By Gennaro Filice
June 20, 2008
MLB Power Rankings
1 Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 1
In these eyes, Boston has cemented itself as the MLB's top dog. But do the Red Sox really have five players worthy of starting in the All-Star Game? That's the report from the latest voting update. While Kevin Youkilis and Manny Ramirez merit starter consideration, Jason Varitek (Joe Mauer or Dioner Navarro), Dustin Pedroia (Ian Kinsler) and David Ortiz (Milton Bradley) all have far more deserving players at their respective positions. Unfortunately, this is just a big popularity contest, and somehow the Red Sox Nation overpowers the American nation.
2 Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 5
The most overlooked aspect of Tampa Bay has to be its stellar defense. The Rays may be young, but they've committed the fewest errors in baseball (30 in 72 games). And this harbinger of efficiency only tells half the story. The Rays boast freakish athletes all over the field, giving them the ability to make plays most other teams can't. They legitimately win games with their defense. Case in point: The final play of Tuesday night's win over Chicago. Rookie 3B Evan Longoria was completely caught off guard when Reed Johnson tried to bunt in the tying run with two outs, but Longoria charged hard, bare-handed the ball and delivered a one-hop toss to Willy Aybar, who miraculously held onto the ball as Johnson ran into him. Game over.
3 Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 2
There is no joy in Wrigleyville. The entire north side of Chicago has been struck with a paralyzing fear. And the one man who can relieve the tension is Dr. Stephen Gryzlo. On Friday, Doc Gryz will oversee an MR arthrogram (a more detailed test than the MRI) on Carlos Zambrano's right shoulder and the Cubs' World Series hopes hang in the balance. Zambrano is the one player Chicago can least afford to lose. The team has already announced that Zambrano will miss his next start, but Cubbies fans will dance on Waveland Avenue if a few extra days rest is all he needs. Zambrano's uncertainty at the time of publication pushes the North Siders down a slot. (Getting swept by the Rays didn't help, either.)
4 Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 3
The universe's order has been restored -- Vladimir Guerrero's tearing the cover off the ball once again. After a slow start, Big Daddy Vladdy has a .417 batting average in June and a 10-game hitting streak to boot. But he still has some catching up to do if he wants to tie Lou Gehrig's MLB record of 11 straight seasons with a .300 average and 25 home runs.
5 Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 4
Chase Utley is mired in an 0-for-20 slump, the longest hitless streak of his career. Not surprisingly, the Phillies have lost four of five. Does this somehow boost Utley's MVP candidacy?
6 Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 8
Arizona is 15-19 on the road and 19-26 against teams outside of the NL West. Both deficiencies will be in play as the D'backs begin a grueling, nine-game road trip that includes the Twins, Red Sox and Marlins. A realistic goal: five Ws.
7 Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 6
I imagine Billy Beane wishes he had traded Joe Blanton in the offseason. The A's Opening Day starter suffered his 10th loss Wednesday. As Blanton's ERA rises with each passing month (3.98, 4.54, 7.56), his stock comes crashing down.
8 Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 9
I love the Cuban Missile. Alexei Ramirez, that is. (Don't want the Power Rankings to raise the terror threat level ...) Chicago's rookie second baseman -- dubbed "The Cuban Missile" by manager Ozzie Guillen -- adds some much-needed oomph to the ChiSox's lineup. The wiry 26-year-old is hitting .390 in June with 14 RBIs.
9 New York Yankees
Last Week: 12
The hottest team in baseball has won seven in a row and gone 20-9 since Alex Rodriguez returned from the DL. Of course thanks to Chien-Ming Wang's sub par motor skills, the Yankees are left with a huge hole at the front of their rotation. Signing Sir Sidney Ponson just reeks of desperation, but the Yanks will likely make a more significant move down the line. In the mean time, Andy Pettitte's back on his game. In his last two outings, Pettitte has given up one run over 15 innings and posted a 15-to-1 strikeout-to-walk rate.
