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Red Sox blow past archrival Yanks; Dodgers still in cruise control

Still no changes at the top, and I'm starting to worry that there won't be a change anytime soon. The Dodgers have been remarkably consistent this season, and are keeping the rest of the NL West at a comfortable distance as we pass the one-third mark of the season. The Red Sox welcomed the Yankees to Boston for what's become a regular ambush, surging past the Bronx Bombers in the AL East and in the rankings.

MLB Power Rankings
1Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 1
I think the Dodgers' success is starting to bore people. How else to explain the fact that baseball's best team, with the most commanding division lead, doesn't have a single player on pace to start in the All-Star Game? Obviously, Manny Ramirez's sampling of female fertility drugs could be a factor, but other than that, it's hard to look at the Dodgers roster and see a deserving starter for the Midsummer Classic. That's not to say they don't have any popular players. Orlando Hudson, James Loney and Matt Kemp all have a well-deserved following among Dodgers fans. But only one Dodger is the Jared of his homeland.
 
2Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 3
I know this will come as a shock to many of you, but Curt Schilling has not let retirement stop him from blogging. No, seriously. Schilling still has plenty of thoughts about the Red Sox ("There is no reason to think they can't go to a 6-man [rotation] later in the year to keep everyone fresh"), Jon Lester's struggles ("Inconsistent. Fastball command is his main issue") and Stephen Strasburg ("Unfortunately he's going to Washington or the Independent League this summer") that he'd like to share with everyone, but he's at his best when he's offering insight into his own life and career. Like his memories of being drafted: "Worst part is I can't even remember the phone call. I know it came in the afternoon sometime, and it was the Red Sox. Ray Boone, the scout who recommended me, called me, I think. I am not sure I can remember or explain the feeling, but I know it was a good one." That's great stuff, Curt.
 
3New York Yankees
Last Week: 2
The Yankees can beat everybody ... except the Red Sox. That could cause a slight problem for their championship aspirations, but at least their fans got a little revenge this week for that whole David Ortiz-jersey-buried-at-Yankee-Stadium thing. A Yankees fan bought Yankee Stadium grass -- which can actually be purchased now -- and sprinkled some on the field at Fenway Park this week. "This is payback," Ian Ferris told the New York Post. Ferris had brought the grass to Fenway during a Phish concert at the "lyric little bandbox" on May 31. I'm guessing he wasn't the only person who brought grass with him that night. Am I right?!
 
4Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 4
It seems to me that baseball's celebrations have become a little lame in recent years. Just a lot of jumping up and down in a circle, rather than the pile-ons that were always so much fun to watch (Jesse Orosco getting drowned by a tsunami of Mets teammates in 1986 is the coolest one I can think of), so when the Phillies got old school with their Series celebration last October, it seemed like the perfect moment of exultation. Except that Brad Lidge, their perfect closer, was at the bottom of that pile of humanity and is now on the disabled list with an inflamed knee he thinks started bothering him when he got swallowed up his jubilant teammates. "All of a sudden, I felt my knee did something weird," Lidge told the Rocky Mountain News back in December. "So after about 5, 10 seconds at the bottom of the pile, I was like, 'All right, get up.' Like the joy was over, and my knee felt it was about to give." Somewhere, Dave Dravecky is nodding sadly.
 
5Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 5
Ryan Braun is a former Rookie of the Year and one of only two players to hit 30 home runs in each of his first two seasons. With a .309/.409/.551 batting line and 12 home runs, he's also earned the 1.3 million votes that have him well in line to be an All-Star starter for the first time. Voting for Braun is a lot easier than deciding which T-shirt dedicated to him is better: This one, this one, or this one.
 
6Texas Rangers
Last Week: 6
Before the season started, Rangers president Nolan Ryan told his pitchers to stop worrying so much about pitch counts and just worry about getting hitters out. Of course, given that Ryan won 324 games, threw seven no-hitters, and was still selling Advils when he should have been enjoying retirement, and the fact that he controls their destiny with the team, it should come as no surprise that they've heeded his advice. Rangers starting pitchers ranked 25th in baseball in pitches thrown (total and per game) last season. This year they rank fourth in both categories. They're also second in innings pitched. No one wants to look like a wuss next to a guy who pitched until he was 47 and was still beating up players half his age the year he retired (note Keith Olbermann -- with mustache! -- at the beginning of those vintage highlights of one of baseball's all-time ass-whuppins).
 
7Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 8
It's been a tough year for Detroit landmarks. First GM, now Tiger Stadium, which is once again facing the wrecking ball 10 years after its last game. For all those suffering from Tiger Stadium withdrawal, SI's Leigh Montville wrote a terrific story just before the 87-year-old ballpark closed down that will help bring it to life once more.
 
