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Your inaugural Power Rankings

Mar 31, 2011, 8:45 AM EDT

Adrian Gonzalez

Based on my thoughts about Opening Day, you may not be surprised to learn that, like the hyped-up spectacle of Opening Day, I am less than enamored with other kinds of empty hype too.  Something that is usually empty hype: Power Rankings.

Indeed, any team’s peak power — at least before the playoffs start — is both fleeting and, on the whole, irrelevant. A club may very well break out of the gate starting today winning eight of ten and scoring runs like they’re the 1931 Yankees or something. We’ll all swoon and they’ll rocket to the top of the Power Rankings. And it will mean nothing come July when their number two starter has forearm stiffness, their top slugger is 4 for his last 39 and their left fielder has a restraining order against him.  In short, a little snapshot of how teams are doing at any one moment of the season is probably pointless and almost certainly misleading.

So why even bother with Power Rankings, you ask?  Eh, they’re fun. They’re conversation starters. Coming as they do here at HBT (usually) on Mondays they’re a nice way to recap the previous week after we’ve sort of lost the thread during weekend barbecues and stuff.

But one thing they are not is particularly meaningful. As such, keep your complaining to a minimum. Or at least keep your complaining humorous and light.  I’d much rather see some nice funny commenter snark about how far my head is up my butt for any given ranking I give than I would some sober yet obviously insulted comment about how, clearly, I have disrespected Team X for the following ten reasons. Save it.  I don’t care who you root for. I don’t care who I root for. If you take these rankings personally or particularly seriously, you’re not worth the keyboard clicks it took for you to register your disgust.  This is supposed to be fun, so let’s have some damn fun out here, OK?

With that out of the way, our first — and most likely worst — Power Rankings of the 2011 season:

1. Red Sox: Everyone complained yesterday afternoon when ESPN came out with their four dozen or so individual staff predictions and over half of the predictors chose Boston to win it all. East coast bias, it was alleged. How bloody typical!  But really: even if you have another horse winning this race, how is Boston an unreasonable choice? On what planet are they not one of the top two or three best looking teams heading into the season? And if they’re not, who is better?

2. Phillies: I will not fret about this team unless and until the names Halladay, Lee, Hamels or Oswalt appear on the DL.  Until then, it’s pretty silly to pick against the team that will have a better starter going than the opposition will nearly every single night of the year.

3. Yankees: Nowadays everybody wanna talk like they got something to say, but nothin comes out when they move they lips, just a buncha gibberish, and motherf*****s act like they forgot about the fact that the Yankees scored more runs than anyone last year and actually look like they could score more this year.

4. Giants: The addition of Brandon Belt to the roster is encouraging and it’s hard not to love the rotation. But let us not forget that this was a team tailor made for playoff dominance last season, but which struggled through large parts of the regular season. They didn’t make the playoffs until the last day and wouldn’t have if the Padres hadn’t had an epic collapse. They’re better than that now, but not so substantially better that we should crown them as repeat champs already.

5. Braves: They were a trendy pick last year. They’re a trendy pick this year. And most of the people making trendy Braves picks haven’t lived through 25 years of teams that always — always — have one tremendous flaw or another. A flaw that they always come close to working through but which ultimately trumps whatever it was that started those trends in the first place. I don’t know what it is yet here. Could be the outfield again. Could be the back end of the pen. It’s a good team, but it’s a team that always seems more appealing on paper than it does once pitches start being thrown in anger.

6. Rangers: Can’t wait for everyone who thought it important that Neftali Feliz serve as The Established Closer starts screaming about how the rotation is in ruins, seemingly unaware that there might actually be a link between those two things.

7. White Sox: I love Adam Dunn in U.S. Cellular Field, but if there’s an under to bet on his home runs, I’d consider taking it. I haven’t consulted the hit tracker data, but it seems like Dunn’s bombs are always sure things. I don’t know that the smaller park will make as huge a difference in his home run totals as his presence will make a difference for the Sox’ lineup as a whole.

