Dodgers jump up to No. 1, while Boston reenters the top 10

Thursday April 23rd, 2009

Another week, another new team atop the Power Rankings. The Marlins finally cooled off and a familiar team is back in the top 10 this week.

MLB Power Rankings
1 Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 7
After 60 years behind the microphone calling Dodgers games, Vin Scully was finally inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame on Tuesday, which begs the question: How was he not inducted already? Given that Scully was named Sportscaster of the 20th Century nine years ago, I'd say this honor is just a smidge overdue. Heck, he probably deserved it back when this story was written about him.
2 Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 1
If Cubs fans are looking for any omens that this might be their year, Tuesday night offered plenty of evidence. Two of the most traumatizing events in Cubs history were re-enacted during their game against the Reds, but neither Bartman Part II nor a not-so-friendly feline could keep the Cubs from winning 9-7. We assume the fan that got in the way of a foul pop down the left-field line is doing fine, and so was the cat that scampered onto the field in the fourth inning, although he did manage to bite several Cubs employees before he was taken to a local shelter.
3 Florida Marlins
Last Week: 2
If these rankings were done on Monday, the Marlins would have been the only choice for the top spot, but a three-game sweep in Pittsburgh is raising concerns that their 11-1 start was a fluke. A bigger concern might be Ricky Nolasco, who is 1-3 with a 6.86 ERA and said his performance against the Pirates was "embarrassing" and "not acceptable."
4 Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 5
Home plate umpire Kerwin Danley suffered a frightening moment Tuesday night in Toronto when the barrel of Ranger Hank Blalock's bat snapped off and hit him in the facemask. Danley had a brief hospital stay and appears to be fine. He can thank his hockey-style mask for protecting him, and for that, he should probably thank former Jays catcher Charlie O'Brien, who pioneered the look during his 15-year career.
5 Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 14
Told you not to worry. The Red Sox have followed their 2-6 start with seven straight wins to get back in contention in the AL East. Their winning streak comes at a perfect time, as the team is launching a series of commercials designed to help boost ticket sales and retain corporate sponsors.
6 St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 3
The All-Star Game will be in St. Louis this year, and it was announced this week that for the first time fans will have a say in who will participate in the Home Run Derby. Except the players they vote for are not guaranteed to appear in the Derby and are not forced to participate either. So really, the fans have no say whatsoever. Great change, MLB! Besides, as long as Albert Pujols is there, will the fans care about who else shows up?
7 Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 8
For all the love surrounding Ken Griffey Jr.'s return to Seattle, at some point he is going to have to start hitting like his old self if he wants to stay in the lineup. Through Tuesday he had just two RBIs, both coming on solo home runs, and was batting .184. Perhaps manager Don Wakamatsu just doesn't want to be fined by the team's kangaroo court, over which Judge Junior, or as he dubbed himself, Judge Mo' Money, presides.
8 New York Yankees
Last Week: 9
Maybe it's because everything else is so expensive in their new ballpark, but the Yankees seem awfully intent on giving away souvenir baseballs this year. There have already been 26 home runs at the new Yankee Stadium, a record for the first six games in a new ballpark. Among the beneficiaries has been Derek Jeter, who has already hit two home runs in the Bronx, something that took him until July 21 to do last season.
9 San Diego Padres
Last Week: 15
With a 0.00 ERA and a perfect 7-for-7 in save opportunities, Heath Bell is doing quite the Trevor Hoffman impersonation on the mound, even if off he's already drawn more controversy in three weeks as closer than his predecessor did in 15 years. Bell told the San Diego Union-Tribune, "I truly believe ESPN only cares about promoting the Red Sox and Yankees and Mets and nobody else." If history's taught us anything it's that the best way to get more coverage on ESPN is to complain about not getting enough coverage on ESPN. Right, NHL fans?
