Young and Restless

Friday April 25th, 2008

MLB Power Rankings
1Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 1
Yeah, everybody loves the Diamondbacks, and there's reason enough for that. But I wonder: Is having a leadoff guy who strikes out so much (28 times in 21 games) and totes around a .333 on-base percentage going to come back to bite the Snakes? Centerfielder Chris Young is a heck of a player. He'll probably become an even better one. But unless he gets on more, he's just never going to be an ideal leadoff hitter.
2Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 2
The Sox spent the week digging under rocks for starters when Daisuke Matsuzaka was smothered by the flu and Josh Beckett's sore neck knocked him from a turn. Shows you how good Terry Francona and this team are at scrambling. Another example: Can't say enough about the fill-in job that Sean Casey (.346, .414 OBP) has done since Mike Lowell's injury scrambled the infield. What a pro. What a signing.
3Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 9
If Young is miscast as a leadoff hitter in Arizona, what about Alfonso Soriano? Since he's been down with his hopping injury, the Cubs are 8-2, hitting .327 with a .415 OBP. Before then, with Soriano mostly at leadoff: 7-5, .249, .328. Look, I'm not saying that Reed Johnson or Mike Fontenot are better players than the free-swinging Soriano. I'm just saying they're a better choice to be leadoff men. That's all.
4Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 6
Vladimir Guerrero, who has always looked as if he's defending the plate from some kind of rogue baseball assault, has begun to tinker around with his stance a little. His early season stroke has been particularly violent this year. "It hurts me. I get stiff after seeing a few of those swings," hitting coach Mickey Hatcher told the L.A. Times. All of Vlad's numbers are down so far. You know what? I'm not going to tell him.
5St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 3
I made a big deal out of a 17-pitch at-bat that erstwhile pitcher and now centerfielder Rick Ankiel had against the Brewers' Carlos Villanueva back on April 16. Since then, Ankiel has only three hits (in 25 at-bats), all singles, without an RBI. The Cardinals finally showed a little slippage, too. They lost their first series of the season. It was going to happen. But when it happens at the hands of the Giants, you have to wonder.
6Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 7
The decision to carry 14 pitchers for a bit was kind of wacky -- really, when you have to use pitchers to pinch-hit, there has to be a better alternative, doesn't there? -- but the Brewers got away with it, as they have a lot of things so far. Really, this team is not playing nearly as well as it should -- hitting, especially -- but the Crew continues to win. This is setting up as a bizarro '07: Choppy at the start, hot at the end?
7New York Yankees
Last Week: 12
I can't decide whether having another loudmouth Steinbrenner on hand is good news or not. There's certainly some entertainment value in watching everybody scramble when Boss Lite says something dumb, as he did about Joba Chamberlain. Then again, we've seen this before. And done better. Can't Hank come up with his own schtick? Either way, I guess, it deflects attention away from the awful right side of the infield.
8Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 4
Ozzie Guillen has a big ol' man crush on Derek Jeter. He's "the perfect man," Oz told the TribunePaul Konerko is especially struggling, hitting .176 in his last nine games with just one walk to go with eight strikeouts. He's not alone. Maybe he's just lonely. How about a little man-love for your own guys, Oz?
9Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 13
When a team has been as far down as this one has, you don't need to look far for encouraging signs. The win-loss record, for one. And for another, check out Daniel Cabrera's pitching line from Thursday. Eight innings in Seattle. Five hits. Two runs. Five strikeouts. A win. And no walks. Excuse me, I said NO WALKS. If the heretofore wild Cabrera really begins to settle down, we're not going to know what to make of it.
10Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 5
Closer J.J. Putz returned -- and, boy, was that a welcome sight -- but the murmuring around the Mariners last week was about their designated hitter position. Specifically, whether they should try to grab Frank Thomas off the heap to replace Jose Vidro. As it turned out, Thomas went back to the A's instead. And Vidro popped a tiebreaking two-run single against the O's on Tuesday. Just call him the Little Hurt.
11New York Mets
Last Week: 8
That spooky feeling in Queens is nothing new, of course. But the Mets are starting to realize that they need some kind of intervention -- divine, maybe? -- to help first baseman Carlos Delgado (.198 average, only four extra-base hits all season) get up out of the dirt. And, really, Angel Pagan can do only so much.
12Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 14
Maybe the baby A's really think that they have a shot in the AL West. How else can you explain the re-signing of an aging, recently released and possibly washed-up DH, Frank Thomas? He doesn't exactly fit the current A's profile, you know? Well, except for the fact he's dirt cheap. And motivated. Ah, I see ...
13Florida Marlins
Last Week: 11