8. Athletics: There is no contending team with a smaller margin for error than the A’s. Everyone needs health to win, but the A’s are depending on young pitching, some of whom have fragile elbows.  This worries me more than a bit.

9. Rockies: What’s the hitter’s equivalent of “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain?”  Because it maybe could work for Tulowitzki and Gonzalez. Though, no, I’m aware of no rule or contingency in baseball which would allow for two players to take multiple lineup slots in one game, so perhaps I should just give up this fanciful endeavor.

10. Cubs: Wainwright is out for the year and Cueto, Baily and Greinke are on the DL to start the season. And people think I’m nuts to be picking the Cubs in the NL Central. Whatever, dudes.

11. Twins: Their bullpen was just ripped to shreds in the offseason. They have reloaded on the fly and continued to contend before, but it’s a tall damn order this year.

12. Rays: Their bullpen was just ripped to shreds in the offseason. They have reloaded on the fly and continued to contend before, but it’s a tall damn order this year. No, this is not a copy-and-paste error.

13. Reds: The rotation is hurt or has mono or has looked shaky this spring. And the question must be asked: did they peak last year?

14. Cardinals: Every radio host I’ve spoken with this spring has asked me if the Pujols contract situation will hang over this team.  Question: after the first day of spring training, have you heard anything about it?  Nah, me neither.  I think everyone involved in this little dance is old and experienced enough to where it’s not going to be a problem until long after the Cardinals are out of the running. Or, if they’re in the race all year, until after the season.

15. Brewers: I think Brewers fans are tired of hearing people say that the team is “all-in” or “shooting the moon” this year or whatever. I agree, that’s getting tired. Thus I shall henceforth refer to the Brewers in terms of a group of roguish movie criminals coming together for that Last Big Score.  That always turns out well, doesn’t it?

16. Blue Jays: Like the A’s, young pitching, though young pitching without as high as an upside. As is usually the case, though, the Jays will probably be better than I figured and I’ll have, once again, missed the boat on why. I swear, it’s not a Canadian thing. They just sort of elude me.

17. Marlins: I was on a radio show this week and I started talking about how, at worst, even if he never figures anything else out, which I think is unlikely, Mike Stanton could be one of those really fun all-power guys I tend to like such as Rob Deer or Dave Kingman or whoever. The host was probably 25 and based on his response I’m quite sure he had no idea who I was talking about. I am old.

18. Tigers: Too many positions in that lineup where offense is being punted, I believe.

19. Angels: On days where Mike Scioscia decides to go defense-first at first base and start Howie Kendrick over Mark Tumbo, the Halos may well sport the worst offensive infield in the game.

20. Dodgers: People’s impressions of them are clouded by off-the-field problems, but if they get some offense to complement the rotation, they could be interesting.

21. Mets: People’s impressions of them are clouded by off-the-field problems, but if they get any starting pitching to complement the lineup, they could be interesting.

22. Orioles: This feels too low to me but I’m not sure who to demote. If things break right the O’s — were they not in the AL East — will be good enough to be interesting. Sadly, I can’t see them doing much better than fourth in the division they’re in, and for now I have them fifth.

23. Padres: Someone in the comments yesterday asked why everyone was disrespecting the Padres after what they did last year. I know. Totally unfair. I mean, just because you lose your best player and your number one starter is beginning the year on the shelf doesn’t mean you won’t still be good!  Oh, wait. Yes it does.

24. Nationals: I have traveled to the future and obtained a video of every Jayson Werth press conference that occurred between, oh, June 1st and the end of his current contract.

25. Astros: You know those ESPN “expert” predictions I mentioned above? Well, in those, ESPN’s Steve Berthiaume picked the Astros to win the NL Central. And with that, the season’s lone highlight is over.

