By Ted Keith
August 27, 2009
MLB Power Rankings
11 San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 9
Ryan Spilborghs' game-winning grand slam Monday night beat the Giants in what may have been the best game of the season. It may also have been the Giants last-best chance to keep the red-hot Rockies in their sights. The Giants are now three games out in the NL wild card, and their already weak offense took another blow this week when they placed second baseman Freddy Sanchez on the disabled list with a bad shoulder. Sanchez joins, among others on the DL, lefty Randy Johnson, who will miss his own bobblehead night this Saturday because he's still recovering from a slightly torn rotator cuff. If not the Big Unit, the Giants need somebody in the rotation to take the load off Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. The Giants are 34-18 in games started by those two and 35-40 in all other games.
12 Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 13
The Braves won an important series with the Marlins and will get a big boost to their rotation once Tim Hudson returns from the disabled list (probably in early September), but they are not going to the postseason with Chipper Jones hitting like Mother Jones. Over the past 10 games, Chipper is batting .031 with one RBI and he hasn't had an extra base hit in two weeks. Somehow, the Braves have managed to go 7-6 in that stretch, and are still hanging around the periphery of the wild card race.
13 Florida Marlins
Last Week: 11
Their streak of getting at least 10 hits in every game finally came to an end at 15, and that was the beginning of a rough week for the Marlins, which included dropping two of three in an important series with the Braves in Atlanta, and losing newly acquired Nick Johnson to the disabled list. (Possible consolation prize to Marlins fans: a new Mermaids calendar at Sunday's game). This is an especially crucial stretch for the Marlins, who have only three games -- a rematch, four-game series with the Braves starting Monday -- against teams above .500 from now until mid-September, and 13 of 19 at home.
14 Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 15
It's usually a sign that the season is all but over when the announcement of your Arizona Fall League roster is causing more excitement than the major league team winding down a better-than-expected season. Of course, that's probably preferable to watching a team whose biggest storylines right now are injuries to your best player (a calf problem for Ichiro Suzuki), a player who thought his private parts had "exploded" and a legend winding down his career. On the other hand, that is a pretty impressive group of prospects they'll be sending to the desert at year's end.
15 Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 17
The Twins are not dead yet. They put together a season-high five-game winning streak -- albeit against the two worst teams in the American League in Kansas City and Baltimore -- to pull into a second-place tie with the White Sox in the AL Central. Even better, they just got slugging first baseman Justin Morneau back. Morneau had missed a week of action with dizziness (I'll ask it again: What is the deal with that this year?) and returns just in time: The Twins face a pair of difficult foes this week at home (Rangers and White Sox) before heading out on a very manageable two-week stretch against some of the bottom-feeders of the league, the Indians (two series), Blue Jays and A's.
16 Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 14
The White Sox have certainly faced their share of obstacles this season: a slow start, injuries to key players like Carlos Quentin and now, a 20-game stretch with no days off. To the list of roadblocks, add Wes Timmons, a 30-year-old career minor leaguer who hit a line drive off the elbow of Jake Peavy during Peavy's most recent rehab start, which could delay the former Cy Young winner's return to the majors. Even the White Sox themselves don't quite know what to make of their team. A week ago, both general manager Kenny Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen were labeling the club underachievers, and this week, Guillen said, "If we started Opening Day with this ballclub we'd be five to 10 games up." Considering his team has been the very definition of mediocre all year long, that seems far from likely.
17 Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 16
The sale of the Cubs was finalized last Friday in what may have been the highlight of the year in a season that never lived up to its vast promise. There were certainly no other highlights to speak of this past week, as the Cubs dropped four of five, fell a season-high nine games out of first and had to deal with more drama from two of their highest-paid and most under-performing players. First, Milton Bradley continued to show that his free agent contract was the worst multi-year deal of last winter, claiming he "face[s] hatred on a daily basis" further alienating the Cubs fans who have given him a hard time for his struggles this year. Then, pitcher Carlos Zambrano, who had admitted he was lazy about staying in shape, returned from the DL and gave up eight earned runs against the team with the worst record in baseball. I keep thinking this team has the talent to turn their season around. They keep demonstrating that it's never going to happen.
18 Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 19
Their playoff hopes are all but gone, one of their most productive players -- recently acquired infielder Felipe Lopez -- just got hurt and general manager Doug Melvin is having to deflect inquiries about whether or not a firesale will take place before the Aug. 31 trading deadline. Melvin has said he has no plans to deal some of the club's top veterans who might bring something, anything, in return, such as Trevor Hoffman and Jason Kendall. So now the questions become: What kind of moves will the Brewers make for next season? Will Rickie Weeks be moved to centerfield? Will they be able to find a reliable starter to pair with Yovani Gallardo? And what will all this losing do for Ryan Braun's clothing line?
19 Houston Astros
Last Week: 18
The Astros may be getting some All-Star help for the stretch drive in the form of Aaron Boone and Armando Benitez. Of course, neither has been an All Star for quite some time, neither has played in the major leagues all season and neither can do anything to change the floundering fortunes of the 'Stros, who keep sliding further and further back in the NL Central. But at least Houston will have two more guys for devoted fans like The Little Pumas to recognize. Of the two, Boone's story is at least inspiring, as he is returning from heart surgery this spring. Benitez, on the other hand, is simply returning from pitching in Independent League ball. Not so inspiring.
20 Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 20
Roy Halladay remains in Toronto, but he has not resembled the pitcher he was before the deadline, when it looked like he would cruise to another AL Cy Young award. In six starts since the passing of the Blue Jays self-imposed trading deadline for him in late July, Halladay has gone 2-4 with a 4.40 ERA, allowing 58 hits in 43 innings pitched. His struggles may be attributable to a groin injury he endured in June, or possibly a lack of location (although his K/BB ratio is 9/1 over those same six starts). He's even been deemed to be no longer a factor in the AL Cy Young race, though it seems a little premature to make that call. That's not to say that his recent struggles mean teams no longer want him, or wouldn't take him now if they still could. One GM said despite Halladay's uneven performance of late, he'd still take him in a heartbeat.
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