10 Florida Marlins
Last Week: 10
Josh Johnson just had his third rehab start for Class A Jupiter and was consistently throwing in the mid-90s. Marlins president Larry Beinfest told that Johnson could potentially rejoin the big club by the All-Star break. It's only been 10 months since Johnson's Tommy John surgery, so it's hard to get too excited. But if Johnson were to return to his rookie form of 2006, this would be quite a boost for Florida in the second half.
11 Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 11
Bill Hall publicly stated his displeasure about sharing third base with Russell Branyan, but I think the Brewers are pretty happy with the arrangement. Branyan, a left-handed hitter who starts against righties, has homered in each of the last three games, through Thursday. That gives him 10 jacks in just 20 games. Not to mention his gargantuan 1.488 OPS vs. right-handed pitching. Also, Hall's hitting .361 against lefties. Sorry Billy Boy, but the numbers don't lie.
12 St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 7
The jaw-dropping moment of the week came when I finally looked at the projected season stats Ryan Ludwick is on pace to produce: .305, 37 HR, 128 RBI, 105 R. This is a journeyman who set career highs with 14 homers and 52 RBI last year. There's no way he'll sustain this pace while Albert Pujols is on the DL, but his current numbers are impressive nonetheless.
13 Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 18
Is Joe Mauer gearing up to win another batting title? Mauer, who became the first catcher ever to win the American League batting title by hitting .347 in 2006, finds himself tied atop the AL list with Alex Rodriguez at .335. That injury-plagued 2007 campaign (in which he hit .293) already seems like a distant memory.
14 Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 16
Young reliever Jim Johnson's got a ways to go with his command, but this flamethrower is fun to watch. His .163 batting average against says it all.
15 Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 23
Yup, this season's biggest disappointment is scraping its way back into the picture. The Tigers have won 10 of 12, thanks in large part to their newfound ace: Armando Galarraga. Galarraga is 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA during Detroit's hot streak. On the season, the Tigers hold a 9-2 mark in games started by Galarraga, a player they acquired in a minor offseason trade with Texas. Galarraga's .184 batting average against is better than any pitcher with at least seven starts. Think about that for a second.
16 Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 14
The Braves set a new major league record Thursday with their 22nd-straight one-run loss on the road. Atlanta hasn't prevailed in a one-run game away from home since it beat the Mets on Aug. 9 of last season. "I really don't concern myself with that record stuff," Bobby Cox told "I concern myself with all the losses we've had in close [games]. But there's a bright side to that."
There is? Are you talkin' sadism, Bobbo?
17 Texas Rangers
Last Week: 15
After suffering a loss on Wednesday, Rangers closer C.J. Wilson decided he'd had enough of his signature free-flowing locks and opted for a Mohawk. Unfortunately, the new 'do didn't change Wilson's fortunes on the hill -- he was unable to convert a save opportunity Thursday. Luckily, clean-cut Michael Young bailed Wilson out with a game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth.
18 New York Mets
Last Week: 19
The Jerry Manuel regime in New York already has a theme: gangster. Manuel got into a tiff with Jose Reyes in his very first night on the job. When Reyes' hamstring tightened up in the first inning Tuesday, Manuel told him to call it a night, but Reyes didn't want to leave the game. Eventually the shortstop relented, but not before a helmet-tossing hissy fit. After the game, Manuel dropped some knowledge on the New York Daily News: "I told him the next time he does that I'm going to get my blade out and cut him. I'm a gangster. You go gangster on me, I'm going to have to get you. You do that again, I'm going to cut you right on the field." Manuel must have shown him the knife before Wednesday's game. On a routine popup to shortstop, Reyes sprinted out of the box and almost made it to second base before the ball was caught.
19 Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 13
Conspiracy theorists unite! Roy Halladay's home start last Saturday featured a curious incident in the second inning. With two outs, Cubs shortstop Ronny Cedeno hit a shot up the middle. Jays shortstop David Eckstein left his feet, but booted the ball, allowing Chicago's first run to score. (The play can be seen 33 seconds into this highlight reel.) Toronto's official scorer, Doug Hobbs, originally ruled the play a hit. But after Reed Johnson immediately followed the play with a three-run homer, Hobbs went back and changed it to an error. This made all four runs unearned, keeping Halladay's ERA at 3.09 at day's end. "I know that scorekeepers try to be a little influential on their own players, but that's a base hit," Lou Piniella told the Chicago Tribune.
