By Ted Keith
September 24, 2009
MLB Power Rankings
11 San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 9
The news was not good on or off the field for the Giants. They failed to make a significant move in the wild-card race and still trail the Rockies by four games, and one of their top prospects, Angel Villalona, is a murder suspect. While Villalona was dealing with police in the Dominican Republic, his minor league teammate, Buster Posey -- the Giants' best position-playing prospect -- was picking up his first major league hit. Posey batted a combined .325 with 18 home runs and 80 RBIs in the minors last year and could well be the Giants' starting catcher next season. With their playoff hopes all but gone unless they can sweep their upcoming six-game homestand that is their last time at AT&T Park this year, it will be interesting to see how much playing time Posey gets the rest of this season and what the Giants decide to do with incumbent Bengie Molina, who will be a free agent, over the winter.
12 Texas Rangers
Last Week: 10
After being swept by the Angels, and losing eight of 11 overall to fall a season-worst 7 1/2 games out of first in the AL West, and with Michael Young and Josh Hamilton still hurting, it doesn't look like the Rangers will be needing these. They still came farther this year than most thought they would, and are likely to be a serious contender again next season, but they have to get their financial house in order. They can go ahead and pencil Kevin Millwood in for $12 million next season now that Millwood has reached his 180-innings-pitched threshold to trigger his option. Whether or not they're able to do anything else in the free-agent market remains to be seen, but it's doubtful they'll surpass the Angels as the best team in the AL West just by standing pat.
13 Florida Marlins
Last Week: 11
Remember when almost every team used to share its field with the local football team? On the bright side, it saved space and money. On the downside, it led to horrible-looking stadiums that produced images like this. With the Twins moving to a baseball-only stadium next season, the Marlins will be one of just two teams (along with the A's) that will have to endure indignities like that next year, and they'll only have to put up with it for a couple more years until their own stadium opens. In the meantime, they'll just have to deal with indignities like having their own pitchers negate double plays because they decided to throw an illegal pitch just for the heck of it.
14 Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 14
What are the odds Milton Bradley is still with the Cubs next season? One in a hundred? A thousand? Perhaps not even that good. Of all the many ways Bradley's lost season has been a disaster (bad public relations, a headache for manager Lou Piniella, damage to his own reputation and that of general manager Jim Hendry), this is one of the most overlooked: it has diverted attention from the quietly excellent season of first baseman Derrek Lee. Since July 1, Lee leads the major leagues in home runs and RBIs (and now ranks fourth in the league in that category with a career-high 109). He's also in the top 10 in the NL in batting average (10th), home runs (7th), on-base percentage (2nd) and slugging percentage (3rd).
15 Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 15
They were officially eliminated from playoff contention this week, but this has nonetheless been a surprisingly successful season for the Mariners. That goes double for their closer, a guy who was once traded for Neal Cotts and another time for Willy Mota and Miguel Socolovich. David Aardsma has made quite a name for himself, and not just because he ranks first in baseball's all-time alphabetical player listing, just ahead of a slightly more famous player. Aardsma has 35 saves and a 2.02 ERA this year, not bad considering he had zero saves and had never had an ERA even twice that good before in his career. Perhaps a year like this can get him a better nickname than "Ol' Crazy Eyes."
16 Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 16
It seems every year there are all new complaints about how the umpiring is the worst it's ever been. Personally, I think that's a tough thing to prove, especially since complaining about umpiring is as old as the game itself. But the one call that drives me crazy is the theory that if a throw beats a player to the bag, he must be out. Add Carl Crawford to the list of those who would agree. Crawford, who was perfect on his first 30 stolen base attempts, has now been called out on 13 of his past 42, and he thinks he was safe on several of them, including one earlier this week against the Blue Jays. "Half of the times I've been thrown out this year, if you go back and look at the replay, I was safe," he says. Had Crawford been called safe as often as he thinks he should be, he'd be leading the AL handily. As it is, he trails Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury. The question now is, for whom will Crawford be stealing bases (and complaining when he gets thrown out trying to steal bases) next season?
17 Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 19
What are the odds that a franchise's top two home run-hitting second basemen would come from the same town in South Dakota, home state of such baseball luminaries as Jug Thesenga and Kermit Wahl? About the same as the odds that the A's would suddenly morph into one of the hottest teams in baseball. But that's just what happened, as Mark Ellis passed fellow Rapid City, S.D. native Dick Green with his 77th homer as an Athletic, and Oakland swept its second consecutive series, taking four straight from the Indians. In fact, before their loss to the Rangers on Wednesday night, the A's had the majors' best record (13-3) since September 5.
18 Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 18
When the Brewers hosted Milwaukee Art Museum Night last week, they gave out Warhol Bucks, good for $2 off to see the local Andy Warhol museum (Schrute Bucks > Warhol Bucks). That's the best value Brewers fans have gotten in awhile from this team, which just plummeted in the second half and was officially eliminated on Monday night. Aside from having a chance to play spoiler when they go to Colorado next week for a three-game series, the silver lining is that manager Ken Macha can now give ample playing time to Alcides Escobar and Mat Gamel, giving their fans (read: fantasy owners in keeper leagues) ample time to evaluate the club's top two prospects.
19 Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 17
Do the White Sox love controversy? Apparently. Are the White Sox quitters? General manager Ken Williams thinks at least some of them are, saying Wednesday, "I know who has quit and who hasn't quit." He refused to elaborate, but it's safe to say no one in the White Sox clubhouse will take too kindly to being charged with that particular offense, even if it's true. It's tough to tell from the on-field evidence who exactly Williams was referring to, and it seems their struggles are due more to the slumps of key players like Mark Buehrle, Jermaine Dye and Carlos Quentin than simply to a group mailing it in. On the other hand, this team is simply too talented to be on the verge of clinching only their second losing season of the decade. But even with their sloppy play that has them limping to the finish line, they can't seem to avoid making headlines.
20 Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 22
Willy Taveras returned from the disabled list last week only to find that he had lost his center field job to Drew Stubbs, and manager Dusty Baker explained by saying, "Sometimes Wally Pipp is still alive." If Willy Taveras is Wally Pipp, does that mean Drew Stubbs is Lou Gehrig? Doubtful, but Stubbs is already superior to Taveras, whose .273 on-base percentage would be the second-lowest in the major leagues if he had enough at-bats to qualify (it's stunning that Jimmy Rollins is fourth on that list). Stubbs' OBP is .316, and he's driven in as many runs (15) in 33 games as Taveras did in 98 games. And for the record, Wally Pipp was a pretty decent hitter who drove in 99 runs his first year out of New York -- for the Reds, ironically -- and finished with a .281 career average in 15 seasons.
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