Young Elvis

Your Monday afternoon Power Rankings

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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)

Don Mattingly thinks pace of play can be improved by changing views on strikeouts

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly sits in the dugout prior to a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Monday, April 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo
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Marlins manager Don Mattingly has one potential solution to the pace of play issue: change the way people value strikeouts, the Associated Press reports.

Strikeouts have been rising steadily since 2005. Then, a typical game averaged 6.30 strikeouts. In 2016, there were 8.03 strikeouts per game. There are many explanations for this phenomenon. For one, teams are searching specifically for young pitchers who can throw hard — like triple-digits hard. They figure they can teach them the other pertinent skills in the minors. Second, Sabermetrics has shown that a strikeout is only marginally worse than an out made on a ball put in play. Sometimes, the strikeout is preferable, especially if there’s a runner on first base with less than two outs and a weak hitter at the plate. Sabermetrics has also shown home runs to be the best and most efficient way to contribute on offense. Furthermore, younger players tend to focus more on power in order to get noticed by scouts. Unless it’s paired with other elite skills, a scout isn’t going to remember a player who hit the ball into the hole on the right side, but he will remember the kid who blasted a 450-foot homer.

Here’s what Mattingly had to say:

Analytically, a few years back nobody cared about the strikeout, so it’s OK to strike out 150, 160, 170 times, and that guy’s still valued in a big way. Well, as soon as we start causing that to be a bad value — the strikeouts — guys will put the ball in play more. So once we say strikeouts are bad and it’s going to cost you money the more you strike out, then the strikeouts will go away. Guys will start making adjustments and putting the ball in play more.

[…]

If our game values [say that] strikeouts don’t matter, they are going to keep striking out, hitting homers, trying to hit home runs and striking out.

Simply believing strikeouts are bad won’t magically change its value. However, creating social pressure regarding striking out can change it. Theoretically, anyway. Creating that social pressure is easier said than done.

There is a dichotomy here as well. Home runs are exciting. Strikeouts and walks are not. Often, though, the three go hand-in-hand-in-hand. A player actively trying to cut down on his strikeouts by putting the ball in play will also likely cut down on his strikeout and walk rates. There doesn’t seem to be an elegant solution here. Wishing for fewer strikeouts, walks, and homers doesn’t really seem to give way to a more exciting game.

Sean Doolittle: “Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans.”

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 25:  Sean Doolittle #62 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 25, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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In the past, we’ve commented on Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend Eireann Dolan’s community service. In 2015, the pair hosted Syrian refugee families for Thanksgiving and their other charitable efforts have included LGBTQ outreach and help for veterans.

Athletes and their significant others have typically avoided stepping into political waters, but Doolittle and Dolan have shown that it’s clearly no concern to them. In the time since, the Syrian refugee issue has become even more of a hot-button issue and Doolittle recently discussed it with Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.

I think America is the best country in the world because we’ve been able to attract the best and brightest people from all over the world. We have the smartest doctors and scientists, the most creative and innovative thinkers. A travel ban like this puts that in serious jeopardy.

I’ve always thought that all boats rise with the tide. Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans. But if we include them, we can make the pie that much bigger, thus ensuring more opportunities for everyone.

Doolittle, of course, is referring to Executive Order 13769 signed by President Trump which sought to limit incoming travel to the United States from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. A temporary restraining order on the executive order was placed on February 3, a result of State of Washington v. Trump.

Doolittle spoke more about the plight refugees face:

These are people fleeing civil wars, violence and oppression that we can’t even begin to relate to. I think people think refugees just kind of decide to come over. They might not realize it takes 18-24 months while they wait in a refugee camp. They go through more than 20 background checks and meetings with immigration officers. They are being vetted.

They come here, and they want to contribute to society. They’re so grateful to be out of a war zone or whatever they were running from in their country that they get jobs, their kids go to our schools, they’re paying taxes, and in a lot of cases, they join our military.

Around this time last year, Craig wrote about Doolittle and Dolan not sticking to baseball. They’re still not, nor should they be. Hopefully, the duo’s outspokenness inspires other players and their loved ones to speak up for what’s right.

[Hat tip: Deadspin’s Hannah Keyser]