Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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Last week’s ranking is in parenthesis.

1. Yankees (1): The deadline deals brought in all kinds of spare parts, but is Joe Girardi going to use them properly? Lots of platoons and rotations and substitutions and stuff are now possible for the Yankees. Which presents opportunities, but also presents many new chances to screw things up too.

2. Rays (2):  It’s damn close, and the Rays have the momentum, but I’m using Ric Flair rules here: to be the man, you gotta beat the man. The Rays can take over the top spot if and when they pass New York. Woo!

3. Padres (3): Ryan Ludwick would not be an improvement in the outfield for most contenders, but he is for San Diego. Nice debut yesterday too, running and sliding into home, showing no sign of the leg injury that has cost him some time this season.

4. Rangers (4): The Rangers’ additions at the deadline — Lee, Cantu, Guzman — were the sorts of things teams who are heading to the playoffs do. I like the depth moves.

5. Giants (6): The Giants made it pretty clear this weekend that the NL West is going to be a two-team race. Bye-bye L.A.

6. White Sox (8): The blessing and the curse that is Ozzie Guillen. He’s so oblivious to outside stuff that he has no real problem turning a slow starting team around. He’s also so oblivious to outside stuff that he has no real problem throwing some ethnic/racial bomb into a postgame interview.

7. Twins (10): Same Ric Flair logic applies to the Twins and Sox. Plus, even Ric Flair tempered his “woo!” a little bit when he merely beat up some jobber, and the Mariners are the baseball equivalent of George South.

8. Braves (5): They’ve been driving me nuts lately, stranding runners, making defensive miscues. Thank goodness the Mets come to town for three starting tonight. Of course, the way things have been going lately it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if Atlanta dropped two of three. There’s still a lot of 2006-09 in this team.
 
9. Phillies (11): At some point injuries become too much to overcome, no? How can a team lose Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco and Jimmy Rollins for stretches this year and still win it? If the Phillies do, Charlie Manuel has to win manager of the year, doesn’t he?

10. Red Sox (13): In a stretch of 17 days without a day off. This after coming back from a west coast road trip that felt like it lasted three weeks. Is it just me, or has the Red Sox’ season been really, really tiring?

11. Cardinals (7): I was confused by the Ludwick trade, and overall viewed it as a sideways kind of move for St. Louis that probably won’t make too much of a difference either way. I went on St. Louis radio this morning, however, and the coverage felt a lot like the stuff you hear after a national tragedy or a natural disaster occurs. It’s like everyone in Cardinals Nation (or whatever they are) is talking to everyone else in reassuring tones because, if they don’t, everyone will break down and bawl. To which I say: dudes: it’s just Ryan Ludwick.

12. Reds (9): A lot of nothin’ at the deadline, but calling up Aroldis Chapman to help the pen may trump the move St. Louis made.

13. Blue Jays (17): Big falloff from 12 to 13 this week. Basically, every team around 50-55 losses has been stinking lately. Not so bad that I’m going to elevate someone like the Astros above them, but between here and the true dreck at the bottom of the list, the specific order is rather meaningless. The Blue Jays have won six of ten, though, so I guess they’re the class of the 50-losers at the moment.

14. Rockies (15): I said the NL West is a two-team race. I suppose if the Rockies can take both games from an odd-for-this-time-of-year two game series with the Giants this week they can start working their way back into the conversation.

15. Athletics (16): Yeah, I know they’re behind the Angels, but Ric Flair rules don’t apply to battles for second place, jack! Woo!

16. Angels (20): Two of three from the Rangers is nice, but there’s still a great big chasm between those two teams.

17. Tigers (14): Amazingly, the acquisition of Jhonny Peralta hasn’t catapulted the Tigers back into the AL Central race.

18. Dodgers (12): No matter what has happened on the field this past week, it’s a sad, sad comment on the state of the Dodgers that a team with all of their financial potential is making little ticky-tack deals in which they’re getting money from teams like the Pirates rather than taking on salary and making bold moves in order to close the gap between themselves and the teams they’re pursuing. Teams that, had they been managed like the mega-market team that they are, they probably wouldn’t be pursuing in the first place.

19. Marlins (19): Dan Uggla became the Marlins all-time home run champ over the weekend, passing Mike Lowell. If Jeff Loria was smart he’d trade for Lowell right now and let them finish this thing off, Thunderdome-Style.

20. Mets (18): I’m listening to “Rust Never Sleeps” as I type this, and the narrator from “Powederfinger” seems less doomed than Jerry Manuel right now.

21. Brewers (21): Signing Corey Hart to an extension is the move of a general manager who doesn’t think a ton needs to happen to his team in order to be successful in 2011. The Brewers’ performance against the Astros this weekend made them look like a team who will not be successful until my kids are in college.

