Chase Utley, Emilio Bonifacio

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.

Angels’ Pujols has foot surgery, could be sidelined 4 months

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols had surgery on his right foot Friday, possibly sidelining him past opening day.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler said Pujols had the procedure Friday in North Carolina to release his plantar fascia, the ligament connecting the heel to the toes. The three-time NL MVP was bothered by plantar fasciitis repeatedly during the season, but played through the pain in arguably the strongest year of his half-decade with the Angels.

Eppler said the surgery typically prevents players from participating in baseball activities for three months, along with another month before they’re ready to resume playing in games. Opening day for Los Angeles is April 3, and the Angels hope Pujols can be ready.

“He’s at that point in his career where he’s keenly aware of what’s happening with his body,” Eppler said in a phone interview. “I don’t put the timetable on Albert like you would with your younger players. We’ll just see in Albert’s case, as he progresses, what his timetable is.”

Pujols, who turns 37 next month, batted .268 last year with 31 homers and 119 RBIs, the fourth-most in the majors – although his .780 OPS was among the worst of his career. He largely served as a designated hitter instead of playing first base due to problems with his hamstrings and feet.

Pujols heads into 2017 with 591 career homers, ranking him ninth in major league history. He is 18 homers behind Sammy Sosa for eighth place.

After playing in pain until the final week of the Angels’ disappointing season, Pujols began shock wave therapy on his foot early in the offseason, believing he wouldn’t need surgery.

But Pujols’ foot became more painful in recent weeks despite the therapy, and he huddled with the Angels’ top brass to decide on surgery after his most recent trip to see Dr. Robert Anderson in North Carolina. Continuing with conservative care would have required 10 more weeks, forcing Pujols to miss the first half of the 2017 season if he still required surgery.

“He just felt that the pain had gotten to a point where he was comfortable” having surgery, Eppler said. “If we did delay it, you’re just looking at 2 1/2 more months into the season.”

Pujols had a different type of surgery on his right foot last winter, but recovered in time for opening day. He also had plantar fasciitis in his left foot during the 2013 season, eventually forcing him out for the year when his fascia snapped.

Pujols has five years and $140 million remaining on the 10-year, $240 million free-agent contract that pried him out of St. Louis, where he won two World Series and became a nine-time NL All-Star.

The Angels haven’t won a playoff game since Pujols’ arrival and Mike Trout‘s concurrent emergence as one of baseball’s best players. They went 74-88 last season, the injury-plagued club’s worst record since 1999.

Diamondbacks hire Mike Fitzgerald to head Research and Development department

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Mike Hazen, new Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Red Sox, addresses the media during a press conference to announce his promotion before the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park on September 24, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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According to an official announcement, the Diamondbacks have acquired former Pirates quantitative analyst Mike Fitzgerald as their new Director of Research and Development.

Fitzgerald joined the Pirates’ front office in 2012, where he frequently accompanied the team on the road to help breach the divide between analytics and the clubhouse. According to a profile written by Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh in 2014, Fitzgerald’s multifaceted approach brought balance and perspective to the organization, whether he was assisting coaches in making statistically sound decisions, optimizing the batting order, weighing in on scouting and personnel decisions, developing more effective defensive positioning, or keeping players and personnel appraised of the latest developments in sabermetrics.

In the wake of Fitzgerald’s departure, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington praised the Diamondbacks for a smart acquisition and said that the club has every intention of finding a replacement analyst, albeit one who will have some big shoes to fill.