26. Indians: The worst part about how this season is going to go will be when people — as they have done with the Cavs this year and as they have always done with Detroit — start to equate the team’s struggles with the city’s struggles and do so in a way that disparages Cleveland in some pretty unfair and misleading ways. No, the city isn’t in great shape, I’ll admit that. But it’s a place where, if you know someone who knows it well, you can have a great time. It’s a city with a lot of local pride. Lay off Cleveland, will ya?

27. Diamondbacks: Kirk Gibson started camp by talking about good defense, smart hitting approaches and playing the game “the right way.” I can’t wait, therefore, until the Dimondbacks’ best hitter is Russell Branyan. Between his iron glove and the fact that he is going to grip it and rip it like John Daly, Gibson is gonna have a coronary.

28. Mariners: Seattle’s first game is at 10:05 PM Eastern time tomorrow. You have until then to put your money down in the “what day will Milton Bradley flip the hell out” pool. I have May 19th.

29. Royals: I have this feeling that this is the year Jeff Francoeur really gets it together, figures out the strike zone and finally blossoms into the perennial All-Star that, by gosh, we all know he can be.

Did I keep a straight face there? What was my tell? This is important because I’m playing cards this weekend and I’m working on my bluff face.

30. Pirates: PNC Park is only three hours from my house. Nice place! It will be great that so many inexpensive tickets will be available for when I take impulsive road trips.

And with that, Gentlemen: start your whining.

  1. sdelmonte - Mar 31, 2011 at 8:57 AM

    Can the Rockies invoke the Bugs Bunny rule?

    Can we merge the Mets and Dodgers?

  2. largebill - Mar 31, 2011 at 8:59 AM

    19 May? 19 May! Dang you’re an eternal optimist. I figured the pool would be what time today not which day this year.

    Also, thanks for giving my Indians mad props. We’re starting out at 26! Hope I’m wrong, but I see us switching places with KC by end of April.

  3. utleyishurt - Mar 31, 2011 at 9:09 AM

    Hi, My name is Angelo Cataldi…im a moron…dar dar dar dar…go yanke..i mean go phils…did you say pan or pam?

  4. Joe - Mar 31, 2011 at 9:10 AM

    What???? You only have the Red Sox #1? Nobody should be even one spot away from the Sox! Crawford! Gonzalez! Youk! Pedroia! Lester! Beckett! This team should be ranked zero, or even -1. They are at least 2-3 spots better than the Phillies!

  5. yankeesfanlen - Mar 31, 2011 at 9:11 AM

    Eminem for the Yanks-Tigers opener! You’re in mid-season form already, Craig!

  6. JBerardi - Mar 31, 2011 at 9:14 AM

    “On what planet are they not one of the top two or three best looking teams heading into the season? And if they’re not, who is better?”

    What planet to Philly fans live on?

    • mornelithe - Mar 31, 2011 at 11:48 AM

      A different planet than Earth if Philly’s fans think their one team counts as the top 3. Heh.

  7. heyblueyoustink - Mar 31, 2011 at 9:14 AM

    May 20th……that’s my bid…in honor of the A-typical douche Price is right move

  8. pittman25 - Mar 31, 2011 at 9:14 AM

    How dare you put the Pirates last! Your head is clearly so far up your… Aww screw it. After 18 years of this your head would be up your butt if you put them anywhere but last. See you at the ballpark in June Craig. Make sure you consult your handy Pirates pocket schedule so you come for a good promotion day at least. Plenty of good seats still available!

    • JBerardi - Mar 31, 2011 at 9:42 AM

      Gerrit Cole. Relax.

  9. stlducks - Mar 31, 2011 at 9:15 AM

    You can say what you want about the cards, brewers and reds having injuries but what have the cubs done to improve? Signed a first baseman who hit like .200 last season and then traded for a pitcher. One pitcher is not going to change the pathetic cubs, we hear you writers pick them every year and then they just collapse. They will have more dugout fights this year than wins vs the brew, cards and reds.

