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Yanks solidify No. 1 status ... and the Nats get out of the cellar! (cont.)

MLB Power Rankings
21Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 22
Australia native Trent Oeltjen is just the 24th Australian-born player to reach the major leagues, but at the rate he's going it won't take him long to be the best (that honor probably goes to former catcher/first baseman Dave Nilsson, who hit 105 home runs over a very respectable eight-year career with the Brewers in the 1990s). Oeltjen debuted by batting .500 over his first six games with three home runs and may actually be helping the game grow Down Under. "If you just went up to a random guy on the street, he wouldn't know what baseball is," he told MLB.com. That's OK, most Americans have never heard of Korfball, so we can just call it even.
 
22New York Mets
Last Week: 21
Now that it is almost certain that Citi Field's debut season will not end with a playoff series, the Mets are slashing ticket prices, with some games going for 50 percent below normal. This is very much not the team many fans have expected to see, and paying well over $100 to go see the likes of Angel Pagan and Daniel Murphy, instead of Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado, probably doesn't make much sense. Then again, paying some of these guys to be on the roster in the first place probably didn't make much sense either. This will go down as baseball's biggest "What If" team of the year.
 
23Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 23
The A's are presenting Turn Back the Clock Day to 1929 this Sunday, in honor of their world champion team from that season. Now there's a year people are anxious to remember. Note to A's: You did win the World Series in years that won't remind people of economic catastrophe. Pick one of those for Turn Back the Clock. (And yes, I realize it's an even 80 years that they're celebrating. Still strange.) If you ask me, 1911 doesn't get nearly the respect that it should. Besides, if anyone wants to hear about the 1929 A's, they should just read this excellent SI story from 1996.
 
24Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 25
Since trading Victor Martinez and Cliff Lee, the Indians have actually played some of their best ball of the season, going 7-4. That's the good news. The bad news is that the club announced they are expecting to lose $16 million. Club president Larry Dolan's solution to help bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots: a full draft that includes international players, and a slotting system for those picks. "We'll never get a level playing field," he said, "but the gap needs to be closer than it is now."
 
25Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 26
This is the last season that Hal McCoy, the longtime baseball writer for the Dayton Daily News, will cover the Cincinnati Reds and that's a shame. It's a shame because he's not only an exceptionally nice guy, he's a Hall of Famer, and according to his bio on the paper's site, has covered the same team longer (37 straight years) than anyone else in the country. It's also a shame that he has to go out watching what has become a dreadful year in Cincy. The Reds, who were over .500 and just two games out on July 4, have plummeted to a 9-24 record since and are now 12 1/2 games behind in the NL Central. So long, Hal. Your kindness hasn't been forgotten, even if you don't remember exuding it in the first place.
 
26Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 24
You know things are looking down for your team when the local newspaper has a blog post asking fans which pitcher will be the ace of the staff in two years (I say Chris Tillman). Sadly for O's fans, it's not at all ridiculous to ask that. The farther they fall -- now 3-9 this month, 20 games under .500 for the year and 24 games out of first -- the more reason there is to wonder whether even next year will snap their streak of losing seasons, which is about to lock in year No. 12.
 
27San Diego Padres
Last Week: 28
How could the San Diego Padres impact the ACC football season? Because after not being able to sign No. 3 overall pick Donovan Tate until now, Tate is leaving the University of North Carolina -- a preseason top-20 team -- to try and work out a deal with the Padres before next week's deadline. The Tate signing wouldn't decimate the Tar Heels, but it would be a nice boost for the Padres to prove they can sign their top picks and get them some kind of professional experience as soon as possible. They need some good news. Adrian Gonzalez can't go 6-for-6 every night.
 
28Washington Nationals
Last Week: 30
The Nationals have certainly come a long way this year: from embarrassing on-field play to a series of off-field stumbles. (One I happened to be in attendance for: a guitarist taking five tries to get the national anthem right because he didn't have his guitar tuned properly.) But now they ripped off an eight-game winning streak, are tied for the sixth-best record since the All-Star break and have even corrected the whole national anthem snafu, recently employing a guy who plays the (electric) violin made out of a bat to perform the anthem. The Nationals: for the first time all year, they're not on Desolation Row. At least not this week.
 
29Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 27
Well, this was inevitable. The Pirates went on an eight-game losing streak not long after they completed the trades that sent almost anyone who was recognizable, and several who weren't, out of town. They are buried in last place in the NL Central, Pedro Alvarez may not be making his major league debut this year despite tearing up Double-A pitching (.331/.401/.570), and the Steelers already opened training camp, which I think means that baseball in Pittsburgh is more or less done for the season.
 
30Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 29
Though one former first-round pick (Alex Gordon) has struggled, another (Billy Butler) is progressing nicely for the Royals. Butler has already established career highs for home runs (13) and RBIs (58), and his .300/.355/.481 batting percentages are also career highs. It's a little premature for him to be compared to Joe DiMaggio, but Butler is getting plenty of pub these days thanks to a nationwide TV commercial that shows him next to the Yankee Clipper.
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