You read it right. We have a new club at the top of the Power Rankings. The trendy preseason pick of a lot of wannabe PRs out there, the Cubs are finally starting to put things together. Their run differential is obscene (plus-68). Alfonso Soriano is raking (.339, 1.010 OPS since his return). And last weekend, the Cubs swept Arizona, our former No. 1. So, really, I had to put them here to avoid all the angry e-mail from North Siders.
Look, we still love the Snakes. But this wasn't their best of weeks, what with the sweep by the Cubs and all. And, no, the Diamondbacks don't get any extra credit for sweeping the reeking Rockies. Truth is, it's been a rough, sub-.500 May so far for the 'Backs. The consolation is, as long as they have Brandon Webb (now 9-0, 2.56 ERA) and all those young hitters (Justin Upton is hitting .322), Arizona is going to be just fine.
Are the Rays really the third-best team in baseball, you ask? Well, this week they are, I answer. After sweeping the Angels and beating the Yankees three out of four, everyone has to be impressed. Plus they're in first place in the most difficult division for a small-revenue team in baseball to win in, the American League East. Will they stay on top, you ask? Well, these aren't the All-Seeing PRs, I answer.
I'm not sure the Astros can stay here with that starting pitching -- in fact, I'm pretty sure they can't -- but give them credit for spunkiness. They've won six times when behind after eight innings. That?s spunky-riffic. Meanwhile, Lance Berkman continues to swing the bat like an MVP (his .391, 15 homers, 43 RBIs are only a few points on the batting average short of Triple Crown stuff), pushing the Astros to 11 wins in their last 13 games.
Ex-ace John Lackey is back, and he looked pretty good Wednesday against the White Sox. Not good enough for the Halos to win, unfortunately, but good enough to give Angels' fans plenty to hope for in the next few months. This weekend, the Big A hosts the cross-sprawl Dodgers in the opening of interleague play. It's great when these two sets of rowdy fans start throwing California rolls and guacamole at each other.
How can you not absolutely love Manny Ramirez? So he hangs his teammates out to dry once in a while, and his defense is not something he really bothers with most nights, and he sometimes looks as if he'd rather be anywhere than where he is. Sometimes, in fact, he looks like he is someplace else. Still, that catch the other day, where he high-fived the fan and then completed a double play? Priceless.
A 2-5 week pushes them four slots down in the PRs, and the only thing that can save them from further slippage is Jason Isringhausen. (Silence. Far away, a glass breaks. Everybody in the room shifts uncomfortably in place. Someone clears his throat.) Isringhausen, the former closer turned runaway, was disastrous in a setup role Thursday. What are the Cards going to do? A 'pen by committee? Are you kidding me?
The Phillies are a little worried about Brett Myers, who is 0-3 with a 7.62 ERA in his last five starts. "It's almost a little bit of the Adam Eaton syndrome, where any time the ball was anywhere near the hitting zone, they killed it," catcher Chris Coste said. I don't know what the Eaton Syndrome is, exactly, but it sounds awfully scary. Hope Myers and ace Cole Hamels are on opposite sides of the clubhouse.
What do you say about a starting staff that goes 44 1/3 innings before letting up a run, and then allows only an unearned one? You say the Indians, finally, are starting to look like the team that many envisioned winning the AL Central. Man, were Cleveland's starters good last week. They went 5-0 on the homestand with a 0.16 ERA. The only starter who didn't win was Cliff Lee, who threw nine scoreless innings.
One of the major cogs in the A's surprising start has been right-handed reliever Santiago Casilla, who had given up 11 hits in 19 1/3 innings and had an 0.47 ERA. He came into Thursday's game against Cleveland, threw one pitch -- a high fastball that Jhonny Peralta crushed for a home run -- and pulled himself from the game. "Something in my elbow," Casilla said. I'm not one to point out bad signs. So, A's fans, just ignore this entry.
There are a lot of reasons why the Dodgers have climbed from their sleeping start to challenge in the National League West. Big Blue fans are sure to recognize this one. Russell Martin, who spent the first week flailing around like a certain centerfielder, is hitting .381 with a 1.014 OPS over the last month. Welcome back, catcher.
The Marlins had it going on with a seven-game winning streak until they ran into -- the Reds? With three losses in Cincinnati (and a rainout Thursday), the Fish showed again that they can flop around with the best, and the worst, of them. Love the imminent signing of Hanley Ramirez. Still don't think that makes this a playoff team.
