Young Elvis

Your Monday afternoon Power Rankings


Once again, we’ve pretty much said all that can be said about these teams. So let’s force them into arbitrary categories!  I sort of feel like I’m stealing Peter Gammons’ bit here, but what the heck.

NOTE: the bands/artists are only for description purposes, They themselves are not being ranked. Because there’s no way I’d ever have The Velvet Underground beneath the Red Hot Chili Peppers on any kind of musical list. I’m just trying match the zeitgeist, ya dig?

Also: there are no Beatles here, because you can’t really talk about the Beatles without acknowledging that they were really the only top-tier band that clearly ended as a reigning champion.  Just doesn’t seem right to apply their name to any team before the playoffs are over.

1. Phillies (1): Elvis. Hail to the King, baby.

2. Yankees (2): Dylan. Sublime when they’re on, but they do go through their troubling periods. And yes, Elvis went through way more troubling periods than Dylan ever has, but there was enough attitude and aura about his height that makes it all seem forgivable. Sort of like how the Phillies’ “Sun Sessions” rotation makes you forget their “Clambake” bullpen.  In contrast, Dylan’s strange detours always have to be mentioned when considering him as an artist, just as the Yankees’ flaws do too.

3. Tigers (6): The Rolling Stones. Started off as something obviously talented but somewhat derivative, improved greatly as things rolled along and then hit a peak in which they were nearly unstoppable and undeniably dangerous. The question for the Tigers is whether the playoffs will be their “Exile on Main Street” — the peak at the end of an extended run of greatness — or their “Goats Head Soup,” the clear demarcation of the end of a great run.

4. Brewers (4): The Kinks. Excellent in so many ways — a team you really wish more people appreciated and understood — but inevitably never to be considered in the true upper echelon, and thus always destined to be half-a-notch below the true titans.

5. Red Sox/Braves (3, 5): Prince. So good for so long but then something went wrong and they started to put out sub-par crap at an alarmingly high rate.

7. Diamondbacks (8): The Clash. Or Maybe Nirvana. Neither are a perfect fit here for various reasons, but I’m struck by the “came from seemingly out of nowhere and knocked the reigning kings off their pedestal, yet questions exist about how long they’ll really last” dynamic.

8. Rangers (7): Red Hot Chili Peppers. Everyone always thought they knew what made them so great — charismatic leader, elite bass player, lots of funk and attitude — but everyone realized that what really carried them was an under-appreciated and even unexpected contributor. For the Texas Rangers, the big power and offense plays the part of Kiedis and Flea, while C.J. Wilson and the pitching staff plays the part of the essential John Frusciante. When that goes, things will probably go downhill, and what everyone thought was so great will be enough to carry the day.

9. Rays (9): The Velvet Underground. Just sort of crashing the party, messing with the narrative and making so much out of seemingly nothing. But really, they’re insanely talented which, in hindsight, makes you wonder why no one really gave them a shot. It was said that  “The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band.”  The Rays don’t sell a lot of tickets, but everyone who buys one can’t help but being won over.

OK, everyone else gets categories, not their own band:

THE DAVE CLARK FIVE TEAMS (hanging around and generally doing the same things that the big boys are doing, but with a little perspective you realize that, no, they’re not ready for prime time)

10. Angels (9)

11. Cardinals (11)

The OASIS TEAM (we thought they’d be big forever, but they disappeared as quickly as they emerged)

12. Giants (12)

THE DOORS TEAMS (Did some pretty spectacular things for a brief time — or at least possessed one highly interesting element — but there was way more talk about them then the talent level really ever called for).

13. Blue Jays (15)

14. White Sox (14)

15. Indians (13)

16. Reds (16)

THE M.C. HAMMER TEAMS (lots of flash, but better-known for their financial problems than anything else at this point)

17. Dodgers (17)

18. Mets (18)

THE JOURNEY TEAMS (Occasional hits, tons of filler, maybe some guilty pleasure to be taken here, but you know in your heart they suck)

19. Rockies (19)

20. Nationals (20)

21. Marlins (23)

22. Athletics (21)

23. Pirates (22)

THE REO SPEEDWAGON TEAMS (Really bad — not even the number of hits or overall quality of a band like Journey — but occasionally you can get some ridiculous so-bad-it’s-good campy pleasure from them. “Ridin’ the Storm Out,” anyone?)