The Fish enter another weekend as the unquestioned leaders in the NL East, which absolutely says more about the state of competition in that division than it does the state of its leaders. The Marlins have given up more runs than they've allowed. The Nationals are the only other team in the East that's done that.
14Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 24
John Smoltz joined 15 other pitchers as the only ones to notch 3,000 strikeouts in a career and Chipper Jones continues to swing a sickly hot bat (.442). The real news: Even with a leaky bullpen and some unsteady starting pitching, the Braves have won six of their last eight. They're starting to look better.
15Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 18
As sick as Chipper is, Chase Utley is sicker. The Phils' second baseman may not have the lofty average -- Chase's is a punky .385 -- but he's absolutely pounding the ball. From last Friday-Thursday: .536 (15-for-28), six homers (!), 10 RBIs (in seven games) and a 1.831 OPS. Someone call a doctor.
16Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Last Week: 20
If the Rays could play all their games in Disney World ... well, the attendance wouldn't look so hot, but the record would be a lot better. The Rays climbed back to the .500 mark with a three-game sweep of Toronto in Orlando, where they are 6-0 in the last two years. And you wonder why it's called a Magic Kingdom.
17Houston Astros
Last Week: 28
I don't know what to make of this team sometimes. And you know why? Because they're freaky. The Astros have scored 41 runs in their current five-game winning streak. They scored only 37 in 10 games before that. The Astros probably weren't as bad as they showed then. And I can't think they're as good as all this.
18Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 23
Whatever happened to Francisco Liriano? Well, he's back. Kind of. But the lefty sensation of 2006, returning from Tommy John surgery, was belted around by the A's on Thursday and will be shipped to the minors for a little confidence booster. Not good news for the Twins. But it could turn out OK.
19Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 22
After a couple of blown saves, manager Clint Hurdle swapped closers, putting Brian Fuentes back in for Manny Corpas, a day after giving Corpas a vote of confidence. This is the Rockies so far: A little unsettled, still looking for just the right combination, floundering too much. That was the Rocks for a lot of last year, too.
20Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 16
The jettison of DH Frank Thomas -- "oh, it wasn't about money, but we do save $10 million" -- is just the latest quirky move for a team that can flail around with the best of them. Then the Jays were swept by the Rays. At Disney World. There's a Mickey Mouse crack in there somewhere, but I'm not going to take it.
21Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 25
My goodness, can these guys hit. Can't field all that well, which is why Jim Leyland took his prized offseason acquisition, Miguel Cabrera, and stuck him over at first where he can't hurt them as much. Can't pitch much. But, boy ...
22Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 27
C.C. Sabathia finally broke into the win column with 11 strikeouts in six innings against the Royals. Look, everybody knows this team will get better. Now would be a good time to start to turn it on.
23Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 19
No potshots at Andruw Jones this week. It's starting to look like piling on. And, really, can you blame the guy for that sweep in Atlanta, where the Dodgers scored three runs and hit only .181? OK. Maybe a little. But it's not all him.
24San Diego Padres
Last Week: 17
Is there a more painful team to watch at the plate than the Padres? They're second in the NL in strikeouts. They barely score three runs a game. They're 0-3 in extra innings. The pitching staff must be on the verge of revolt.
25Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 10
Luke Hochevar is back up, and the Royals continue to pitch pretty well. The problem right now is the hitting, if that's what you want to call it. One quick suggestion: Take a walk once in a while, fellas. Couldn't hurt.
26San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 29
OK, these guys are pretty painful to watch, too. But at least we expected that of them. And, at least with the Giants, we get to see Tim Lincecum (4-0, 1.23 ERA) pitch every week or so. And have some garlic fries.
27Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 15
Hot-trigger owner Bob Castellini, the wannabe Steinbrenner, canned GM Wayne Krivsky 21 games into the season. No sense. Krivsky fought for his job, too. No good. To which we can only say this: No class, Bob.
28Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 26
Nate McLouth had his opening-season hitting streak snapped at 19 games. So now what can we look forward to with this team? The inevitable May awakening of first baseman Adam LaRoche? Wow. I'll be sure to set the DVR.
29Washington Nationals
Last Week: 30
The Nats still have not won two games in a row since that season-opening three-game streak. When Cristian Guzman is your only regular hitting over .271 (he's at .316), you have to expect things like that.
30Texas Rangers
Last Week: 21
New team president Nolan Ryan is still trying to get a handle on the Rangers. What he probably needs to do is meet each of the pitchers at the mound, put 'em in a headlock and go noogie-mad on their thick skulls.

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