8New York Mets
Last Week: 9
Chipper Jones so loved Shea Stadium that he named one of his children after it. If his recent comments on Sirius XM radio are any indication, he's got no love for Citi Field, and neither, perhaps, does David Wright. "It is the biggest park that I have ever played in in my life. It is a huge ballpark to center and right center and right field. You know, I actually feel sort of sorry for some of the guys out there because their power numbers are really going to take a hit; guys like David Wright, [Carlos] Beltran, [Carlos] Delgado. The days of them hitting 35, 40 homers -- they're over. I juiced the ball just right of center field as hard as the good Lord can let me hit a ball, and it hit midways up the center-field wall for a double. And every time there was a long fly out or a double that hit off the wall or something, David Wright would run by me and go, 'Nice park.' He's a little frustrated with it." Obviously Chipper and Wright have not tasted the awesomeness that is Shake Shack (or Blue Smoke, for that matter). Those two places alone make Citi Field an upgrade over Shea. Also, it doesn't smell weird anymore.
 
9Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 10
Having an 0-for-5 game with five strikeouts is bad. Batting .160 with one RBI and six strikeouts for the week is really bad. Brushing off a kid asking for an autograph and cursing out hecklers who call you out on it is really, really bad. Having the entire incident captured on camera and linked to a YouTube video (WARNING: strong language) that preserves this low moment for all-time? Bad, bad, bad. That word would pretty much sum up Alex Rios' entire season (.261/.320/.426 from .291/.337/461 last year).
 
10St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 7
The Cardinals offense was mired in a serious June swoon, averaging just 2.6 runs per game while going 2-7 before busting out for 13 runs and 18 hits on Wednesday night. Even Albert Pujols was not immune from the malaise. Pujols endured the first four-game hitless streak of his career last week, dropping his average 24 points in the process. Part of the problem may be the revolving door of cleanup hitters batting behind him. Ryan Ludwick became the seventh No. 4 hitter of the year for St. Louis on Wednesday.
 
11Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 14
Awesome Teds in baseball history: Hall of Famers Williams and Lyons. Awesomely named Teds in baseball history: Savage and Power. Awesome, and awesomely named Teds this season: Lilly. At least for the fans over at Bleeding Cubbie Blue, who have adopted "Lillyisms" to salute their new hero. The blog Bleeding Cubbie Blue has a poll asking fans to rate Lilly and eight percent think he's a "god among men," but only six percent think he's merely "awesome." With 64 percent, the leading response is "words have not been invented to describe his badassness." All this for a 7-4 pitcher with a 3.00 ERA. I can think of a few words to describe him so far: good. Above-average. Consistent. Impressive. And some words for all his new fans out there: relax. It's early. And: Zambrano's better. Great name, though.
 
12Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 11
Who says Reds are extreme leftists? Matt Maloney became the first Cincinnati southpaw to start a game this season (and only the second in the last two years) when he got the ball on Saturday against the Cubs. For the franchise that gave us such legendary lefties as Joe Nuxhall, Don Gullet and Tom Browning, this is a true shame.
 
13Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 13
The highlight of being at the major league draft -- excuse me, the First Year Player Draft -- on Tuesday was not seeing MLB Network analyst Dan Plesac walking around in his jogging pants, or fellow analyst Barry Larkin brushing his teeth in the bathroom or Bud Selig looking as frumpy as, well, Bud Selig. The best part was seeing Mike Trout, a New Jersey high schooler, get picked by the Angels late in the first round and then walking up to the podium (it was actually all of about 10 feet away) and shaking hands with the commish. Trout's family was there to celebrate with him and help keep him calm, as he was refreshingly honest about how nervous he was as names that were not his kept being called. "It was definitely nerve-racking, just crazy," Trout told the Courier-Post. "There's pressure. It would have been bad if I didn't get picked. But it was a great experience and I'm very excited. It's just a great feeling, a great honor. I'm going to sleep good tonight." If baseball hopes to make the draft a must-watch event, they'll need more people like Trout to help sell it.
 
14San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 17
For all the talk about Tim Lincecum's promise and Randy Johnson's history-making achievements and Barry Zito's contract, Matt Cain has somehow gotten lost out in San Francisco. But Cain has been one of the best pitchers in the National League, leading the league with eight wins and two complete games and ranking fourth in ERA (2.55).
 
15Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 12
Tommy Hanson's hotly anticipated debut did not exactly live up to the hype that preceded it. Hanson went six occasionally impressive innings, but gave up seven runs and three home runs and took a no-decision on Sunday. For those hoping Hanson is the second coming of John Smoltz or Tom Glavine, here's how those two future Hall of Famers fared in their big league debuts:

Glavine (8/17/87 at Astros): 3 2/3 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 5 BB, 1 K, loss

Smoltz (7/23/88 at Mets): 8 IP, 1 R, 4 H, 1 BB, 2 K, win

Not as good as Smoltz, not as bad as Glavine. If Hanson finds himself even half as good as either of those two during his career, the hype will have been more than justified.
 
16Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 19
For leading the previously woebegone Rays to the World Series, manager Joe Maddon became, in the words of a certain mustachioed 70s television anchor, kind of a big deal. After all, not every manager gets heckled by Will Ferrell at Yankee Stadium as Maddon was over the weekend. Not that Maddon noticed. "I heard somebody yelling, but I didn't know it was him," said Maddon. "If I knew it was him, I definitely would have turned around. I'd have been honored to have been heckled by him. I just didn't know -- identify yourself next time." Ferrell was only the second-most-famous visitor to sit near the Rays dugout, and Maddon was only the second-most-well-known maverick in the house on Sunday. Sarah Palin was in the house, which sent one Ray scurrying from the postgame clubhouse trying to track her down afterward. Alas, the former VP nominee had already made a quick getaway. Must have been a snowmobile nearby.
 
17Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 15
Denard Span is the latest big leaguer to be afflicted with dizziness (the same problem that affected the Reds' Joey Votto earlier this season before Votto was sent to the sidelines with the stress-related disorder that has also plagued Dontrelle Willis, among others, this year). Both Span and Votto have called their similar problems "scary," and Span told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that while he was at the plate on Tuesday in Oakland, "I didn't even see the ball. I feel like I can't concentrate when I'm hitting. I've never felt this way playing baseball."
 
18Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 21
The Mariners set a franchise record by allowing three runs or fewer for the eighth straight game on Wednesday, but they've only won five games in that span. In an effort to wake the team up offensively, the M's had early batting practice. Twelve players showed up, but not Yuniesky Betancourt. At least he had a really good reason. "I was asleep on the plane when they announced that," he told the Tacoma News Tribune. He has a .249 batting average and .279 on-base percentage and has lost the starting shortstop job, so it probably wouldn't have helped him anyway.
 
19Florida Marlins
Last Week: 24
Like Denard Span, Jorge Cantu has been experiencing dizziness, but at least he knows why. "It's from the medication that I stopped taking two nights ago for the cholesterol," Cantu told MLB.com. "I experienced those symptoms before in the past, and it's just a bad idea to take it during the season, obviously." If catcher John Baker is feeling a little dizzy these days, he knows why, too. He got hit by an Albert Pujols swing that caused him to need six stitches and gave him a black eye. The rest of the club emerged relatively unscathed from a brutal stretch that saw them face four Cy Young winners (Barry Zito, Tim Lincecum, Randy Johnson and Chris Carpenter) in five days, during which time they went 3-1.
 
20Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 16
We're getting the band back together.. Were Jake and Elwood Blues White Sox fans? I don't know, but their classic line seems especially apt when it comes to the ChiSox, who just keep bringing back guys from the 2005 world championship team. First it was Scott Podsednik. Then Jose Contreras, who was briefly demoted to the minor leagues, returned and pitched his best outing of the season on Monday. Then the team announced that Freddy Garcia would be back in the fold, as well. Feels like only a matter of time before Tadahito Iguchi and Joe Crede are back, too. Even Frank Thomas will be around, doing some broadcasting during the Windy City series with the Cubs. But I wouldn't expect Thomas back in uniform anytime soon. Remember, according to Williams' memorable 2006 rant, Thomas is "an idiot" and "selfish" and "we don't miss him. Good riddance. See you later."
 
21San Diego Padres
Last Week: 18
On the same day Stephen Strasburg of nearby San Diego State was being drooled over, obsessed over and fawned over, Matt Bush, the Padres' notoriously misguided No. 1 overall pick from the 2004 draft, was getting the latest reminder that his career is simply over. Bush was supposed to be in court that day to enter a plea in the battery case against him that resulted in his alleged assault of some local lacrosse players last winter. Bush, who never played above A ball, hasn't played professionally since 2007, and finished his pro career batting .219 with three home runs in 206 games before a failed attempt to turn him into a pitcher.
 
22Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 29
The A's went on one of the most unlikely seven-game winning streaks in recent major league history, getting six of the wins from rookie pitchers, the first time that had happened in baseball history. The veterans have been looking more spry of late, too, thanks to their late-afternoon serving of yams. (Is Oakland's clubhouse secretly a retirement home?) According to the Oakland Tribune, Jason Giambi noticed Alex Rodriguez ate yams before games with the Yankees, so he started doing it, too. Since Giambi went back to Oakland, fellow vets like Matt Holliday, Mark Ellis and Nomar Garciaparra have joined him in his ritual.
 
23Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 23
With all due respect to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the most exciting young athlete in Pittsburgh these days is playing baseball, not hockey. For the first time in a very, very long time, the Pittsburgh Pirates just became interesting. Not since Sid Bream beat Barry Bonds' throw to the plate have the Pirates been worth watching (OK maybe that's a stretch, but it's not far off), but Andrew McCutchen is giving everybody reason to keep an eye on the Bucs right now. McCutchen, who had the first hitless day of his week-long career on Wednesday, has batted .324 since his call-up and already has proven himself to be one of the fastest players in the game. Watching McCutchen run the bases is like watching Deion Sanders. Hopefully McCutchen hangs around the majors a little longer than Neon Deion did.
 
24Houston Astros
Last Week: 27
Since going to the Astros, Miguel Tejada has been named in the Mitchell Report, pled guilty to a perjury charge of lying before Congress, and had his real age revealed in a TV interview that caused him to storm off the set. In other words, it's been eventful. But even though Tejada's leading the NL with a .357 batting average, his time in Houston could be coming to an end. He'd be a good fit for any number of contending teams looking to add a bat for the stretch drive. Just don't ambush him with questions about his age. He gets a bit testy about that.
 
25Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 28
The Rockies have won seven straight games, their best stretch since that unbelievable run two years ago where they won 21 of 22 games to get to the World Series. I'll walk to Denver if this team winds up in the Series, but at least they've moved out of last place in the NL West. For now.
 
26Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 20
A bad omen for Matt Wieters? On Tuesday, Wieters was part of a trio of Orioles rookies to star in the team's win over the Mariners. For only the third time in club history, a rookie (Brad Bergesen) got the win while two rookies (Wieters and Noland Reimold) had multi-hit games. The other not-so-distinguished trios were Radhames Liz, Oscar Salazar and Lou Montanez in 2008 and Bob Milacki, Carl Nichols and Rene Gonzalez in 1988. Wieters is still looking to get untracked in the majors, with just a .229 average and no RBIs in his first 10 games.
 
27Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 22
If summer's almost here, it must be time for the Royals to take up their customary position at the bottom of the AL Central. Though they beat the Indians on Wednesday to move out of last place by a half-game, it only took the Royals three weeks to go from first in the division to last (they're in the midst of a 7-22 stretch), a mighty impressive feat even by their standards. Since Zack Greinke can't pitch every day, they're going to need to do something to get fans coming out to Kaufman Stadium. This week's trick: an air show! (Not expected to perform: the Blue Angels. Or the Royals bats, which rank 12th in the American League in home runs this year).
 
28Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 25
Only the Nationals have a worse home record this year than the Diamondbacks, who have gone just 12-21 in Phoenix this season. They did get some good news this week when Scott Schoeneweis returned to the team after being gone for several weeks following his wife's death. Schoeneweis' arrival meant the departure of Daniel Schlereth, son of former NFL lineman -- and noted thespian -- Mark Schlereth, or, as he's known on the soap opera Guiding Light, Detective Roc Hoover. Back-to-back soap opera mentions in the PRs for the D-backs. I promise I've never seen a soap opera episode in my life, even if I am from the same hometown as Susan Lucci. And the man behind the greatest theme song in TV sports history. That's right, world, we gave you John Tesh. You're welcome.
 
29Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 26
Did Fausto Carmona make some kind of Faustian bargain? How else to explain the Indians righty going from 1-10 with a 5.42 ERA in 2006, exploding to 19-8, 3.06 in 2007, and then slumping so badly since then (including 2-6 with a 7.42 ERA and an AL-high 41 walks this year) that he was sent to the minors. To rookie ball. Of course, not every pitcher who gets a major demotion is never heard from again. Dontrelle Willis was sent to A ball last year and is back in the Tigers rotation now, and Roy Halladay was sent down to Class A Dunedin in 2001 before returning and turning into a Cy Young-caliber pitcher. The only way Carmona does that is if he makes another Faustian bargain, and I think you're only allowed one per career. Right, Joe Boyd?
 
30Washington Nationals
Last Week: 30
If the Nationals ever get things turned around, June 9, 2009, will be remembered as the day it all began when they snagged Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen with two of the top 10 picks in the MLB draft. Director of Scouting Dana Brown called it a "history-making day for the franchise," and he's probably right. The Nats would no doubt like to speed up the clock on those two players' arrival dates, but someone should tell them that making the clock beyond the outfield fence at Nationals Park consistently read 11 hours and 50 minutes ahead (the optimistic way of looking at a clock that's always 10 minutes behind) won't get them there any faster.
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