By Ted Keith
September 17, 2009
MLB Power Rankings
21 San Diego Padres
Last Week: 21
Despite their mostly woeful record and the fact that they're going to miss the playoffs for the third straight season, the Padres nevertheless managed to raise a championship banner this year at Petco Park. Over the weekend, the Padres hung a pair of banners behind their main scoreboard to honor the Little League World Series champions from Chula Vista, Calif. The big league team has been playing some impressive championship-level baseball of their own lately. They won yet another series against a contender, taking two of three from the wild-card leading Rockies over the weekend to give them six straight series wins before they lost two of three to Arizona.
22 Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 23
OK, so I was a little off with this prediction. But you can't help but wonder if this Reds season might have gone a little better if Edinson Volquez had made more than nine starts, or if Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, the two young sluggers expected to carry their offense, hadn't endured mental and physical problems. Votto missed time earlier this season while dealing with the death of his father, and Bruce just returned after missing two months with a fractured wrist. When Bruce went down on July 11, the Reds were just one game under .500 and 4 1/2 games out of first. But that was as close as they've been to both the break-even mark and to first place ever since. I still think that this is a team on the rise, but they obviously can't have their most important young players miss such sizable chunks of the season next year if they're going to compete.
23 Houston Astros
Last Week: 19
Mike Hampton will miss the 2010 season with yet another injury, but will the 2010 season miss him? Not likely. The 2006 and 2007 seasons did just fine without the oft-injured lefty, and the 2005, 2008 and 2009 seasons were perfectly entertaining even if Hampton had very little to do with it. It's amazing to think that at one time he was one of the best and most durable pitchers in the game, making at least 30 starts for seven straight years, from 1997-2003. It's even more amazing to think what might have happened if he had become a hitter full time. Would he have ever hit .300 for a full season as a position player, like he did four times as a pitcher, including .324 this year? And how's this for a fun stat? When Hampton was declared done for the season, he finished with a .432 slugging percentage, the exact same number that All-Star Miguel Tejada had.
24 Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 24
For everybody out there who thinks there's an East Coast bias or that the Yankees get too much attention, consider this: The Arizona Diamondbacks are hyping their 2010 schedule not by pointing out the great matchups they'll have with division foes like the Giants and Dodgers, or other National League rivals like the Cardinals or Cubs, but rather that the Yankees will be coming to Phoenix for three games in late June. (Of course, the Diamondbacks will probably take any chance they can to relive this.) For business reasons, the Diamondbacks might be better off touting their series with the Dodgers and Cubs, who have the best road attendance in the majors this season. There's certainly not much left to see of this year's team, which was swept at home by the Brewers and has just one homestand remaining this year.
25 Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 25
They've lost 12 of 15 but because this season has, for all intents and purposes, been over for some time, the worst news for the Indians of late doesn't even concern anyone on their major league roster. Instead, it's the fact that 18-year-old Jason Knapp, whom they acquired in the Cliff Lee trade, had shoulder surgery Tuesday to fix an ailment that existed before the trade was made. The Indians said they will not file a grievance with the commissioner's office, which is smart because crying foul now after acquiring a player who was on the disabled list at the time of the deal doesn't make much sense. That said, the Indians didn't get to see much from Knapp, who made only four appearances at Single-A before being shut down. That trade has pretty much been a disaster so far for the Indians. Lee has starred for the Phillies, while Knapp and Jason Donald have both been hurt. Lou Marson and Carlos Carrasco, at least, reached the majors this season.
26 Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 27
If the Mets have been a disaster in recent years in September, their opposite would be ... the Royals? Well, not exactly, since they usually enter September trying to avoid 100 losses (as opposed to trying to clinch a playoff spot), but after finishing a big league-best 18-8 in the final month of the season last year, the Royals are again playing some inspired ball to finish this season. They've won seven of nine and Billy Butler was named American League Player of the Week for the second time in as many months. It may be a little early -- make that extremely early -- to be making some comparisons to the Yankees, but at least the Royals aren't surrendering.
27 Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 28
Brian Roberts, captain of the All-Underrated Team, needs a higher profile. Perhaps he can star in remakes of those old Doublemint gum commercials because nobody doubles their pleasure quite like the Orioles second baseman. Last week he became just the fourth player ever to have three seasons of at least 50 doubles. Nobody has reached 60 doubles in a season for 73 years, and Roberts, for one, doesn't think he or anyone will break Earl Webb's record (67) because to do so requires a balance of power and speed that is difficult to duplicate so many times. "You have to square up a lot of balls, and hit with power, but not enough power that you're going to hit 25 or 30 home runs," he says. "And you have to have speed to [stretch singles into doubles]. I don't think anyone will get there."
28 New York Mets
Last Week: 26
The good news for the Mets: They will not blow another late-September lead like they did in 2007 and 2008. The bad news for the Mets: They don't have the chance to blow another late-September lead. What will they manage to do for an encore to one of the most cringe-worthy seasons in recent history? Hard to say, but they got the beginning of the end off to a perfectly awkward start when they were officially eliminated on Sunday by a pitcher they gave up on who is now undefeated and about to do something he never did for the Mets: pitch in a postseason game. That came in the midst of another wretched stretch to an increasingly wretched season: eight losses in their past nine games. And of course, there was the latest Lenny Dykstra news, which is probably an apt metaphor for a team that seemed to be flying high so recently but has crashed and burned spectacularly this season. But, hey, at least Dykstra had a championship ring to hawk in the first place. How many of the current Mets can say that?
29 Washington Nationals
Last Week: 29
The Nationals have got to be getting awfully tired of the Marlins and Phillies. Washington is in a stretch in which it will play only those two NL East foes for two straight weeks, and so far they've gone just 4-7. Among the interested spectators was Stephen Strasburg, who last week wrapped up a weeklong stay with the big league club before heading to back to minor league camp to get ready for instructional league play. In other minor league-related Nats news, according to the Washington Post, the team is ready to jump back into the Latin American market by reestablishing a new base of operations down there. It can't go any worse than it did the last time.
30 Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 30
The Steelers season has officially begun (chin up, Hines Ward), which means that the Pirates season has unofficially ended. Yes, there's still over two weeks remaining, but when you haven't won consecutive games in almost a month, 100 losses is almost a foregone conclusion, and these are the 10 most exciting moments in recent Pirates history, then, yes, your season is over.
1 - 10 11 - 20 21 - 30
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