Here come the Yankees (cont.)

Thursday July 23rd, 2009
MLB Power Rankings
21 Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 22
The Reds are hosting a Ladies Night this week, which is becoming a fairly risqué thing to do. A year ago, the Rockies were sued by a man who claimed he was denied a voucher to a game because it was for women only, while earlier this month a Rays minor-league affiliate was warned that their plan for a Ladies Night "violates the New York State Human Rights Law ... and the [federal] guarantee to equal protection." Violating human rights is bad, but luring people into the ballpark with promises of chocolate and flowers and then making them endure the Reds and Padres, now that's just mean.
22 New York Mets
Last Week: 20
Between the injuries, the slumps and losing two of three to the Nationals, Mets fans probably thought things couldn't get any worse this season. And then a high-ranking team official decided it would be a good idea to scream at a bunch of minor-league kids. And take his shirt off. And challenge them to a fight. And have it wind up on the back page of the tabloids in New York. Oh, and they've also gotten so bad that only four NL teams have a worse record than the Mets entering Wednesday night. Any Mets fans needing a pick-me-up should read this article and console themselves with the knowledge that they have easily the best broadcasting team in baseball.
23 Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 24
It's not like the Pirates have been bursting with star players the past few years, but now that they've dealt Nate McLouth, Nyjer Morgan and Adam LaRoche, they are running out of identifiable veteran major leaguers in their lineup. If Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez get traded (and at this point, why not), the Pirates will be fielding the most nondescript lineup baseball has seen (non-expansion teams only) in decades. Just to recap, here's a team of players the Pirates have traded over the years: catcher Jason Kendall, first baseman Matt Stairs, second baseman Jeff King, shortstop Jay Bell, third baseman Aramis Ramirez, outfielders Jason Bay, Brian Giles and Xavier Nady, starting pitchers Tim Wakefield, Bronson Arroyo, Jason Schmidt and Oliver Perez and reliever Ronald Belisario.
24 Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 23
During a radio interview on Wednesday morning with a Baltimore station, I was told that it's already football season down there, which seems absurdly early to me. The Orioles should be interesting for at least another week and a half, or until they've decided which and how many of their players will be shipped out of town. I guess this is what 12 consecutive losing seasons will do to a once-great baseball town.
25 Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 27
As if overcoming a 10-run deficit to win one game and winning another by 15 runs earlier this week wasn't good enough, the A's will see hometown hero and franchise icon Rickey Henderson inducted into the Hall of Fame. There hasn't been a speech this eagerly anticipated in Cooperstown since Phil Rizzuto. We may have gotten a taste of what we might have in store from Rickey on Sunday when he said, "Speech and me don't even get along sometimes." Please oh please let this be one of those times.
26 Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 29
Disastrous weeks by the Royals and Padres enable the Indians to soar all the way to 26th this week, but it's not like things were all sunshine and flowers in Cleveland. They went 2-3 and are bracing for the possibility that Cliff Lee or Victor Martinez (or both) could be traded before the deadline.
27 Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 25
Upon seeing that Bruce Chen was scheduled to start for the Royals this week, I had two reactions: 1) Bruce Chen is still in the major leagues? (It is a little surprising, considering he didn't pitch in the majors or minors in 2008 and pitched just nine games in '07); and 2) maybe he's just trying to set a record of some kind. The Royals are Chen's 10th team, just two behind all-time leaders Mike Morgan and Ron Villone, and one shy of a group that includes Paul Bako, Julian Tavarez and Matt Stairs, who have each played this season. Amazingly, of those five players, Chen has only been on the same team at the same time as one of them: In 2003 he pitched in 11 games for the Astros while Villone spent the entire season there.
28 Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 28
Dan Haren's development of his cut fastball from an occasional pitch to something he uses 20 to 30 times a game, by his estimation, is the biggest reason he has turned into the leading contender for the NL Cy Young award. As impressive as Haren's overall numbers are -- a 10-5 record and 1.96 ERA -- his most impressive stat may be this: He has a 1.62 ERA against National League teams (AL teams touched him up for a 3.86 ERA in his three interleague starts).
29 San Diego Padres
Last Week: 26
Only the Nationals are keeping the Padres out of the last spot at this point. During the 1-6 homestand they just completed by being swept by the Marlins, the Padres scored 12 runs on 42 hits. They have the worst record in baseball since June 1 and they are now filling half their lineup each day with rookies.
30 Washington Nationals
Last Week: 30
Overlooked in the giant, miserable failure that has been the Nationals' season has been the performance of 24-year-old lefty John Lannan, who tossed his first career shutout against the Mets. Lannan now owns a very respectable 3.38 ERA and has won five of his last seven decisions and had eight quality starts in his last nine outings.
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