10 Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 24
The Pirates are off to their best start in seven years, and even if that one finished in predictably disappointing fashion (72-89), some players already think this year's club is different. "I feel like we took advantage of every mistake they made," said Adam LaRoche, whose four-hit day highlighted Wednesday's win over Florida. "I think that proves that we're a pretty good team and that it's not just a fluke. You come in and play the best team in baseball and sweep them -- that's saying something." They can say even more by taking advantage of a favorable schedule over the next couple weeks that starts with a road trip to San Diego and Milwaukee.
11 Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 17
The White Sox are a long way from winning the World Series, but they already got one of the rewards of a championship season: a visit to the White House. Several players visited noted Sox fan and President Barack Obama on Monday after taking three of four from the Rays in Tampa. Looks like a couple of the guys decided to take a casual approach to their visit to meet the Commander-in-Chief. Note to White Sox: if you go back in the fall, try to dress like you did the last time you won a World Series.
12 Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 16
Miguel Cabrera is off to a blazing start, batting .451 with a .500 on-base percentage and .725 slugging percentage, so naturally there were rumors that he was about to be traded. GM Dave Dombrowski told the Detroit News that any such speculation is "completely absurd" and added "There's nothing that can happen this year that would make us think about trading Miguel Cabrera." So that's a no, then?
13 Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 19
Joakim Soria got an unexpected eight-day vacation when he didn't pitch in six straight games before closing out a 2-0 win over the Indians on Wednesday. Manager Trey Hillman had said he would be willing to go to Soria in the eighth inning this season, but that hasn't happened yet. He has made five appearances and pitched exactly five innings.
14 Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 4
Losing two of three to the Nationals -- it was very nearly three-of-three but for a 1-0, ninth-inning win on Wednesday -- is a sure ticket for a slide down the rankings. Meanwhile, catcher Brian McCann may have found a way to fix his .189 batting average: new contact lenses to help fix the blurred vision in his left eye that had been affecting him all season.
15 New York Mets
Last Week: 11
Daniel Murphy played just four games in left field in the minor leagues, which might offer some explanation as to why he's turning every fly ball hit his way into an adventure that has too often been a misadventure for the Mets. Murphy cost the Mets a game for the second time this year with a crucial defensive miscue, and manager Jerry Manuel said later "I'm a little concerned." Change "a little concerned" to "&$^@-ing furious" and you probably have a good approximation of how Mets fans feel about it.
16 Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 21
Scott Baker has given up seven home runs in eight innings pitched this season, but this is not exactly a new problem for him. He gave up 17 in 16 games in 2007 and 20 in 28 games in 2008.
17 Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 23
Reds outfielder Chris Dickerson is a co-founder of the environmental website, and he's quoted on the site's homepage saying, "This isn't the result of an overnight epiphany of self guilt as to where I am in my life and what good I have done for the world as of late, but I feel like this should be a general concern for all of us. If I can help kickstart this movement on a small scale, I am optimistic that these concerns can be turned into everyday public action." Dickerson put his money where his mouth was by ordering a special green glove to wear on Earth Day on Wednesday. He didn't get much use out of it, only playing one inning in the Reds' 3-0 win.
18 Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 10
Jimmy Rollins is batting just .173, his lowest average since he was at .169 following a similarly wretched start in 2004. Phillies fans should take note that Rollins snapped out of that funk and hit .302 the rest of the season.
19 Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 6
Lots of managers tell their players to try harder. Rays skipper Joe Maddon gave his club some patently maverick advice this week to break them out of their slump by telling them to "try easier," as Evan Longoria told the Tampa Tribune. It didn't work. The Rays then went out that night and lost for the sixth time in their last seven games.
20 Texas Rangers
Last Week: 18
Anyone thinking this Rangers team might be able to flip its all-offense-no-pitching script from seasons past didn't take long to get an answer. The club ranks first in the American League in home runs and slugging percentage and 11th in ERA with a ghastly 6.18 and 12th in strikeouts per nine innings (6.34).
