Thursday July 30th, 2009

MLB Power Rankings
11San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 11
To go from his old team to his new one after being traded on Wednesday, all Freddy Sanchez had to do was walk down the hallway. The Pirates traded their All-Star second baseman to the Giants right after the teams finished a series (a Giants sweep) in San Francisco, and if Sanchez was left a little stunned -- saying "I'd be lying if I didn't say it's a little crazy" -- he should rest assured that it's not completely unheard of. In 2004, Doug Mientkiewicz was traded from the Twins to the Red Sox in the midst of a series between the two teams, and in 1922, Max Flack of the Cubs and Cliff Heathcote of the Cardinals were traded between games of a doubleheader and played one game for each team on the same day. What might be legitimately crazy is the Giants dealing for a player who doesn't even know when he'll be able to play, due to a knee injury, and one who, despite a .296 average, brings modest run-producing ability (six home runs, 34 RBIs) to the worst offense among any playoff contender in the National League.
 
12Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 10
This week, video surfaced of Tigers manager Jim Leyland taking his shirt off at the charity auction mentioned in last week's PRs. What's interesting is that Leyland can be heard saying he would do so only if it didn't wind up on the Internet. Oops. Surely, there's a tirade somewhere in the future of whoever recorded it and put it on the Internet, but I'm sure it will rank behind both Leyland's great rants of years gone by, like this one and this one, and certainly behind previous shirt-removing incidents in sports like this one and this one. Otherwise, the Tigers skipper should be in a pretty good mood since his club rebounded after temporarily having to share first place for the first time since mid-May last week by opening up a two-game lead again in the AL Central.
 
13Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 13
Not only did Mark Buehrle throw a perfect game against the Rays on July 23 -- check out Lee Jenkins' terrific piece on it in this week's SI -- he followed it up by carrying a perfect game into the sixth inning against the Twins in his next start, setting a major league record by retiring 45 consecutive hitters. Buehrle is certainly no slouch, as his career numbers -- .594 winning percentage, 3.78 ERA and four All-Star appearances -- will attest, but White Sox coach Jeff Cox spoke for many when he said to the pitcher, "Are you kidding me? Mark [bleeping] Buehrle? This game has been around 120 years and Sandy Koufax, Randy Johnson, Cy Young and Bert Blyleven and Mark Buehrle -- are you kidding?" Cox shouldn't be so surprised. If Buehrle so chooses, he is very slowly -- at around 85 mph per fastball -- building a case for the Hall of Fame, should he choose to stick around that long.
 
14Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 12
A three-game sweep at home to the woeful Indians may have been the death blow to Seattle's playoff hopes, although they did manage to rebound and take two of three from the free-falling Blue Jays. The M's have a three-game series in front of them in Texas against the second-place Rangers, but they don't get a crack at the first-place Angels (whom they now trail by 7 1/2 games) until the last day of August. General manager Jack Zduriencik insisted that the acquisitions of Jack Wilson and Ian Snell from the Pirates had no bearing on any other moves the club might make, but one thing is for certain: They got tired of waiting for Jeff Clement, previously the No. 3 pick in the 2005 draft, to pan out. Clement was shipped to the Pirates in the Wilson/Snell trade. Just for posterity, here are the four players taken immediately after Clement in the first round four years ago: Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Ricky Romero and Troy Tulowitzki.
 
15Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 18
Back in April, I made my picks for the All-Metrodome team that was being voted on at Twins.com, and my choices turned out to be perfect (although I didn't think they'd allow two first basemen and four outfielders), not that this was a difficult team to pick or anything. (It's not like I was itching to select Ron Coomer.) The most interesting part came at first base, where Justin Morneau and Kent Hrbek both made the team. The biggest omission? Jack Morris, who may have only pitched one season in his hometown, but it was a pretty good one: 18-12 with a 3.43 ERA and the best-pitched World Series game of the past 50 years.
 
16Florida Marlins
Last Week: 19
Josh Johnson is about to find out a hard truth about journalism: Some interviews are just impossible to get. Asked in this week's Pop Culture Grid which person he was "dying to interview," Johnson said, "Kirby Puckett. One of my idols growing up." I just hope he didn't mean that literally. Besides, the Marlins could still use the guy who's leading them in wins, ERA, innings pitched and strikeouts and is second in the NL (behind only Dan Haren) in quality starts.
 
17Houston Astros
Last Week: 15
Cecil Cooper's preseason boast that the Astros "should win 90 games" is being answered with a resounding "no they won't." The 'Stros stumbled badly this week, but are still within striking distance in the NL Central despite being barely above .500. Winning 90 games has been out of the question for awhile now -- unless they plan on playing .667 baseball the rest of the way -- and now that Roy Oswalt had to leave a start with back problems and could wind up on the disabled list, they have to wonder if their playoff chances hinge on his ability to stay healthy.
 
18Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 16
The Braves stagnant postseason hopes may rest on the surgically repaired elbow of Tim Hudson. The 34-year-old righty hasn't pitched in almost a year, but he's been progressing through a rehab stint and could be ready by mid-August. Since the team is not expected to make any major moves at the trade deadline, Hudson will be the closest thing they have to a big acquisition and he could arrive just in time for what should be a key stretch against fellow NL East teams Washington, Philadelphia and New York in two weeks. First, though, they'll have to survive seven games with the Dodgers over their next 10 -- those games could determine whether Hudson's return will have any chance to help them at all.
 
19Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 17
At this time last year, the Brewers had made the biggest deadline deal of the year, adding an innings-eating ace who could and did carry them to October. Their needs are the same this year, but it doesn't look likely that they'll match the deal from last July when they landed CC Sabathia from Cleveland. This year, Brewers starters are next-to-last in the NL in innings pitched, ERA, home runs allowed and walks, which is the biggest reason they have fallen below .500 and to the fringe of the playoff chase with two months remaining in the season.
 
20New York Mets
Last Week: 22
How do you know things are going bad? Not when your four-game winning streak receives almost no attention, and not when you fire a high-ranking team executive, as GM Omar Minaya did this week in axing assistant GM Tony Bernazard, and not even when the cause of that termination is a series of almost unbelievable stories. No, the real problem comes when the GM then insinuates that the writer who broke those stories may have had ulterior motives because he had inquired on occasion about how to break into a career in the front office of a major league team, turning what should have been a simple matter into a media firestorm. And then having the announcers on your team-owned television station call out the same GM for his actions. As Clark Griswold once said, "If I woke up with my head sewed to the carpet, I couldn't be more surprised than I am now." I don't know what other body blows the Mets have in store for their fans, but it should be fascinating to watch.
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