By Ted Keith
May 21, 2009

The Dodgers continue to dominate the National League and another strong week has them back on top of the Power Rankings. The Blue Jays have not fared well against their chief competition in the AL East, dropping four of five games in the past two weeks to the Yankees and Red Sox, yet still hold a slim lead in the division. Interleague play makes its season debut this week, which is sure to shuffle the rankings for next week.

MLB Power Rankings
1 Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 3
After dropping three of their first four games following Manny Ramirez's suspension, the Dodgers have now won seven of eight to reclaim the top spot in the rankings. They lead the National League in runs scored and the majors in fewest runs allowed. Mannywood, the promotion related to a certain dreadlocked, suspended left fielder, was a bust, but the Dodgers aren't giving up that easily at drawing new fans. This week they're debuting a radio broadcast aimed at increasing their female fan base. Part of the goal will be to instruct their listeners on things going on in the game that fans might take for granted. For instance, you do in fact have to touch all the bases to score a run, a small detail that helped the Dodgers sweep the Mets this week. Now you know, Ryan Church.
2 Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 1
"The one thing we have is pitching depth," says Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi. "The one thing we don't have is pitching experience." Case in point: The Jays have already used nine starting pitchers this season, but of the five members of their current rotation, two of them (Robert Ray and Brett Cecil) made their big league debuts this season and two others (Brian Tallet and Scott Richmond) had combined for 11 career starts entering the year. It doesn't hurt to have Roy Halladay get off to another Cy Young-worthy start, with an 8-1 record and 2.78 ERA.
3 Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 5
The hottest team in the National League has now won 21 of its past 27 games and surged into first place in the National League Central. The only way to cool off the Brewers may be to throw them into the new "splash zone" debuting at Miller Park on Monday. That will be the new landing spot at the bottom of the slide of beloved mascot Bernie Brewer after each Brewers home run. It's no beer mug, but it will have to do.
4 Texas Rangers
Last Week: 11
A since-broken seven-game winning streak powered the Rangers to the top of the AL West. The offense remains potent and the pitching has improved, but defense has been the biggest key for the Rangers' turnaround. After finishing dead last in the majors in defensive efficiency a year ago, Texas is second in the American League this year.
5 Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 2
The Sox took the first two games of their Fenway series against the first-place Blue Jays (and are now tied with the Jays in the loss column), got Kevin Youkilis and Daisuke Matsuzaka back from the disabled list and even got the first home run of the year from David Ortiz. Lost in all that was Jacoby Ellsbury tying a major league outfielder record with 12 putouts in a nine-inning game on Wednesday night, causing Red Sox manager Terry Francona to joke, "It's a good thing he got his stretching in."
6 New York Yankees
Last Week: 16
After Johnny Damon beat the Twins on Sunday with a walk-off home run in extra innings, he reclaimed the fake championship belt that had originally been given to him by teammate A.J. Burnett and that is passed around the clubhouse to the MVP of each Yankees win. At the time, Alex Rodriguez said, "He owns it. I hope I get it back this week sometime." No problem there. A-Rod has been the Yankees' hottest hitter, homering in four straight games to fuel an eight-game winning streak that has the given the Yanks the look of a genuine title contender for the first time this season.
7 Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 10
Phillies starters have the worst ERA (6.24) in the major leagues and closer Brad Lidge has a 7.85 ERA, yet somehow they remain in first place. Getting to play the Nationals four straight times -- the Phillies swept the Nats over the weekend -- probably helps, but they can't keep pitching like this and contend for long. Can they?
8 Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 7
After almost a year-and-a-half, and after cashing in about a third of the $29 million contract he signed before the 2008 season, Dontrelle Willis finally got the first win of his Detroit Tigers career on Tuesday night. He pitched 6.1 innings, allowing one hit and no runs for his first win since September 25, 2007, when he beat the Cubs while still a member of the Florida Marlins. With Justin Verlander throwing bullets (five straight starts of at least eight K's), the Tigers' rotation suddenly looks like the hands-down choice for best in the AL Central.
9 St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 4
Chris Carpenter returned from the disabled list on Wednesday night and threw five shutout innings in a win over the Cubs. Carpenter has yet to allow a run this year in three starts and his return has helped restore some balance to a struggling Cardinals rotation that had earned just two wins in the past two weeks.
10 New York Mets
Last Week: 6
Not a good week for the Mets. They went 3-4 on a West Coast trip, including a sweep to the Dodgers. They lost a game in which they committed five errors and cost themselves a run when Ryan Church missed third base scoring what would have been the go-ahead run in extra innings. They put Carlos Delgado on the disabled list and he could be out for two-and-a-half months. But at least none of them got their arm caught in a toilet, like one of their fans did last week. While trying to retrieve a tooth. A gold tooth. That she didn't get back. Stay classy, Mets fans.