24. Cubs (24)

25. Padres (25)

26. Royals (26)

27. Mariners (27)

28. Twins (28)

THE GRAND FUNK RAILROAD TEAMS (Too bad for so-bad-it’s-good pleasure. Absolutely nothing to recommend them. A miserable ordeal to which no man or best should be subjected)

29. Orioles (29)

30. Astros (30)

Cardinals take 1-0 NLDS lead over the Cubs behind John Lackey’s brilliant outing

John Lackey
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
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John Lackey flirted with a no-hitter but settled for 7 1/3 terrific, shutout innings to beat the Cubs in Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday. The right-hander held the opposition to two hits and a walk while striking out five. Lefty reliever Kevin Siegrist struck out two to finish the eighth without issue. Closer Trevor Rosenthal worked around a one-out walk and a two-out single in the ninth to seal the 4-0 win, recording all three outs on called strike threes.

Lackey brought a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but lost it quickly when Addison Russell hit a ground ball single up the middle to lead off the frame. Russell would steal second base but was stranded.

Opposing starter Jon Lester wasn’t too shabby himself, relenting three runs on five hits while walking one and striking out nine in 7 1/3 innings. The first run came around in the first inning on Matt Holliday‘s RBI single, which followed a one-out double by Stephen Piscotty. Tommy Pham pinch-hit in the pitcher’s spot in the eighth inning and launched a solo home run off of Lester to double the Cardinals’ lead. Lester walked Matt Carpenter before exiting. Pedro Strop came in and promptly served up a two-run home run to Stephen Piscotty.

The closest the Cubs came to scoring was when Dexter Fowler sent a deep fly ball to right field with a man on base and two outs in the sixth inning, but Randal Grichuk caught it with a foot or two to spare in front of the fence on the warning track.

The two clubs will play Game 2 of the NLDS on Saturday at 5:30 PM EDT. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and oppose Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia.

Astros err in letting Scott Kazmir start sixth

Scott Kazmir
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Scott Kazmir went winless with a 6.52 ERA in six September starts. He allowed 41 hits, eight of them homers, in 29 innings, posting an 18/11 K/BB ratio. When the Astros got five innings of two-run ball from him Friday against the Royals, they should have thanked their good fortune and moved right along to the pen.

And they knew this. They must have. Josh Fields got up in the pen after Kazmir issued a one-out walk in the fifth. The left-hander got out of the frame, making himself eligible for the victory in what was then a 4-2 game, but it was still very surprising to see him come back out for the sixth, particularly with the switch-hitting Ben Zobrist (.926 OPS against lefties) and right-handed Lorenzo Cain due up.

Kazmir retired Zobrist, but he gave up a double to Cain. He was then pulled, even with the left-handed Eric Hosmer coming up. Manager A.J. Hinch had committed my biggest baseball pet peeve: he sent his starter back to the mound with the idea of pulling him after his first mistake.

It worked out terribly. Oliver Perez gave up a pair of soft hits to Hosmer and Kendrys Morales before walking Mike Moustakas. Fields then entered and walked the unwalkable Salvador Perez to tie the game at 4. The Astros gave up another run in the seventh and lost the game 5-4.

Maybe that’s the way it would have worked out anyway. Kazmir did give up just the one baserunner. It might not have even harmed the Astros if Perez had better luck.

Still, the thinking that went into the decision was disturbing. It’s always better to bring that reliever in with no one on base when you can. That’s especially the case with this Astros pen, which lacks a double-play specialist, much less a Wade Davis. But anyone in that pen would have been a better choice than sending Kazmir out to face Zobrist and Cain for a third time. Hinch needs to be more aggressive going forward.

Cardinals’ giveaway incorrectly claims ownership of 2001 division title

cardinals logo

The Cardinals have won so many division titles, it’s tough to keep track of them all. At least, it would be tough if it weren’t for Baseball Reference.

40,000 rally towels were given away to fans at Busch Stadium ahead of Friday’s NLDS Game 1 against the Cubs. The towel listed all of the years the Cardinals won the NL Central… and 2001. That year, they tied with the Astros for the best record in the National League at 93-69. However, because the Astros won the season series 9-7, they were awarded first place and the Cardinals took the Wild Card.