21 Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 20
Josh Outman of the A's has been drawing some attention lately for his old school style. The Yankees broadcasters were particularly taken with his stirrups-over-socks look during Wednesday's 14-inning marathon in the Bronx. Outman's reason -- a nod to Barry Zito -- is almost as interesting as his fashion sense. "He was one of my favorite pitchers growing up and I liked the way he wore his socks," the 24-year-old Outman told of the 30-year-old Giants pitcher.
22 Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 26
The Indians demolished the Yankees twice in the debut series at the new Yankee Stadium, including a 22-4 blowout on Saturday, but that wasn't even the worst Bronx beatdown the Tribe has administered in recent years. On August 31, 2004 they blanked the Yanks 22-0. The only two Indians to play in both games, Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner, were a big part of both blowouts. They went a combined 4-for-8 with two home runs, six RBIs and five runs scored in '04 and 5-for-13 with five RBIs, four runs scored an a home run in '09.
23 Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 13
The Orioles' pitching has been abysmal, allowing 110 runs (91 of them earned) in their first 15 games, an average of over seven per game. The next wave of Orioles pitchers has already arrived: Rookie Brad Bergesen made his major league debut against the White Sox, allowing just three runs (one earned) in 5.2 innings to get the win on Tuesday night.
24 Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 12
The last Angels team that started 5-8 went on to win the franchise's first and only World Series title. This year's version will need to get some stability in its pitching rotation for a repeat performance, and the news that Kelvim Escobar will have his return date pushed back isn't going to help. The pitching situation has become so desperate in fact that the Angels will be asking a 30-year-old minor leaguer with an 11.74 ERA this season and an 8.53 ERA in all of three career starts to take the mound for them on Thursday night (Matt Palmer).
25 Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 22
For the second time in his career, Manny Corpas is taking over in midseason from an All-Star closer. In 2007, he supplanted Brian Fuentes and helped take the Rockies to their first-ever World Series. This year he got the promotion to replace Huston Street, who had been brought over from Oakland to close after Fuentes signed with the Angels as a free agent in the offseason. Street has been so, um, rocky, that he has been demoted all the way down to middle relief.
26 Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 27
It was 102 degrees in Arizona before their game with the Rockies on Tuesday. 102. In April. Seriously, that's just not right. I wonder what Chris Dickerson would have to say about that?
27 San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 28
Could Barry Zito be getting a personal catcher? The San Francisco Chronicle noted how much better Zito has been lately with Pablo Sandoval behind the plate rather than Bengie Molina. And that was before he pitched seven shutout innings in a no-decision on Wednesday. Molina was reportedly not happy about having to step aside during Zito's starts last year, but he made his presence felt Wednesday, driving in the winning run with a pinch-hit double in the 10th inning.
28 Houston Astros
Last Week: 29
It's never a good sign when the biggest news your team makes is about who is in the stands watching, rather than on the field playing. Roger Clemens attended Wednesday night's Astros game and, miraculously, did not announce he was unretiring. Instead he got to watch another way-past-his prime player, Ivan Rodriguez, deliver the game-winning hit.
29 Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 25
A big reason why the Brewers' offense has been so stagnant: entering Wednesday night's game against the Phillies, they had the two worst hitters in baseball in their lineup. J.J. Hardy's .125 batting average was officially the lowest because Jason Kendall (.118) didn't have enough at bats to qualify. Speaking of Kendall, you know you aren't hitting when you go 1-for-4 and your average jumps 14 points.
30 Washington Nationals
Last Week: 30
I know everyone's already repeatedly poked fun at it, but you can't feature two misspelled jerseys -- for three innings, on your two best-known players, no less -- and not have the incident immortalized in the PRs. Besides, that wasn't the first time this year that the Nats' 'O' has gone missing (hi-yo!). The club ranks 12th in HRs and slugging in the National League.
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