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Red-hot Yankees bump Dodgers from No. 1 spot behind Jeter's lead

It's time. After 10 straight weeks of Dodgers domination atop the Power Rankings, there is a new No. 1. The Yankees have quietly -- or, at least as quietly as they can do anything -- and methodically climbed to the top of the rankings on the strength of a 47-23 record since mid-May and a 23-7 mark over their past 30 games, both the best in baseball. It doesn't hurt that they've posted the best winning percentage in the majors since the All-Star break while the Dodgers, who hadn't even had a three-game losing streak all year, have now dropped four in a row. They enter play on Thursday with identical records, but there's no doubt the Yankees are the better team right now. This could be a temporary spot, however. The Yanks have a road trip through Chicago and Toronto before going back to New York to try and get their first win of the season against the Red Sox. The Dodgers, meanwhile, get a nice long homestand against the weak sisters of the NL West, the Diamondbacks and Padres. But for this week at least, East Coast trumps West Coast.

MLB Power Rankings
1New York Yankees
Last Week: 2
As should be expected from a franchise that has more Hall of Famers than any other, the Yankees were well-represented in Cooperstown on Sunday. Joe Gordon, the 1942 AL MVP with the Bronx Bombers, was inducted, as was Rickey Henderson, who spent four and a half seasons with the Yankees. The broadcaster's inductee was Tony Kubek, a former AL Rookie of the Year with the Yankees who spent 10 years with the club and then served as their broadcaster before quitting in the wake of the 1994 players strike (and who would have been played off the stage if this had been an awards show for his rambling, unscripted and occasionally cringe-worthy speech). When Kubek left the booth, he essentially divorced himself from the game he had been intimately involved with for his entire life. How much so? He admitted in a 2008 interview with the New York Times that "I've never seen Derek Jeter play." That is simply astonishing to me, and could make things awkward around the Otesaga Hotel in Cooperstown when Jeter is enshrined about 10 years from now when the Hall of Famers commiserate. Kubek has missed out on quite a bit of Jeter's brilliance, and that's just this season. The Yankee captain is batting .322/.400/.455 with his usual power/speed combo and showing improved defense as part of his best year since 2006, when he finished second in the MVP voting. Just as the Yankees have quietly moved up the standings to grab a season-high 3 1/2-game lead in the AL East, so has Jeter very unobtrusively moved into serious MVP territory.
 
2Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 1
They finally suffered a three-game losing streak -- becoming the last team in the majors to do so -- and watched as the Phillies (their prime competition for an NL pennant) acquired the type of frontline starter they'd been searching for. Even if their postseason hopes aren't in any jeopardy (they do still have a seven game lead in the NL West), there is a question as to just how far they can go in the postseason with a starting rotation that lacks a true ace. Randy Wolf's 3.43 ERA is nice, but he only has five wins. Similarly, Clayton Kershaw is proving worthy of the hype that accompanied his selection as the seventh pick of the 2006 draft, but he's still just 21 years old and pitched only two innings in the postseason last year. The Dodgers need a frontline starter, but with Cliff Lee headed to Philadelphia and Roy Halladay maybe not going anywhere, where do the Dodgers go for good news? Well, they do still have an eight-game lead in the NL West. And baseball's most beloved broadcaster will be back for one more season so he can expand his already impressive legacy, which includes stellar handling of moments like this one.
 
3Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 3
During a recent '80s Night in Anaheim, Bobby Abreu's head was superimposed over the head of Michael Jackson's on the cover of Thriller. It's a terrible bit of Photoshop, but it's appropriate for the following reason: Has any player been more thrilling for the Angels this year than Abreu? He ranks in the top 10 in the AL in on-base percentage (third), batting average (ninth), stolen bases (fifth), walks (sixth) and RBIs (seventh), all while ranking ninth on his own team in salary, behind, among others, Kelvin Escobar, who has pitched in one game this season, and Gary Matthews Jr., who was a reserve outfielder until Torii Hunter's recent injury. (By the way, the best image of the night had to be Chone Figgins as Yoda.)
 
4Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 6
It's always sunny in Philadelphia these days. The Phillies have won 18 of 22, lead the NL East by six games and now, adding new depth to Mets' fans misery, Cliff Lee is coming to Philadelphia. Not only that but neither of the club's two promising pitchers -- J.A. Happ and minor leaguer Kyle Drabek -- were included in the deal. Nor, for that matter, were prized outfield prospects Michael Taylor and Dominic Brown. In other words: They got better for 2009, better for 2010, and will still be good for 2011, 2012, etc. Who do they think they are, the Yankees?
 
