Thursday June 18th, 2009

At this point, I think I'm openly rooting for the Dodgers to start losing, if only for one week. Once again, L.A. is atop the Power Rankings, a reign of supremacy that's quite frankly getting a little annoying. The Hangover only wishes it can have a run of dominance like this in Hollywood this summer. The Dodgers have the best overall record in baseball, the best home record, second-best road record, best record in extra-inning games, best record in one-run games, best-record against right-handed pitching and best record against left-handed pitching. They have the second-best record against winning teams and the best record against losing teams. So it's little surprise that the Dodgers are being treated like A-list celebs out in La-La Land.

MLB Power Rankings
1Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 1
Life is good for Joe Torre these days. His team continues to steamroll the NL West with an 8 1/2 game lead, he's poised to become the fifth-winningest manager in baseball history and he's been named as an All-Star coach for the Midsummer Classic in St. Louis. He also got some couch time with Conan O'Brien on The Tonight Show. Torre was a nice enough guest, bringing Conan a personalized Dodgers jersey and a cap, but I don't think Conan needs to worry about him moving to late night. Torre may be one of the nicest men I've ever been around in baseball, but he might be a little bland to host a variety show. If I had to rank managers by who would make the best late-night host, I'd say the list is as follows: 1) Ozzie Guillen (as long as there's a seven-second delay); 2) Charlie Manuel (the Yogi Berra of our time); 3) Jerry Manuel (because you never know when he might "go gangster" on somebody).
2Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 2
The Red Sox are doing their part to boost attendance around the majors -- they rank seventh in road attendance (the Nationals -- ?! -- rank third), but they're good for more than just flooding opposing ballparks with passionate fans. When the first-place Sox head to Washington D.C. for a three-game series with the Nats, there will also be a unique fund-raising opportunity. According to Politico, "more than a dozen lawmakers have scheduled fund-raisers when the Sox come to town." Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) for instance, sold 50 of his tickets -- valued at $200 -- for between $1,500 and $2,500. "Baseball and politics are two American pastimes. We thought it would be fun to bring the two together," said a spokesman for Langevin. It is fun. You know what else is fun? Instead of charging lobbyists 10 times the face value of tickets, give some away to kids who might otherwise never get to go to a game, or meet their congressmen. Besides, no one should have to pay that much to watch the Nationals.
3Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 4
Before hitting the disabled list with a strained groin, Raul Ibanez was enjoying quite the season. At age 37 and in his first year in the City of Brotherly Love he's showing signs of having a career year, batting .316/.373/.664 with 22 home runs and 59 RBIs. That's quite impressive. I wonder why more hasn't been made of ... what's that? This topic has already been discussed? A lot? OK, never mind. Instead, in honor of the late Harry Kalas being elected to the Radio Hall of Fame, here's the poem he wrote when he was inducted in to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002.
4New York Yankees
Last Week: 3
The Alex Rodriguez Rehabilitation Tour continued this week when the Yankees third baseman spent time before a game at the Stadium greeting visitors to Monument Park. (Which raises an interesting question: Does A-Rod deserve to be in Monument Park one day? I say no ... not yet. Forget steroids, his .245 postseason average is what's really keeping him from being considered a Yankees legend.) One fan who met him said "he has soft hands," but most fans are more concerned with his soft bat. It's been more than a month since he came off the disabled list, but A-Rod is still slumping, batting .224 with a career-low .488 slugging percentage. He went just 3-for-21 against the teams' biggest rivals (the Mets and Red Sox) last week, but still managed to win a game thanks to an error of Buckner-esque shock.
5Texas Rangers
Last Week: 6
George W. Bush may have left office with historically low approval numbers, but he's still well-liked in Texas. This week the team is planning to name the owner's suite after the 43rd president of the United States and former managing partner of the Rangers. On the one hand, this is a pretty easy call. Bush was in charge when the Rangers built the Ballpark in Arlington. On the other, it's tough to honor the guy whose most memorable moment as owner came when he traded Sammy Sosa to the White Sox. Even Bush famously referred to it as his biggest mistake. Of course, his entire five-year stint as owner was mostly forgettable, if their record at the time is any indication (the Rangers were eight games over .500 from 1989-94). Oh, and then there was this.
6Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 5
Prince Fielder hit his first career grand slam this week, coming in his 39th at-bat with the bases loaded. It was a sizable drought for one of the game's premier power hitters (only Ryan Howard has hit more home runs in baseball since the start of the 2007 season). Of the 20 active players to have more at-bats than Fielder in that situation without hitting a granny, none has anywhere close to his 130 lifetime home runs. In fact, only Orlando Cabrera (107 career home runs) and Corey Patterson (104) have gone deep more often without hitting a grand slam, and Cabrera has the most at-bats with the bases loaded (127) of any major leaguer who has yet to hit a grand slam.
7Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 7
Despite being in first place, Tigers manager Jim Leyland is not happy with his team. "We have some major issues," Leyland said this week. One is Magglio Ordonez, who has not hit a home run in over a month, and another is Dontrelle Willis. The D-Train's heart-warming comeback story got derailed when he was shelled again this week, dropping him to 1-4 with a 7.49 ERA and causing him to get skipped in the rotation. Still another issue is Carlos Guillen, who has been out since May 5 and could be headed for season-ending shoulder surgery. Perhaps this is why Leyland switched to light cigarettes.
8Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 13
It will be a sad day when Torii Hunter is done playing. It's not just that he's one of the most exciting players in the game and a highlight waiting to happen -- witness his crash into the wall going after a fly ball against the Giants -- or that he's a well-respected clubhouse leader whom manager Mike Scioscia credits with helping turn the team around. It's that he's got maybe the best personality in the game -- and he knows it. After hitting three home runs against the Padres, Hunter said he "felt like Kobe. When Kobe's in a zone, he's hitting everything. Now I know how it feels. It feels pretty good." Hunter also said he still prefers taking home runs away to hitting them: "Robbing home runs still feels better. If I could rob three home runs in a game, I would have a party. All the media and fans, everybody gets in free of admission." And after his second home run barely cleared the glove of San Diego's Tony Gwynn Jr., Hunter quipped to the Orange County Register, "When I touched home plate and went into the dugout I told someone, 'Only me can rob me.'" Quote. Of. The. Year.
9New York Mets
Last Week: 8
So Brian Bruney of the Yankees called out Francisco Rodriguez for his animated post-save celebrations, making him only the most recent person to do so. In an interview last year with the Press-Enterprise of Riverside, Calif., Rodriguez said such criticisms happen "all the time. I don't care. Why would I care about that? I only care about my job. I'm not changing it. I don't care what people say. That's my way. People can say I'm arrogant, a [jerk], anything they want to say. But me, I'm going to live my world. I don't care what people think or say." Rodriguez, who says he points to the sky in memory of his late grandfather, is entitled to his celebration and recognizing a deceased relative is tough to argue with. But Bruney was right when he called it "a tired act." Not every save needs to be celebrated like the last out of the World Series, which, incidentally, K-Rod has never nailed down.
10St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 10
Looking for the perfect Father's Day gift for Dad, Cards fans? The Cardinals are offering 50 minutes to have a catch with dad before the game and lunch afterward. And it's only $150 per person! That's an awful lot of lawn mowing. That money would be better spent pitching in to help keep Albert Pujols in St. Louis beyond 2011. Pujols still has at least a couple more years in St. Louis, but the possibility of him leaving is already becoming a hot topic in Redbird Land.
11Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 9
The Blue Jays lost four straight games last week, but that's the least of their concerns now that Roy Halladay is headed to the disabled list with a groin injury. With Casey Janssen and Scott Downs also going to the DL and Jesse Litsch needing Tommy John surgery, the Blue Jays are suddenly in desperate need of pitching. It may be time for them to jump into the Pedro Martinez sweepstakes.
12Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 16
Winners of five of six, the Rays may finally be making their move. I wrote recently about the Rays struggles following last year's stunning 31-win improvement over 2007, but here's some more context: With 35 wins in their first 66 games, the Rays are on pace for 86 wins this year, which would be 11 fewer than they had last year. They were the 10th team in history to improve by at least 31 wins, but of the other eight (not counting the 1994 Giants, whose 55 wins were 48 fewer than they had in '93 but came in a strike-shortened season), five went backward the next season. Those five squads averaged 5 1/2 fewer wins than they did the year before. In the past 100 years, only the 1990 Orioles, who improved by 33 wins in 1989, had a decline as big as 11 losses the next season for a team in that group.
13San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 14
Before being swept by the Angels, the Giants took a broom to the A's in interleague play this week. Not counted among those wins was a 16-15 triumph by the Giants wives over their A's counterparts in an annual charity softball game. That's easily the most impressive offensive output either team has seen this season (the Giants have topped 10 runs twice this year, the A's once). The female Giants also managed to overcome the slugging exploits of Mia Hamm, wife of Oakland's Nomar Garciaparra, who had a double and a home run, making her about as productive as her husband has been all season (Nomar has one double and two homers and missed three weeks with an injury).
14Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 11
A documentary about the Cubs' 2008 season, entitled We Believe and featuring such prominent Cubs fans as Billy Corgan, Dennis Franz and Jeff Garlin and narrated by Gary Sinise was released last week. (You can view the trailer here.) I don't know about them, but when it comes to the 2009 version that I picked to reach the World Series, I'm starting to not believe. Their wildly underachieving offense, which cost hitting coach Gerald Perry his job, is the main reason why, but if nothing else, teams that should go to the World Series don't usually forget how many outs there are (I'm looking at you, Milton Bradley). On the other hand, the Cubs waited until about this point to take off in 2007, too, so I'll give them a little more time before I'm ready to run their World Series drought to 101 years.
15Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 12
There is going to be some serious star power in Cincinnati this weekend for the first Civil Rights Game. Former president Bill Clinton will make a keynote address during weekend festivities, Oscar Robertson and Tony Perez will take part in a panel discussion and Bill Cosby, Muhammad Ali and Hank Aaron will be presented with awards, by Bob Gibson, Sugar Ray Leonard and Bud Selig, respectively. (And don't forget Paul Janish! And Laynce Nix!) One man who might be overlooked this weekend is former Reds All-Star Eric Davis, who will be taking part in a skills demonstration and Q&A with kids. Here's a demonstration of just how good Davis was: For a few years in the late-1980s, he was being whispered about as a possible Willie Mays-clone, especially after he followed a 27-homer, 80-steal year in 1986 by hitting .293/.399/.593 with 37 home runs, 100 RBIs and 50 steals as a 25-year-old in 1987.
16Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 17
Kevin Slowey has been one of the year's most unheralded success stories, going 9-2 with a respectable 4.23 ERA. Then again, soft-tossing righties with only one prior full season of experience don't generally get much pub. Besides, Slowey is probably more interesting in the offseason anyway. Last winter, he kept a blog for that made Curt Schilling look reserved by comparison. Slowey listed the seven reasons A Christmas Story is the best Christmas movie ever -- you only really need one: the lamp -- suggested everyone read Calvin and Hobbes, and introduced the world to Joe Dude.
17Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 18
Ichiro Suzuki is especially happy these days, and it has nothing to do with his .354 average. According to the Tacoma News-Tribune, Ken Griffey Jr. is what's making Ichiro all smiley these days. "It's been hard to open my heart to everyone," Ichiro told the paper. But now "it's fun to come to the clubhouse every day and just watch him, listen to him. He's like a different creature than the rest of us. It's like he's from a different planet." He must be, because with a .208 average and only six home runs, this is not the Ken Griffey Jr. anyone has ever seen before. This one looks like a shell of his former self. Sorry to kill your buzz, there, Ichiro.
18Florida Marlins
Last Week: 19
Things are getting hot in South Florida. Manager Fredi Gonzalez threw reporters out of the clubhouse on Sunday for asking about comments made by Hanley Ramirez, who was upset that he was hit with what he felt was a purpose pitch by Toronto's Dirk Hayhurst and felt his teammates didn't properly retaliate. Ramirez said, "Everybody knows it [was intentional]," but went on to tell the South Florida Sun Sentinel in Spanish, "There's going to come a point where I'm not going to feel protected. I'm going to be scared to hit a home run because I know I'm going to get hit."
19Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 25
An 11-game winning streak wasn't even the best part of the Rockies' week. The son of catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who was kidnapped on June 1 and held for ransom along with Torrealba's brother-in-law but released on June 3, showed up in Denver with his dad before the Rockies game with the Rays on Tuesday. This was just the latest example of the dangers Venezuelan ballplayers have faced before in their home country, a disturbing phenomenon which SI's E.M. Swift wrote about back in 2005.
20Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 15
John Smoltz will not be making his season debut against the Braves, and won't face them in Boston either when the Braves hit the road in late June. All of which is a good thing, says Chipper Jones. For the Braves. "We can't throw it up and hit it on a day-to-day basis right now," Jones told "So throwing Smoltzie against us makes sense in that he gives them a good chance to win." When your best player doesn't think much of his team's chances against a 42-year-old pitcher who hasn't pitched in a year and is coming off major shoulder surgery, that's not exactly confidence-inspiring. In Jones' defense, the Braves are 12 in the NL in runs and 10th in hits, so it's not like their offense would be posing much threat to anyone right now.
21Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 20
This is what the White Sox season has come to: getting home runs from pitchers and asking guys who have hit 553 home runs in their career to bunt in the late innings. That is just what happened Sunday, when Mark Buehrle went deep for the first time in his career and Jim Thome showed bunt in a ninth-inning rally that gave the White Sox a win in Milwaukee. What's next, A.J. Pierzynski not getting in a fight with somebody? That would be really strange.
22Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 23
Hope for the future, version 1,852: Matt Dermody, the Pirates' 26th-round draft pick, threw a six-inning perfect game for his Iowa high school on Monday night in which he struck out all 18 batters he faced. As impressive as that was, it was barely the best pitched game of the day, since his teammate followed by pitching another no-hitter in the second game of a twin bill. The closest any team has come in the majors to that feat was when two St. Louis Browns pitchers tossed no-no's on consecutive days (although the second came in the back-end of a double header, and thus, not in consecutive games). In 1934, Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean took a no-hitter into the ninth inning before settling for a shutout against the Dodgers, only to watch his brother Paul no-hit the Bums in the nightcap of a doubleheader. "If I'd have known Paul was going to do that, I'd have done it, too," Dean said.
23Houston Astros
Last Week: 24
Pudge Rodriguez broke Carlton Fisk's record for games caught this week, doing so in his 19th season (Fisk played for 24). While Fisk played 31 games in the infield and 41 in the outfield, Rodriguez has played just eight games in his entire career (seven at first, one at second base) without the "tools of ignorance," not factoring in DH appearances. Which Pudge is phatter? I give the edge to Rodriguez, who not only is a .300 lifetime hitter compared to .269 for Fisk, but is a 13-time Gold Glove winner and 14-time All-Star, compared to one and 11 for Fisk.
24San Diego Padres
Last Week: 21
That sound you hear is what's left of the Padres' fan base clicking off their TV sets now that Jake Peavy has landed on the disabled list. With Peavy gone, so too is the sideshow of juicy trade rumors that might have at least landed the Padres a promising prospect or two. The Padres are now like the Real Housewives of baseball: an almost completely anonymous cast that is boring and unwatchable. (OK, Adrian Gonzalez's at-bats are all right ...)
25Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 22
Forget for a moment that they have the worst record in the American League. According to the Wall Street Journal's survey of college-educated players, the A's are the smartest team in baseball, making them the nerds of the sport (which will come as no surprise to everyone who hates Billy Beane's statistical-analysis revolution). The dumbest team? The Braves, which got just four points in the survey. Braves pitcher Tim Hudson, a former A's star who attended Auburn, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution, "I knew over the years I'd gotten dumber. Now I know why. I'm surrounded by a bunch of morons."
26Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 26
Of baseball's top 25 RBI men since 2003, only one has not played in an All-Star Game: Aubrey Huff. Huff, whose 43 RBIs this year are just outside the top 10 in the American League, is on pace for another big year in that department, but is still looking for his first selection to the Midsummer Classic. Is this his year? Given the logjam at first base in the American League, it's not likely.
27Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 29
Like the Yankees, the Indians now have a WWE-style belt to pass around to the player of the game. Unlike the Yankees, the Indians still don't have a team likely to be doing much celebrating this year. The belt is a gift from WWE wrestler Jerry Lawler and if nothing else, it must be pretty nice because it's valued at more than $1,500. Still it would seem a bit odd to hand the belt off to anybody after a loss, and the Indians figure to do a lot of losing the rest of the year, if their current 29-39 record is any indication.
28Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 27
The Royals season got a little ridiculous when relief pitcher Kyle Farnsworth got bit by one of his bulldogs while trying to break up a fight between them. The dogs' names? Rambo and Strike. With five walks and 21 strikeouts, Farnsworth is at least living up to one of those names. Who knows about the other one, although a guy who gets weepy at being traded, like Farnsworth was last year, probably is not going to make Rambo feel any less tough.
29Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 28
While Justin Upton is starting to play like everyone has expected he would, fellow highly touted, 20-something outfielder Chris Young is going backward. Young, who smashed 32 home runs in 2007, has tweaked his batting stance, but the results have yet to come. He's last in the NL in both hitting (.186) and on-base percentage (.245) while striking out 59 times -- against just 16 walks -- in 63 games.
30Washington Nationals
Last Week: 30
The Nats only won once since last Friday, but manager Manny Acta made it through the last week with his job intact and the rest of the club managed to make it through the week without embarrassing themselves. Both are positives. If you ask me, Acta should make it a lot farther with his job, like, say, through the end of the season. No manager in the world is going to improve this team this season, so why not at least let him finish what he started?
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