If any single team should hate interleague play, it's the Orioles. (The O's host the down-the-parkway Nationals this weekend.) No AL team has had a worse record since interleague games began in 1997 than the Birds. But, as Brian Roberts pointed out to the Sun, "We haven't really had a good record in a lot of things the last 10 years."
Are we all psyched up about another Subway Series this weekend? It'll be the last, you might have heard, in the old Yankee Stadium. Unless, of course, the Yanks and Mets meet in the World Series again. Ha ha. Ha ha ha. Ha ha ha ha ha. I crack myself up. I better stop laughing. Billy Wagner is liable to bite my head off.
Nobody expected the Twins to be at .500. That they are is a testament to a strong organization with a good coaching staff and a lot of willing young players. Among the most promising in the last group is Carlos Gomez, included in the trade for Johan Santana. Gomez, who hit for the cycle May 7, is hitting .270 with 16 stolen bases.
The most head-scratching part of the season so far for the Braves -- who, let's face it, are awfully lucky to be sitting at .500 -- is the slow start for first baseman Mark Teixeira (.247, five homers, 21 RBIs). Chipper Jones is certainly doing his part in that supposedly awesome switch-hitting tandem. Tex is going to have to do his.
We've been awfully hard on the Jays here in the PRs, but the truth is, hanging around .500 with all they've been through -- shortstops going down in pairs, Vernon Wells out with a broken wrist, a lineup that now includes an outfielder (Brad Wilkerson) that the sad Mariners couldn't use -- is somehow strangely heroic in its own right.
After the blow-up doll fiasco -- those were the days, eh? -- Ozzie Guillen blew up his lineup, including moving Carlos Quentin to No. 3, and Jermaine Dye to cleanup. They beat the Angels twice. That lineup may be the only thing on this team that's stable.
Good day, bad day. Ryan Braun signs an eight-year contract worth $45 million, which amounts to a steal for the club and a nice nest-egg for Braun. Later, Ben Sheets gives up six hits and six runs in one inning to the Dodgers. "I would say that's probably my worst inning ever" he said. Some day, things will go as well on the field as off of it.
I know all but a few K.C. diehards skip over the Royals in the PRs. But stop, one second, and remember this name: Joakim Soria. The K.C. closer has made 17 appearances this season without giving up a run. He's allowed four hits in 16 1/3 innings. He's had 18 strikeouts. One walk. The Cards would kill for this guy.
Hank's barking about wanting to be more like the Rays. If the seat of Brian Cashman's pants get any hotter, he's gonna earn his own MTV show. The lineup just hit .197 against Tampa Bay. Another week in paradise.
Don't look now but Pittsburgh is just a game under .500 after a nice 8-2 stretch. The Bucs have won their last three series, over San Fran, Atlanta and St. Louis. Next up: the No. 1 Cubs this weekend. Winning that will impress me.
After a couple of weeks at the bottom of the PRs, the Rangers have come alive. (No thanks necessary for providing the incentive.) In May, they are 10-4 with a 3.02 ERA and a .225 batting average against. Really. I double-checked.
In the first six games of the season, Nick Johnson hit .368. Since then, he's hit .189, and now he's out at least a month with a torn tendon in his right wrist. What's sadder than that? He's probably the best player on this team.
Ken Griffey Jr. told new GM Walt Jocketty, according to the Enquirer, that he wants to play in Cincy and win a championship there. Jocketty has had no trade discussions with anyone about Junior. Did I mention Griffey is hitting .250 with four homers?
GM Brian Sabean told the Chronicle the other day that, "we've got to be considered one of the most improved teams in baseball." This is prime material for a wisecrack. But I am speechless. How about you, Giants' fans?
I will admit that the Tigers had me fooled for a week or two. But they've lost three series in May, been swept by both the Twins and the Royals (again!) and are now 2-10 in their last 12. This could drive Jim Leyland into another retirement.
Interesting story in the Times the other day asking if the diverse M's, who have players from 10 different countries and territories, are suffering from a communications gap. The M's say no. Which leads us to conclude that they just stink.
Aaron Cook is getting no help from anyone on his team, and then Thursday night, he gets matched up against Mr. Perfect, Brandon Webb of the Diamondbacks. Even without staying up, we all knew how that one was going to turn out.
They struck out 15 times Wednesday. They struck out 14 times Thursday afternoon. This weekend, they're due to play the Mariners in Seattle. If the Padres missed their flight and ended up in Honolulu, would anyone be surprised?
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