By Ted Keith
September 17, 2009
MLB Power Rankings
11 Florida Marlins
Last Week: 11
If there were more Marlins fans out there (they rank last in the National League and next-to-last in the majors in attendance), I would imagine that this most recent week of frustration would be enough to drive even more of them away from Land Shark Stadium. First, they dropped a series at home to the Nationals, the worst team in the league, only to turn around and win a series on the road against the Cardinals, the best team in the league. It's like a case of stolen identity, which Kiko Calero can totally relate to. Such inconsistency has been a problem for the Marlins all year, as evidenced by their losing record against doormats like the Pirates and Diamondbacks. This week offers another challenge: four on the road with the Reds and then a three-game homestand -- including a doubleheader -- with the Phillies.
12 Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 12
There was some bad news for the Twins: Justin Morneau and Joe Crede are out for the year, they lost a home series to the A's, and that is absolutely, unequivocally not Harmon Killebrew on the MLB logo, says designer Jerry Dior, who is being honored by MLB this week for creating the look. But there was some good news, too: The Twins swept the Indians to move within striking distance of the Tigers in the AL Central, and a sweep of those same Tigers this weekend would make things extremely interesting heading into the final two weeks of the season. Also, Michael Cuddyer replaced Morneau at first base and started hitting like the former MVP, going 8-for-16 with two home runs and eight RBIs in the past four games, all Twins victories. The Twins have now gone 18-10 since August 18, the third-best record in baseball over that period.
13 Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 15
Overshadowing their six-game winning streak that has kept them on the fringes of the NL playoff chase was the news that the two biggest mainstays in Atlanta -- Chipper Jones and manager Bobby Cox -- are both contemplating their exit strategies. Jones says he might retire after the 2010 season if he struggles the same way he has this year and Cox was noncommittal about returning for a 26th season as Braves manager next spring. It would be almost impossible to imagine the Braves without either of those guys, much less both. If and when they do leave, let's just hope it gets handled a little better than recent departures of two other Braves legends in the very recent past. In the meantime, the Braves aren't done with 2009 yet, creeping within five games of the wild card-leading Rockies with a very manageable schedule the rest of the way.
14 Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 14
First billy goats, then black cats, then Bartman -- and now babies. This can't be good for the Cubs, right? (Also not sure how good that is for that kid, but hey, to each his own.) The name is once again appropriate now that the Cubs have already begun focusing on 2010. Here's what we know so far: Alfonso Soriano will not bad leadoff ("No, no, no, that's over with," said Lou Piniella). And Carlos Marmol will be the closer. Seems like that pretty much takes care of most of what Cubs fans have been complaining about all year. I'm sure they'll come up with something, though (Milton Bradley, I'm looking at you). There actually hasn't been much to complain about lately, as they've won seven of nine. Here's something else that's not worth complaining about, and I mean pretty much ever: Derrek Lee, the underrated bit of awesome that just keeps on producing year after year. This season, Lee is now up to .307/.391/.583 with 33 home runs and 102 RBIs and a 148 OPS+ that is the second-best of his career.
15 Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 16
In some ways, Ken Griffey Jr. has not changed at all. He is still the same fun-loving guy he was back when he came to the majors and was known as The Kid. In other ways, he is different, having lost just enough bat speed to turn what were once home runs into long fly outs. But Griffey is showing a little bit of both as the year (and possibly his career) winds down. He commandeered the baseball Ichiro used to set a major league record with nine consecutive 200-hit seasons so he could, in Ichiro's words, "write silly things on it." He led the postgame beer shower to celebrate Ichiro's accomplishment, and he temporarily jumped into the right-handed batter's box as a joke when White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen made a move to bring in a lefty. He also showed some rare pop at the plate last week with a home run and three doubles for a .688 slugging percentage and 1.040 OPS.
16 Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 13
An 11-game losing streak -- the longest of the year in the majors -- eliminated the defending AL champions and made the rest of the Rays season irrelevant. But all is not lost, Rays fans. On September 19, for instance, you can still get a Matt Garza figurine -- not a bobblehead -- and see the "Pavarotti of salsa music" on the same night. More importantly, you can watch Wade Davis' continued progression in his first full month in the big leagues, or try and figure out what the Rays should do with top prospect Reid Brignac before next season, and whether he really deserves the nickname "The Cajun God of Baseball" (despite the first four-hit game of his career this week, I'm going to go ahead and say no, he doesn't.)
17 Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 17
The White Sox enter their final homestand of the season having discarded one former Cy Young winner in Bartolo Colon but added another in Jake Peavy, who will make his long-awaited debut for the ChiSox against the Royals on Saturday. It's doubtful Peavy could be any worse than Alex Rios, the other big name with a big contract that the White Sox added at midseason. Rios has batted just .140 with a .156 on-base percentage since he came to Chicago, and he hasn't been the only one struggling offensively. Jermaine Dye has been wretched in September, batting .088 with no extra-base hits and no RBIs before getting two hits on Wednesday. The upcoming nine-game homestand at U.S. Cellular Field, which includes three each with the Twins and Tigers, is the White Sox's last of the season. For some teams, that would be an opportunity to get back in the race. For the Sox, it's likely to be just another missed opportunity.
18 Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 18
Putting together a winning team in Milwaukee after they had endured 12 straight losing seasons is quite an achievement. So is building the Brewers into a playoff team for the first time in 26 years and making Miller Park one of the hottest tickets in baseball. I'm not sure where having his own bobblehead ranks on GM Doug Melvin's list of baseball accomplishments, but I'd say somewhere between trading for CC Sabathia and trading barbs with Ryan Braun. Nevertheless, Melvin's special night, which is this Sunday, comes in the midst of the last homestand of the year for his club, which will be far from special. There is no playoff spot on the line like there was a year ago, and no chance to even play spoiler. Fortunately, there's still a good chance Prince Fielder will do something worth watching, and I don't mean invent more cool home run celebrations. Prince is about to become the team's single-season RBI king.
19 Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 22
Now that it's mid-September, this is the homestretch for players trying to win critical last-minute votes for all the major awards, and the campaigning for Andrew Bailey as Rookie of the Year is heading into high gear. On Sunday, the A's are offering a ticket discount, T-shirts and cheer cards (cheer cards?) for fans in support of their righty reliever's candidacy. While it's a nice idea, it isn't likely to help Bailey much since the A's have the worst attendance numbers in baseball. Bailey does have a pretty strong case to make though. He was the only rookie named to the All-Star team this year, he has 24 saves, a 2.03 ERA and he hasn't blown a save in three months. Perhaps that performance, and an impressive road trip that included taking two of three in Minnesota and all three against the Rangers, will boost attendance when the A's get back to Oakland and the least-favorite stadium in the majors.
20 Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 20
Jays reliever Jason Frasor may have finally brought some stability to the back of the Blue Jays' bullpen, but he's still not the most famous athlete in his family. That honor goes to his cousin Bobby Frasor, the Texas-style ping-pong playing, balcony-jumping, first-pitch throwing backup guard on North Carolina's national championship basketball team. Lately though, Jason is doing his part to make a name for himself. Since being named the Blue Jays' closer at midseason, he has been impressive. He converted his first seven save chances and allowed just three earned runs in 14 appearances (though he did blow a save on Monday night and took the loss on Wednesday), and is well positioned for a nice raise when he goes to arbitration this winter. Now all he has to do is get his 15 minutes of Internet fame, and he'll be all set.
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