5Texas Rangers
Last Week: 4
Here, so far, is what Vicente Padilla has brought to the Rangers in his four years in Texas. A 42-33 record, a 4.85 ERA, some serious anger that led to him being placed on waivers earlier this year and now, a deadly disease, and all for the low, low price of over $30 million. Padilla tested positive for swine flu last week, becoming the first athlete in a major U.S. sports league to do so, and the team is already preparing for the likelihood that he's infected others as well. "Without speculating, I think it is reasonable to expect that we may find some of our other guys have it," Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine said. If they do, it certainly didn't impact the club last week, as they went 4-1 to stay within three games of the Angels in the AL West.
 
6Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 5
Not a bad week for Red Sox legend Jim Rice, who joined a pair of select clubs this week when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame and had his number retired by the Red Sox. There are 202 former big-league players in Cooperstown, and only six other Red Sox players to have their number retired, but did any of those players save a child's life, and do it during a game no less? In August 1982, Rice went into the stands at Fenway Park and carried a 4-year-old boy who had been hit in the head by a line drive through the Red Sox dugout and got him to a waiting ambulance, a quick reaction that saved the boys' life. The Red Sox don't need similar heroism just yet, but they could at least use a thumper like Rice in the middle of their lineup. The ongoing slumps of Jason Bay and Kevin Youkilis (to say nothing of David Ortiz and Jason Varitek) has left the Red Sox with their least fearsome lineup in years, a big reason why they've skidded to eight losses in their past 11 games.
 
7St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 8
The very, very early returns on the Matt Holliday trade: good move, Redbirds brass. Holliday batted .529/.609/.824 in his first five games in St. Louis and the Cardinals scored 32 runs in that time, the same number they had scored in their previous nine games combined. But the most interesting aspect of this deal will be the impact it has on Albert Pujols. As I wrote about on Friday, Holliday was brought in not only to provide the Cardinals with another weapon in their lineup, but also to offer some protection to Pujols so pitchers wouldn't be able to pitch around him as they had much of the year. There is an interesting debate here between perception and reality. Stat heads swear that protection makes no difference, but managers, coaches, hitters, pitchers and everybody else in the game swear that it does. Could this be a case where the reality of human beings playing the game trumps statistical analysis? After all, if a pitcher knows he has to get through both Pujols and Holliday back-to-back, his approach is likely to be far different than with Pujols and whichever member of the Cards' revolving door at cleanup hitter would be. "There is no room to breathe" for the opposition, Mark DeRosa told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "With Matt coming in, it just lengthens the lineup so much. It just deepens the lineup to the point where a pitcher doesn't have much room to breathe." So far, the very, very early returns suggest that the stat heads are right. In Holliday's first five games with the Cards (a small sample size to be sure), Pujols went 4-for-20 while drawing four walks and driving in just a single run.
 
8Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 7
Part of what made Mark Buehrle's perfect game against the Rays so remarkable was that it came against what has been one of the best offenses in the American League all season long. But as good as Buehrle was that day, he picked the right time to face Tampa Bay. In the month of July, the Rays offense ranks last in the league in runs, slugging percentage and strikeouts while scoring the fewest runs in all of baseball. Given their offensive struggles, they're fortunate to have played .500 ball in July to hang around the AL wild-card race.
 
9Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 14
It took until July 26, but everyone's preseason favorite in the NL Central finally grabbed sole possession of first place after going 10-3 to start the second half, a mark bettered by only the Yankees and Angels. In fact, since the return of Aramis Ramirez on July 6, the Phillies are the only NL team with a better record than the Cubs. They weathered a storm that included DL stints by not only Ramirez but starting pitchers Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Rich Harden and Ted Lilly and injuries to Geovany Soto and now Reed Johnson. "We're starting to play good baseball," manager Lou Piniella said. "We're headed in the right direction. It feels good to be on top." It didn't last, though, and the Cubs enter Thursday a half-game behind the Cards in the Central.
 
10Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 9
For the second straight year, the Rockies have a deal with Taco Bell whereby anytime they score seven or more runs in a game, a fan can get four tacos for a dollar from 4-6 p.m. the next day (with the purchase of a drink, of course). First, a moment of silence for the late Gidget the Chihuahua, star of the curiously popular ads from the late '90s. Which Rockies player has been delivering tacos to the masses most often? Fittingly enough, Todd Helton. Of the 29 times the Rockies have scored at least seven runs this season, the greatest player in franchise history has driven home the seventh run six different times this year (12 players have driven in a seventh run on the year, and three of them are tied for second behind Helton with three TPRBIs -- taco-producing runs batted in.) That makes him the Dewey "Biscuits" Burke of major league baseball.
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