 25th on the all-time home run list. Ortiz is on a 36-home run pace. In the past two seasons he’s hit 37 and 35, so it’s not unreasonable to think he’ll get there. If he does pull that off, he’ll pass Sheffield, Mel Ott, Eddie Matthews, Ernie Banks, Ted Williams, Frank Thomas, Willie McCovey, Jimmy Foxx and Mickey Freakin’ Mantle to end up at 17 on the all-time list. That’s some pretty rarified air. And Gary Sheffield.

Reds 7, Giants 4: Zack CozartBrandon Phillips and Eugenio Suarez each hit homers in the second inning as the Reds put up five on Jake Peavy in the frame and went on to avoid the sweep. The Giants’ top three starters have ERAs of 3.61., 3.32, and 3.03. Their fourth and fifth starters have ERAs of 7.00 (Matt Cain) and 8.61 (Peavy). The Giants are in first place. If they’d gotten anything from the back end of their rotation so far they’d be in first by more than a mere half game.

Cubs 6, Pirates 2Ben Zobrist hit a three-run home run and Anthony Rizzo hit a solo shot. The Cubs sweep the Pirates to win their seventh of eight games. They have a six-game division lead already. Juggernaut, much?

Cardinals 5, Phillies 4: The Cardinals scored twice in the bottom of the ninth, capped off with Matt Holliday‘s walkoff single. After the game Holliday said “we needed it . . . this was one we needed to win.” That seems weird to say in early May, but given that the Cardinals had lost five of six and the Cubs are threatening to run away with the division, it’s not a crazy thought.

Mets 8, Braves 0: Steven Matz pitched two-hit shutout ball into the eighth and Lucas Duda homered twice. New York has won 10 of 12. I’m still of the view that the Braves fire Fredi Gonzalez today. I just feel like that’s a thing that’s gonna happen.

Angels 7, Brewers 3: Mike Trout tripled and homered. Remember when, in the first week or two of the season, people were asking if Trout was OK? He’s now hitting .317/.400/.596 and a 41 home run, 127-RBI pace, so yeah, he’s OK.

Nationals 13, Royals 2: The Nats scored six runs before Stephen Strasburg had to throw a single pitch. They had 10 runs by the time they stopped batting in the third. Most of the afternoon, then, was mere formality. Kris Medlen was both shelled and betrayed by his defense, giving up nine runs, six of which were earned. In two home starts he’s allowed sixteen runs, thirteen earned.

Mariners 9, Athletics 8: Seattle led by two, then trailed by four then came back with five runs between the sixth and seventh innings to take this one going away and to complete the sweep. Dae-Ho Lee hit two bombs for Seattle.

Rockies 2, Padres 0: Eight shutout innings from Tyler Chatwood. The game’s two runs scored of a fielder’s choice and a sacrifice. Feel the excitement.

Yankees 7, Orioles 0: CC Sabathia looked like the CC of old, as he pitched seven shutout innings. The Yankees’ bats finally came alive. Brian McCann drove in three so I guess he came alive too. Total resurrection game for the Bombers. If THE BOSS was still alive . . .

Blue Jays 4, Rangers 3: Russell Martin with a walkoff single, giving the Jays two walkoffs in a row against Texas. Pitcher wins and losses don’t mean much but as a whole the Rangers bullpen has nine losses on the year and that’s not really great or OK.

Marlins 4, Diamondbacks 3: Giancarlo Stanton homered but he’s more than just a power hitter. Check out the hose:

Tomas was called safe, but replay showed that Stanton got ’em.

Rays 8, Dodgers 5: Steve Pearce hit a go-ahead, three-run homer and Brandon Guyer, Steven Souza Jr. and Curt Casali each hit solo shots. The Dodgers were 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

 

Astros 16, Twins 4: Jason Castro homered and drove in four runs. Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa both homered and drove in three. It’s the first time all year Houston has won consecutive games. Dang.