Gonzalez has Padres thinking playoffs (cont.)

Thursday July 29th, 2010

MLB Power Rankings
21Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 21
Corey Hart should know better than to exert himself defensively near the trade deadline. He jammed his wrist into the outfield wall while tracking down a flyball. Sure, his teammates appreciated the effort, but one can only wonder if Brewers management would have been fine with him passing on the catch to keep him healthy. Now Hart, having a resurgent year, likely won't be traded. Though this deadline may pass quietly for Milwaukee, next year at this time Prince Fielder may be the object of every trade rumor.
22Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 22
Every baseball media member imagines he can manage better than the skipper of the team he covers, and Steve Stone of Comcast SportsNet won at least one battle with Cubs skipper Lou Piniella. Though he drew the manager's ire for suggesting that Tyler Colvin should get more playing time, the rookie outfielder has rewarded the broadcaster's faith with a .267 average, 16 HRs and 37 RBIs in 232 at bats and an increased role -- including batting third -- for the Cubs.
23Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 23
Right fielder Shin-Soo Choo's thumb injury was potentially season-ending, but instead he fought back and returned to the Indians' lineup three weeks to the day after hurting himself diving for a flyball. Choo continues to be the best unheralded player in baseball -- .297 average, .395 OBP, 13 HRs, 47 RBIs, 13 SBs -- and the bad timing of his injury cost him an opportunity to represent Cleveland in the All-Star Game, which could have made for a nice national introduction. It's not just his offense, either, as he showed against the Yankees, gunning out speedy Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson with a strong throw.
24Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 24
Much like the A's with Ben Sheets and the Brewers with Corey Hart, the Royals have also been stung by pre-trade deadline injuries. Their best chip, center fielder David DeJesus, tore a ligament in his right thumb and had surgery ending his season. Starter Gil Meche needs shoulder surgery. Reliever Kyle Farnsworth had a hamstring cramp and had to leave a game early. Kansas City did, however, manage to trade left fielder Scott Podsednik to the Dodgers for a pair of minor leaguers on Wednesday evening, before he could suffer his own untimely ailment.
25Washington Nationals
Last Week: 25
Tuesday night was to be an interesting test for phenom Stephen Strasburg, as he'd have been facing fellow rookie Jason Heyward for the first time and he'd have faced the rest of the Braves lineup for a second time -- his first start against a repeat opponent. Strasburg, however, was scratched from his Tuesday start after he had trouble getting loose. After an MRI, he was diagnosed only with shoulder inflammation and was placed on the disabled list, but it gave way to the quote of the year. Miguel Batista made the spot start but was greeted with boos from Nationals fans expecting Strasmus and getting, uh, Batistamas. After throwing five shutout innings, Batista said he understood the crowd reaction. "Imagine if you go there to see Miss Universe," he said, "and you end up having Miss Iowa."
26Houston Astros
Last Week: 26
Is the season-long slump of Houston's offense just a case of 'Stros Icing 'Stros? The club's bats have been cold all year, ranking last in average, OBP, slugging, walks and home runs. In reviewing the sad state of affairs in Houston, this writer can't help but be reminded of another Southern phenomenon, the case of Bros Icing Bros, as recently detailed in the New York Times.
27Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 28
The Mariners offense was nearly no-hit twice in one four-game series with the Red Sox, as Jon Lester lost his perfect game in the sixth and John Lackey lost his no-no with two outs in the eighth. As bleak as that sounds, Seattle won the game Lester started and pushed the Lackey start into extra innings. A bright spot was rookie outfielder Michael Saunders, whose two-run homer was the first off Lester and his two-run single in the eighth-inning on Sunday helped salvage an unlikely series split with Boston.
28Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 27
Trading Dan Haren signaled one of two things: The Diamondbacks are either packing it in to rebuild for the couple of years, or they are forecasting economic problems prohibitive enough that they'll have to contend without their high-priced ace. The deal, the first since the firing of general manager Josh Byrnes, is a litmus test for team president Derrick Hall, who after the 2007 season overruled Byrnes in offering an albatross of a contract (three years, $30 million) to outfielder Eric Brynes (no relation), who is already out of baseball. Probably not considered is that Arizona lost its best hitting pitcher: Haren had a four-hit game earlier this season and was batting .364 with a home run.
29Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 20
The Pirates' mathematical magic number for playoff elimination is 41, but their realistic magic number long since reached zero. Now, however, they're playing the role of spoiler. With rumors swirling that the Rockies were a few losses away from becoming trade-deadline sellers, the Pirates traveled to Denver and beat Colorado in the first two games of the series. In doing so, Pittsburgh has also pulled into a virtual tie for last in the NL with Arizona.
30Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 29
The Orioles' season began with promise, which faded quickly when they started the year 2-16. An early sign of things to come was that All-Star second baseman Brian Roberts only managed to play four games in the season's first month before being shelved with a herniated disk in his back. Only now in late July has he returned to his rightful spot atop the Baltimore lineup.
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