22. Nationals (25): They took the piss out of both the Phillies and the Braves in the last week and they held on to Adam Dunn.  That last bit may or may not have been the right move, but Nats fans have to feel pretty good about the past week, all things considered. Well, not the part in which the franchise pitcher goes on the DL, but the other stuff is nice.

23. Cubs (22): I like Ted Lilly trade more than I probably should, probably because I like Blake DeWitt more than I probably should.

24. Astros (26): A nice little run after losing Oswalt and Berkman. Of course like the man sang: funny how fallin’ feels like flyin’ for a little while.  Reality of the gutting of this team will set in soon enough. As it should, because that’s what rebuilding is all about.  Just too bad it took the Astros this long to figure it out.

25. Royals (24): Ned Yost’s contract extension and the unloading of Ankiel and Farnsworth are both the kinds of moves that smart franchises in the Royals’ current state make.

26. Indians (23): The Indians sending money to the Yankees along with Kerry Wood is not too far behind “The Decision” in recent Cleveland sports atrocities. If I was running the Tribe I would have kept Wood out of spite and issued a press release — in Comic Sans font — decrying the chutzpah of Brian Cashman for asking for cash in the deal.

27. Diamondbacks (28): They should probably be bumped up a few spots for dumping Edwin Jackson on the White Sox, but the Nationals probably deserve an assist for that one, what with the deke-job they pulled on Kenny Williams.

Last: Orioles (30), Pirates (29), Mariners (27): The convention for ties in rankings such as these is to give all teams the same number that would appear next, which in this case would be 28. I can’t rate any of them that high, however, because they’re all just playing awful and uninspired baseball. The Mariners look like they’re trying to get someone fired. The Pirates are sending money to the Los Angeles Dod
gers in deals. The Oiroles a
re, well, the Orioles.  They all get a “last” in my book.

Major League Baseball needs to make an example out of José Ureña

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We’re about an hour and a half separated from the first pitch of Wednesday night’s Marlins/Braves game that featured Marlins starter José Ureña hitting Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña on the elbow with a first-pitch, 97.5 MPH fastball. The benches emptied, Ureña was ejected, and the game went on. Acuña left the game not long after to tend to his injured elbow.

After the game, when the Marlins speak to the media, they will almost certainly deny any ill intent towards Acuña, who had hit leadoff home runs in three consecutive games against them. When they do so, they will be lying. Watch how catcher J.T. Realmuto sets up on the first pitch.

ESPN Stats & Info notes that Ureña’s 97.5 MPH fastball was in the 99th percentile in terms of velocity of the 2,125 pitches he has thrown this season. It was also the fastest pitch Ureña has ever thrown to begin a game. Ureña put a little extra mustard on this pitch, for some reason.

Ureña has a 6.8 percent walk rate, which ranks 37th out of 95 starters with at least 100 innings of work this season. The major league average is eight percent. Control isn’t typically something with which he struggles.

Furthermore, Acuña isn’t the only player who has drawn Ureña’s ire:

Ureña wanted nothing to do with Hoskins — even though Hoskins has yet to get a hit off of him — in his August 4 start at home against the Phillies, walking him twice which included a few up-and-in pitches.

Ureña will almost certainly be fined and suspended for his actions on Wednesday night against Acuña. But will his punishment be enough to deter him and others from wielding a baseball as a weapon? Probably not. On June 19, when Marlins starter Dan Straily intentionally threw at Buster Posey, he received a five-game suspension and manager Don Mattingly was suspended one game. If you look at Straily’s game logs, you can’t even tell he was suspended. He started six days later on June 25 against the Diamondbacks and again on July 1 and 6. Because starters only pitch once every five days, it was like he wasn’t even suspended at all.

Major League Baseball needs to levy harsher punishments on players who attempt to injure other players. A 15-game suspension, for example, would force Ureña to miss at least two starts and it would inconvenience the Marlins enough to more seriously weigh the pros and cons of exacting revenge. The Marlins couldn’t work around it the way they did Straily by pushing back his scheduled start one day.

Major League Baseball also needs to make a legitimate effort to do away with this culture of revenge against players who are just a little bit too happy. Batters get thrown at when they flip their bats, when they yell at themselves in frustration, and even when they’re just hitting well. Baseball’s stagnating audience is very old, very white, and very male. It is not going to bring in fans from diverse backgrounds by keeping this antiquated culture that prevents baseball players from showing their personalities and being emotive. In the event Acuña needs to go on the disabled list for a couple weeks, that’s two weeks that Acuña isn’t on SportsCenter’s top-10, isn’t on the front page of MLB.com, and isn’t in articles like this. The culture of revenge is actively harming MLB’s ability to market its bright, young stars. If ending this culture of revenge doesn’t hit MLB from a moral angle, it should absolutely hit home from a business angle.