Your Monday Morning Power Rankings

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We’re to the point of the season where so many games have been played that actual record and power ranking are at the closest they’ve been all year. No one who is better than their record is considerably better than their record. No one who is worse than their record is considerably worse. I mean, 130 games or so, dudes.

As always, the number in parenthesis was where they were the last time they were ranked. But remember: I skipped last week, so the last ranking was two weeks ago. So please, none of that “Really? [Team X] won five games last week and went down in the rankings?!!” stuff.  Maybe they’re way up from where they would have been last week. We’ll never know!

1. Phillies (1): Did you know that Vance Worley has “swagger?” Either that or multiple personality disorder. I’m not quite sure.

2. Red Sox (2): I’m pretty sure that they’re still playing the A’s in the first game of Saturday’s double header.

3. Yankees (3): Did you know that there’s a bill working its way through the New York legislature that would decriminalize non-lethal beatings of A.J. Burnett?

4. Brewers (4): They’ve now swept two straight series from the Cubs. I feel like driving to Kenosha to see if I can sense the loyalties shifting. Or did that happen a long time ago?

5. Braves (5): Frankly I have no idea where to rank them seeing as though they haven’t played a game in several weeks. Or perhaps it just feels that way.

6. Rangers (6): They skidded but then they righted themselves to take two of three from the Angels.

7. Tigers (11): They’re ranked a little high. Do you think I ranked them too high? I kinda feel like I ranked ’em too high, but I just can’t shake the thought that they’re going to be more dangerous than most people think come playoff time.

8. Rays (9): They’d be in the thick of the playoff hunt if they played in the AL Central, AL West or NL West. Too bad they don’t.

9. Angels (8): Was that post-Rangers-series run a fluke? I guess we’ll see now that they’ve dropped another series to Texas.

10. Diamondbacks (7): Sure, they’re winning, but can it’s not like they’re intimidating anyone.  Check out this Padres fan givin’ Justin Upton what-for. In Phoenix.

11. Giants (10): There ain’t no runs to be had for these dudes. They’re dead last in runs, in fact. And, as Buster Olney tweeted this morning, they have posted 0, 1, or 2 runs in 22 of 42 games since the All-Star break. If that wasn’t ugly enough, in seven games against the Astros in the past week and a half, they went 3-4. Yuck.

12. Cardinals (12): Lance Berkman complained on Saturday about how a weird national-TV-driven start time led to a game played in long shadows that made it hard to see. Afterwards, Tony La Russa protested the sun.

13. Reds (13): With the win yesterday it’s the Reds’ first time over .500 since July 3rd.

14. Blue Jays (15): At night I sometimes lie awake and wonder things like “will DeWayne Wise have more stints with the Blue Jays than Ric Flair had stints as NWA/WCW champion?” And yes, I only went for the Ric Flair reference so I can link to this pic I took of a guy I saw yesterday who was not Ric Flar but who looked enough like him to where I almost felt like asking him if he was just to see what he said.

15. White Sox (16): In second place now, but six back. I’m not feelin’ ’em, but I still can’t shake the idea of what could have been had they gotten an iota of production from Dunn and Rios.

16. Indians (14): Jim Thome is back! Woulda been nice if he was back a couple of weeks before, but hey, they got a couple of really nice crowds out of it. The Tribe is now in third place.

17. Dodgers (21): A pretty spiffy week for them, running through the Cardinals and the Rockies quite nicely.

18. Rockies (20): Carlos Gonzalez has had a hell of an August.

19. Mets (17): Post-Hurricane Tweet of the Day yesterday came from Mets fan Baseballcrank: “Next storm up: Jose. Fortunately it’s expected to pull a hamstring on its way north.” Burn.

20. Nationals (18): Davey Johnson must be gettin’ bored. He had Jayson Werth in center and Mike Morse in left on Saturday.  Overheard between him and bench coach Pat Corrallesy: “Pat, I ain’t kiddin’. I put in, like, five catchers and four pitchers in a lineup next weekend. See if anyone notices. No one says I thing, I betcha.”

21. Pirates (19): Twelve of their next 13 games come against teams that, theoretically anyway, they’re better than.  Last year’s Orioles team showed us that we can’t really read too much into late-season mean-nothing series, but I am rather interested to see if the Pirates’ midseason mini-surge is suggestive of anything or if it was just a fluke.

22. Padres (25): A big three-game series in Los Angeles this week. Can the Padres make up the three games they need to in order to lose the battle for last place in the NL West?

23. Athletics (24): Poor Jerry Blevins.

24. Marlins (22):  They’re gonna bring Josh Johnson back for a start or two? Why?

25. Mariners (26): They beat up on the Indians on the road and then got beat up by the White Sox at home. I imagine this fact contains some deep insight into the AL Central, but I just can’t make myself care.

26. Royals (28): Dayton Moore is willing to give up prospects for pitching. I’m gonna call him and ask if he’d take Derek Lowe for Eric Hosmer.

27. Cubs (23): In the future, everyone will be rumored to be the Cubs’ next GM for 15 minutes.

28. Twins (27): A stellar 6-19 month for the Twins. But hey, at least they traded away a fan favorite for nothin’.

29. Orioles (29): A pretty damn fine week, actually, trouncing the Twins and then taking the aborted series against the Yankees. Maybe not technically — I suppose you gotta wait for the makeup games for the final series outcome — but wins are wins.

30. Astros (30): Carlos Lee got hurt while making a hard slide while legging out a double yesterday. See, he was right not to try all along.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been sigbned. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.