11 Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 9
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Rick Telander caused a minor stir in Cubs land this week by writing a column about Ryan Theriot's recent power surge (which we discussed in last week's rankings) entitled "Small Hitter, Big Problem." The story led with the line "Sorry Ryan Theriot, you're a suspect." Rick Telander, a former SI senior writer, went on to make the larger point that the very idea that a lightweight middle infielder like Theriot could be looked at as a potential steroid user "may be ludicrous. In fact, I'm pretty sure it is. But this is what baseball has wrought." Despite the fact that Telander didn't really think Theriot was on the juice, Theriot and the Cubs weren't too happy about the story. "Last time I checked, I was a professional athlete who has put up some decent numbers. A few homers here and there ... and remember, it's only a few. It's not like I have 30," Theriot told the Tribune.
12 Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 12
Joey Votto hasn't played since May 16 due to dizziness. Fortunately, the mysterious condition has been linked to an ear infection that should clear up in a few days with medication. Without Votto, who entered Wednesday night second in the National League in batting average (.366) and on-base percentage (.470) and fourth in OPS (1.059), the Reds have scored just nine runs in their past three games.
13 Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 8
I've never thought of the Kansas City media as being particularly vicious, but add Royals Hall of Famer George Brett to the (presumably short) list of people who do think so. Brett, in defending Royals manager Trey Hillman against the KC press, went off on an expletive-laced tirade about it this week. As Royals-related rants go, it's at best second behind former manager Hal McRae's memorable explosion from 1993, though. Next time, throw a phone, George. (Fun fact -- McRae was set off by a question about -- drum roll -- George Brett!).
14 Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 13
The Angels' turbulent season got a little stranger when John Lackey was ejected from his season debut after just two pitches and the Angels were swept by the first-place Rangers in Texas. If their fans have been in need of some levity, the blog Halos Heaven offers the perfect antidote with a mock comic strip made up for each game. Among the best so far are this one from Lackey's aborted debut last week and this one from last Friday's loss in Texas.
15 Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 19
The Braves needed a starting pitcher this week (and they're likely to need more than one if they are to keep pace with the Phillies and Mets in the NL East) and naturally went looking in Triple-A. It wasn't super prospect Tommy Hanson who got the call, though, despite the fact that he's got a 1.70 ERA, but rather the far-less heralded Kris Medlen, who is Hanson's roommate. Braves fans weren't the only ones to be surprised by the move. "Everyone thought he was going to be the first one going up to the majors as a starter, including me," Medlen told the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
16 Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 14
Joe Maddon, everyone's favorite baseball maverick, swears he didn't intentionally screw up his lineup so that Evan Longoria, who ranks in the top 10 of most major offensive categories in the American League, was forced to the bench and pitcher Andy Sonnanstine was forced to hit. But it seemed like such a maverick-y thing to do, especially when Sonnanstine -- a career .385 hitter -- laced an RBI double in Tampa Bay's 7-5 win. Maybe the Rays should screw up like this more often.
17 Florida Marlins
Last Week: 15
Dan Uggla, an All-Star in 2008, has been anything but in 2009, and he may soon be out of the starting lineup and perhaps even out of Florida. His .192 average is the worst in baseball among second baseman and his 32 strikeouts are second worst at the position. With potential replacements like Emilio Bonifacio already in Florida, Uggla could be a candidate to be moved at the trade deadline, but how many teams are going to be lining up for a sub-.200 hitter?
18 San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 17
Your weekly reminder about the Giants' inept offense: they are the only team in baseball without a home run from their first baseman, have yet to get a longball from their second baseman and have only one from a left fielder all season.
19 Houston Astros
Last Week: 22
Only one Astros starter has a winning record, and only one has an ERA below 4.50. Roy Oswalt? No, Wandy Rodriguez, who beat the Brewers on Wednesday to improve to 5-2 and lower his ERA to 1.87, second best in the National League behind only Johan Santana. The key to Rodriguez's turnaround has been another Rodriguez -- Astros catcher Pudge, who has forced Wandy to rely more on his changeup than at any other point in his often-checkered career.
20 Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 18
Sure, it's loud, it's crowded, sometimes it smells like maple syrup , and sometimes the government decides to send the president's plane joyriding between the skyscrapers, but New York is still the greatest city in the world. Millions of people look forward to visiting every year. Denard Span is not one of them. "We're ready to get out of here," said the Twins outfielder and Tampa native after the Twins got swept four straight by the Yankees. "Not just the park, the whole city. We came here last year, and they swept us. This year, this is probably the toughest four games I've had to go through in my whole career playing any level of baseball. I won't miss this place at all." No word yet on Span's feelings about Chicago, but given that the Twins followed their lost weekend in New York by dropping two straight in the Windy City to the White Sox, I'm going to assume he's not too fond of that place, either.
