At the outset, I’d like to say that there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that I had a graduate coaching assistant fill out my power rankings last week. I take my responsibilities in this regard just as seriously as Urban Meyer and Nick Saban take their votes in the USA Today coaches poll. I mean, if they can take a day out of their schedule to break down the top teams in the country and analyze their strengths and weaknesses in order to fulfill a task that gives them no extra pay and often works counter to their best interests of their program, surely I can find the time to do this post once a week, right?
Anyway, here are last week’s rankings. On to this week’s:
1. Rays: Getting swept by the Red Sox was probably a good reminder that the Rays haven’t won jack yet. Indeed, based in part on the sweep, this is the first week I have to go with the Rays in the top spot by default more than anything else. I was tempted to put the Yankees here, but we’re still only a week removed from the Rays taking two from them in the Stadium so let’s give them one more week before demoting them. But they will be punished a bit: instead of the customary picture of Rays players high-fiving, all they get today is the team logo.
2. Yankees: Saturday’s nightmare game against Cleveland was rather alarming. Given how the bullpen is going the loss of Alfredo Aceves might loom larger than many think.
3. Twins: They still can’t figure out the Yankees, but now they’re done with them. For the regular season anyway.
4. Reds: Taking seven of ten and knocking the cover off the ball is a pretty good way to go through life, son.
5. Padres: They’re still cruising. Now the biggest question is whether the team everyone figured would be the summer’s big seller has the stones to go out and actually buy a bat.
6. Cardinals: Albert Pujols would like you to know that his “slump” is over. The quotes are because at its nadir, Pujols’ OPS was at .925.
7. Phillies: Whether this is a temporary demotion or the beginning of a freefall depends on whether they can figure out how to score runs again. One cold series is understandable. It happens. Two in row with no firepower is a concern.
8. Red Sox: A bit of leap -- and maybe controversial to put them ahead of a Jays team whom they currently trail in the standings -- but a sweep of the Rays gives you the benefit of the doubt when it comes to these things.
9. Braves: The last time they hosted the Phillies they began a nine-game losing streak. The next three days will tell us if they can actually justify some of the more ludicrous preseason predictions.
10. Blue Jays: Their next nine games come against the Rays and Yankees. I have this feeling that the Cinderella story is about to end.
11. Dodgers: Ethier comes back today and the next three come against Arizona, so the week starts out about as good as one can hope.
12. Athletics: In the future, every team will be in first place in the AL West for fifteen minutes. Well, maybe not the Mariners, but the other three will be.
13. Giants: Now that Buster Posey has been called up I can no longer complain that Brian Sabean won’t call up Buster Posey. I feel like a cold warrior the day after the Berlin Wall fell.
14. Rockies: While I’m on these two teams, its worth noting that Ubaldo Jimenez faces Tim Lincecum at 4PM Eastern this afternoon, in a matchup I’d like to refer to as the “Screw Up the Family Cookout Invitational.”
15. Tigers: In honor of Max Scherzer’s 14K post-callup performance, Dave Dombrowski sent the entire roster down to Toledo last night and called them up at about 11 A.M. this morning to be ready for today’s game against the Athletics. Either that or else there was an epic party in Toledo last night.
16. Rangers: A pretty rough patch for the Rangers made all the rougher by watching Derek Holland whip up 85 m.p.h. fastballs last night. And Nelson Cruz on the DL doesn’t bode well for a suddenly flailing offense either.
17. Mets: Yesterday Oliver Perez refused a request to reassign him to the minors. Pretty soon they’re gonna start moving his desk around, refuse to send him his paychecks and take his red stapler from him.
18. Cubs: They’re creeping up and now have a chance to get redemption against a Pirates team that has inexplicably owned them this year.
19. Angels: I was optimistic about their chances to get a head of steam behind them and do what the Angels tend to do (i.e. win the AL West), but the Kendry Morales injury may be too big to come back from. Who hits the ball now? Do they have the chits to get a Lance Berkman or even an Adam LaRoche?
20. Marlins: There’s no shame in getting dominated by Roy Halladay like the Feesh did during the perfecto. There is shame, however, in only scoring three runs against Kyle Kendrick, Jamie Moyer and friends in the other two games of the series.
21. White Sox: Ozzie Guillen said after yesterday’s game that the team is motivated to play better to keep Kenny Williams from making trades and breaking up the team if they definitively fall out of it. I’ve never heard a manager say anything like that. But then again, I’ve not heard managers say a lot of the things that Ozzie Guillen says.
22. Nationals: Sinking. Will they be able to maintain the optimism that has surrounded the team until Strasburg arrives, or will he be seen as a mere consolation prize by the time he debuts?
23. Brewers: A nice bounceback week. Forgive me, however, if I don’t take the tarp off the bandwagon just yet.
24. Royals: The Royals have a team OBP of .338 and a SLG of .412. The Rays have a team OBP of .335 and a SLG of .410. Yet the Rays have scored 40 more runs in the same number of games. I feel like Richard Dreyfuss in “Close Encounters,” sculpting stuff out of my mashed potatoes, convinced that it means something important but not knowing just what.
25. Pirates: Losers of three of four to the Reds and three straight to the Braves. Guess they picked a bad week to play good teams.
26. Mariners: They might have a tough go of it without Mike Sweeney for a few days. Oh, you didn’t hear? A couple of anonymous Mets trashed a teammate to the press yesterday so Sweeney hopped a flight back east to come and kick their ass.
27. Diamondbacks: Signs that summer is upon us: Memorial Day, higher temperatures and the first Adam LaRoche trade rumors of the season. There are a lot of players worse than Adam LaRoche, but I don’t know of any who are more inessential than he is, if that makes any sense.
28. Indians: In case you haven’t noticed, and judging by the attendance you haven’t, the Indians have continued to stink.
29. Astros: This has nothing to do with the current Astros team, but I find myself strangely affected by the Astros Daily’s page of all of the former Astros and Colt .45s who have died. One of many random observations I had: I was aware that Eddie Matthews played for the Astros, but I had never seen a picture of him in their uniform before now. It’s jarring to see a guy who played for the Boston Braves in an Astros cap. Pretty jarring to see Nellie Fox in one too. I guess baseball went from a sepia toned golden age to whatever it is now at the exact moment the Astros came into existence. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
30. Orioles: Losers of five in a row and now they have nine straight against the Yankees and Red Sox ahead of them. Y’all best settle in and get comfy, Orioles, because you’re gonna be in 30-ville for a good long while.