20 Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 17
Did anyone notice that Grady Sizemore suddenly has 17 homers? Cleveland's leadoff man also has 17 swipes. That puts him on a 39-39 pace. Just thought everyone would like to know.
21 Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 26
Takashi Saito sure doesn't seem like an overpowering closer. His teammates affectionately call him "Sammy," his heater runs in the low-90s and his laid-back demeanor shines through in his love for karaoke and sword-wielding intro. But don't let this stuff fool you -- Saito's devastating in the ninth inning. Thanks to pinpoint control and a filthy slider, the Dodgers' closer has a 41-to-8 strikeout-to-walk rate. Of the 18 outs Saito's recorded in June, 14 have come by way of the punchout.
22 Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 27
"Guess who just got back today?
Them wild-eyed boys that had been away ?"

Yup, it's Thin Lizzy time here at the Power Rankings. With Matt Holliday and Brad Hawpe back from the DL, the Rockies have won five of six. And inspirational leader Troy Tulowitzki is due back this weekend. So c'mon Rockies faithful -- sing it with me now:
"The boys are back in town! The boys are back in town!"
23 Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 28
Maybe the lowly Royals are just playing in the wrong league. Kansas City's tied for the best interleague play record in baseball at 7-2. And it's a quality 7-2, including a sweep of St. Louis and series wins over Arizona and Florida.
24 San Diego Padres
Last Week: 21
Greg Maddux is really basking in the glory of his 350th win. It took Maddux five tries to reach the milestone, and now he's stuck on the monumental number, going winless in his last seven outings. Maddux remains four wins shy of Roger Clemens.
25 Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 22
Pittsburgh has the worst pitching staff in baseball with an MLB-high 5.14 ERA. The Buccos' ineptitude was on full display this week against the White Sox. Chicago scored 37 runs and hit .404 during the three-game sweep.
26 San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 24
Where would the Giants be without Tim Lincecum? Probably at the very bottom of this page. San Francisco's 11-4 with Tiny Tim on the hill this season and 20-38 without him. Lincecum puts the Giants in a position to win every single start. In Monday's victory, Lincecum allowed four earned runs over seven innings, breaking a 19-game quality-start streak that dated back to Aug. 16 of last season.
27 Houston Astros
Last Week: 20
Losers of eight straight ballgames, the Astros are in dire need of some positive energy. But now is reporting that Houston will be spending this weekend in a haunted hotel. No joke. "I know of three or four ballplayers that won't stay [at the Vinoy]," Roy Oswalt told "Things have happened before to them and they say there's no chance they're going back."
28 Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 25
During J.P. Ricciardi's weekly radio appearance, a Blue Jays fan asked the Toronto GM about acquiring Adam Dunn. As you can hear in this audio snippet, Ricciardi trashed the Reds outfielder, saying he "strikes out a ton" and "doesn't really like baseball that much." Dunn shot back, calling Ricciardi a "clown" and claiming, "He doesn't even know me." Ricciardi later apologized, but it's hard to believe such comments will be forgiven.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention: Cincy starts a three-game set in Toronto on Tuesday. The scheduling gods are truly smiling down on us today.
29 Washington Nationals
Last Week: 29
All you really need to know about the Nats these days is that their most feared bat is Christian Guzman. Yes, the career .267 hitter.
30 Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 30
With the Mariners well on their way to becoming the first $100 million team ($117,666,482 on opening day) to lose 100 games, heads are rolling like the French Revolution. Two weeks ago, the Mariners fired hitting coach Jeff Pentland. General manager Bill Bavasi was canned on Monday and replaced with interim GM Lee Pelekoudas. In his third full day on the job, Pelekoudas exterminated manager John McLaren. Who's next on the chopping block? Seattle Times readers are begging for it to be Richie Sexson.

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