By Ted Keith
August 20, 2009
MLB Power Rankings
21 New York Mets
Last Week: 22
Wow, this season is getting comically bad for the Mets. They finally got a high-priced star off the DL, but it will involve patching up some clubhouse drama, and then they did the right thing in putting David Wright on the disabled list, but managed to anger a former player of theirs in the process. First Billy Wagner, who has been out since last August and had Tommy John surgery, said in the New York Post last month that upon his return from the DL (which should happen this week), he expected to be used as "a Brian Stokes-type player, [who] might pitch once a week." Naturally, this infuriated Stokes, who has actually pitched in 50 games, fifth among all Mets pitchers. Then, manager Jerry Manuel said that Wright, who suffered a concussion when he was beaned by Matt Cain of the Giants (as you may have heard) was "a different animal" than Ryan Church, whose season was derailed last year by a concussion. Those comments seemed to imply that Manuel felt Wright was tougher than Church. Church called those comments "a low blow," forcing Manuel to apologize. Wright might be -- and probably should be -- done for the season. At this rate, the same should be true for the rest of the Mets as well.
22 Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 21
Valley Fever sounds like the kind of thing the Diamondbacks marketing department might use for promotional purposes. Instead, it's a fairly common disease out west, and one that has knocked Conor Jackson out since May and now, quite possibly for the rest of the season. (At least he has a backup plan: as mentioned in the PRs a few weeks ago, Jackson is a budding actor, and made a guest appearance on General Hospital back in early June.) Jackson's injury is just another example of how the once-vaunted Baby 'Backs haven't exactly grown up as planned. Chad Tracy, Stephen Drew and Chris Young -- especially Chris "Below The Mendoza Line" Young -- have all yet to build on the promising starts to their careers.
23 Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 23
Jack Cust has a problem with George Mitchell, which is not surprising considering George Mitchell, or his report on steroids in baseball at least, had a problem with Cust. This week, Cust called the report, in which he was mentioned discussing steroids with Larry Bigbie in the minor leagues, "kind of a joke, the whole thing," and wondered how no Boston Red Sox players wound up in a report that was headed by someone who had worked for the Red Sox. "Were there any Red Sox on the report?" Cust asked. "To me, that's kind of a joke. How does that happen? It's coming out now with guys on that team. The guy worked for the Red Sox -- they spent all kinds of millions of dollars -- and then no one there had their name brought up." The Mitchell Report is (blessedly) behind us, so Cust's comments are potentially interesting but ultimately will lead to nothing happening. Kind of like Cust's plate appearances, 44 percent of which end in either a walk or a strikeout.
24 Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 24
Y.E Yang's stunning comeback victory over Tiger Woods at last weekend's PGA Championship had an impact that could be felt all over the world. It hit particularly close to home for Shin-Soo Choo, the Indians outfielder and a South Korea native, and may have caused his popularity back home to slide, at least according to his teammates. "They said he is the most famous Korean athlete now," Yang told "They say I'm number two." There have been lots of great No. 2's -- like this guy and this guy. Besides, Choo is still kind of a big deal. He leads the team in RBIs (65) on-base percentage (.399) and slugging percentage (.477), and, reports, a Korean TV station is filming a documentary about him in which they're getting his dirty laundry. Literally. "They came to my house and filmed me washing dishes and doing laundry," he said. That should be one riveting documentary.
25 Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 25
Is it just the fact that he plays in Cincinnati and therefore no one makes a big deal out of it, or has Bronson Arroyo officially moved into Charles Barkley territory, where he can say pretty much anything and people just shrug it off? Arroyo caused a stir last week -- though it was nothing compared to what might have happened if he was playing for a more prominent team -- when he admitted to using supplements without checking with Major League Baseball to see if they were approved or not. "I take 10 to 12 different things a day, and on the days I pitch, there's four more things," Arroyo told USA Today. "There's a caffeine drink I take from a company that (former teammate) Curt Schilling introduced me to in '05. I take some Korean ginseng and a few other proteins out there that are not certified. But I haven't failed any tests, so I figured I'm good." Naturally, MLB wants to speak with Arroyo about all this. Perhaps Arroyo should cause a fuss more often. The day his comments were made public, he pitched his second shutout in his last seven starts, giving the Reds their only win of the week.
26 San Diego Padres
Last Week: 27
Kyle Blanks had himself a nice week, hitting a walk-off home run one night and an inside-the-park home run the next to help the Padres beat the Cubs twice. Blanks is the first Padre to hit an inside-the-park home run since Sean Burroughs in 2003. If you're remembering Burroughs from when he was a Little Leaguer, you might recall a slugging, husky kid, but by the time he reached the majors after being a first-round draft pick he was neither, checking in at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and hitting only 11 homers in his brief career. Blanks, meanwhile, is just massive: 6-6, 285, was drafted in the 42nd round, already has eight home runs and it's looking like his career might last longer than the five seasons Burroughs played. If nothing else, he already has a pretty awesome nickname: the 8-Train.
27 Washington Nationals
Last Week: 28
He signed Stephen Strasburg, and for a relatively fair price, and the reward for acting general manager Mike Rizzo was getting the full-time GM gig. He deserved it much sooner, but I'm guessing the Nats didn't want to give the top spot permanently to someone who couldn't close the deal with the Great Stephen Strasburg. Once he got Strasburg's name on the dotted line, there was no reason not to make him GM. Rizzo, who took over when Jim Bowden left amid scandal, has helped get the Nats from disastrous to surprisingly respectable (even in their defeats) over the past few months, and also presided over a highly successful draft that included another promising righty pitcher, Stanford's Drew Storen, taken at No. 10. Still, it has to be a little awkward for Rizzo that the day it was leaked he had gotten the job full time there were reports, on the team's official website no less, that a change was coming, perhaps that day. In the end, like much has for the Nats over the past month or so, this one turned out right.
28 Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 29
The arrival of the G-20 economic summit to Pittsburgh next month caused the city to ask that most downtown businesses shut down, but when the Pirates asked if they should as well, they were told to go ahead with business as usual. Perhaps the city is just hoping that a Pirates game will give people in town something else to protest against, rather than the usual scene these international conferences often attract. Baseball won't be much of a distraction anyway. The Pirates first two games against the Brewers in this week's series both drew barely 12,000 fans to PNC Park.
29 Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 26
The Orioles traded Aubrey Huff and promoted Michael Aubrey from the minors to take his place. Aubrey replacing Huff. I love that -- it's like the time when I was a kid and I saw in the newspaper that Felix Jose took over in the outfield for Jose Canseco one game and the paper read: "Jose replaces Canseco." (Fact check: It's true! September 4, 1988, A's vs. Yankees. Bless you, Anyway, Aubrey is a former first-round pick who was traded by the Indians to the Orioles earlier this season. Huff is an RBI machine. So this may be a slight downgrade for the O's.
30 Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 30
The Royals had another losing week, played one game in which they didn't get a single at-bat with a man in scoring position and sent once-highly touted prospect Alex Gordon back to the minor leagues. Gordon was batting just .198 and had missed most of the year with a serious hip injury, and the kid who people once compared favorably to George Brett is now looking a lot more like Clint Hurdle.
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