21 Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 20
Adrian Beltre has the worst on-base percentage (.277) in the American League. He has drawn only six walks and his power (only two home runs) has all but vanished. So naturally it was time for Beltre to vacate the cleanup position. But the not-so-natural solution that Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu came up with was to get Beltre more at-bats by moving him to the No. 2 spot. Wakamatsu explained that he hopes the move will get Beltre to swing at better pitches, but I'm not so sure he should be swinging at any pitches right now.
22 Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 21
The once-fearsome White Sox lineup has become a pale (hose) imitation of its former self. The Sox rank 14th (last) in the AL in runs scored, next-to-last in hits and batting average and 12th in on-base percentage and slugging percentage. They've been especially bad at home, where their .222 batting average ranks last in the American League.
23 Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 29
What is it with guys from Pittsburgh ditching the White House tours? First Steelers linebacker James Harrison said he would skip the Super Bowl champs' visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and when the Pirates took a tour of the Executive Mansion this week, manager John Russell skipped out. If I was Russell, I would have taken my chance to see it while I could. It's not like they'll be going back as champions anytime soon. Besides, not every city the Pirates go to is worth touring around. Right, Donnie Veal? "Some cities have a lot more going than others," the reliever told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "For example, Milwaukee vs. Washington D.C. or New York." Granted, there's not much reason for Veal or any Pirate to like going to Milwaukee, since the Pirates haven't beaten the Brewers in their last 17 tries, but I still expect a Milwaukee fan meltdown in 3, 2, 1 ...
24 Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 23
Gregg Zaun's days as the starting catcher in Baltimore could be ending very soon. Zaun, who is batting .194/.295/.286 with only one home run and three RBIs, was the temporary replacement for super prospect Matt Wieters anyway, but Wieters may be making his way to Baltimore in just a couple more weeks. Wieters is batting .282/.370/.479 in Triple-A.
25 San Diego Padres
Last Week: 25
The Padres have not won a road game all month and have fallen 10 games out in the NL West. General manager Kevin Towers is not happy, as he expressed in a rant to the San Diego Union Tribune. "I'm not disappointed; I'm embarrassed," he said. "It's not disgusting; it's embarrassing. I know what the external expectations were when we cut payroll. But I can't see how a group of young guys playing with heart and tons of fight at the beginning of the year don't even look like the same group the last three weeks. At first I saw some fight in guys. Even when we lost a ballgame, I saw battle. But, other than Adrian (Gonzalez) and Heath (Bell), there haven't been many positives. I can't believe they even pitch to Adrian." If it helps, Kevin, no one else can believe it, either.
26 Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 24
The backlash against the hiring of A.J. Hinch as manager continued this week with Bryan Price, who was the pitching coach in Arizona until former manager Bob Melvin was let go on May 8, told the Marin Independent Journal that the hiring of Hinch was "a poor decision ... He doesn't have any credibility between the lines as a manager." Hinch shrugged off the criticism, but his players have yet to make him look very good, winning just three of their first 10 games under their new field boss.
27 Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 26
Todd Helton recorded the 2,000th hit of his career on Tuesday with a single against the Braves. His teammates commemorated the occasion by providing him an engraved hunting rifle and giving him a standing ovation when he entered the visiting clubhouse in Atlanta after the game. There was also some champagne provided, which is surely the last time we'll see champagne in the Rockies clubhouse this season.
28 Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 27
Is this the end for Eric Chavez? The news that his bad back is worse than previously feared (he has a herniated disc) led to speculation that the 31-year-old perennial Gold Glove third baseman will retire. Chavez brushed off such speculation, telling the Oakland Tribune "There's no more risk [playing baseball] than me driving in my car or picking up my son. [My doctor] said, 'You could sneeze and blow out your back and need surgery, or you could play and be fine.' I don't think the risk is in playing baseball." Chavez, whose $66 million contract goes through 2010 with a club option for 2011, has had just 31 at-bats this season, batting .100.
29 Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 28
Victor Martinez leads the majors with a .400 batting average, but it's probably not time for anyone to start making comparisons to Ted Williams just yet. Speaking of Williams, have you actually looked at his game-by-game numbers from that season recently? Teddy Ballgame went over the .400 mark on May 25, and aside from a 12-game stretch in July and the next-to-last day of the season, stayed there the rest of the season.
30 Washington Nationals
Last Week: 30
I would love to be able to move the Nationals out of the last spot at some point this season, but at this point I'm closer to ranking them 31st than 29th. Seven straight losses and 10 of 11 have buried them 10.5 games out in the National League East. Then came a real scare: news that San Diego State right-hander Stephen Strasburg, also known as the certain No. 1 pick by the Nationals in next month's draft, had to leave a game on Wednesday with an injury. The injury is not serious, but neither, it appears, are the Nats' chances of moving out of the basement this year.
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