    • baseballisboring - Mar 31, 2011 at 6:39 PM

      Are they really as bad as everyone thinks? My pick for the Central would probably be the Brewers right now…but a Dempster-Garza-Zambrano-Wells front four is pretty solid (IF they can keep Zambrano healthy and sane…he doesn’t need to be an ace).

      Aramis Ramirez is healthy. Pena did hit .196 last year but I think he’s due for a rebound, he is moving to the easier league and still has plenty of pop and plate discipline. And the bullpen is gonna shut some people down. I don’t think it’s fair to be dismissive of the Cubs right now, but I think Zambrano could really make all the difference for them. That’s a wild card if I’ve ever heard of one.

  10. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 31, 2011 at 9:35 AM

    Love the Eminem reference with the Yanks, well done Craig

    Adam Dunn’s hittracker for last year (you can select any year in the upper right hand corner)

    http://www.hittrackeronline.com/detail.php?id=2010_4090&type=hitter

  11. bobwsc - Mar 31, 2011 at 9:36 AM

    nice mother-effer-bomb Craig. we need to see more of that!

    • tomemos - Mar 31, 2011 at 11:55 AM

      “Too many mother uckers, uckng with my shi.” –Flight of the Conchords

      • mercyflush - Mar 31, 2011 at 3:01 PM

        Looking ’round the room, i can tell that you, are the most beautiful girl… in the room.

        … in the whole wide room.

        And when you’re on the street… depending on the street, you could definitely be in the top 3.

        … depending on the street.

  12. alexpoterack - Mar 31, 2011 at 9:42 AM

    You’re still crazy for picking the Cubs in the Central. But whatever dude, it’ll just make it all that much better when the Brewers pull off a Bowski, a Jim Brown, a Miss Daisy, two Jethros and a Leon Spinks, not to mention the biggest Ella Fitzgerald ever.

  13. kolfax - Mar 31, 2011 at 10:00 AM

    Mariners plan to play rope-a-dope early this year, take a pounding, then trade away any chance to finish out of the cellar. No big aquisitions, just cheese from JZ. 26th is generous. Look for a big improvement from Figgins over last year and more jems from Felix but otherwise….. You’re right, baseball season is on, let whining begin. If you’re a Mariner fan whining comes with the territory. Oh well, at least their team commercials are great. Put me down for a mid-June meltdown for Bradley.

    • JBerardi - Mar 31, 2011 at 10:23 AM

      Michael Pineda. Relax.

  14. Paul White - Mar 31, 2011 at 10:05 AM

    I think the Royals deserve to be 29th right now, but they won’t be that bad by season end. They have a passable lineup now, one which should improve during the season once Moustakas takes over at third (replacing Getz in the lineup as Aviles moves to 2B), Cain takes over in CF in lieu of Melky or, more likely, Melky moves to right and Cain takes Francoeur’s ABs. Add in the possibility of seeing Hosmer at some point, and I really think they’ll be respectable offensively. They also have the makings of a pretty good bullpen right now. With them, the record is going to come down to the rotation. If the young guys can arrive and contribute but the trade deadline, the team will lose a lot of games but it will be much closer to 90 than 100, and something like 74-88 isn’t crazy if the youngsters come up early and contribute.

    Now, if the current rotation is the best they have all year, yeah, 29th on the list will be about right.

  15. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Mar 31, 2011 at 10:16 AM

    “10. Cubs: Wainwright is out for the year and Cueto, Baily and Greinke are on the DL to start the season. And people think I’m nuts to be picking the Cubs in the NL Central. Whatever, dudes.”

    Craig, I feel disrespected by the fact you choose to put the Cubs so high on the power rankings for about 102-103 reasons.

    • Jonny 5 - Mar 31, 2011 at 11:02 AM

      Craig is having his vision of reality clouded by numbers, or something…. Dude, there is no stat for Curse or karma differentials. Fear the GOAT, Cubs fans. Fear it!!! Doom!!!

      • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Mar 31, 2011 at 12:27 PM

        103 is a number. The only one that matters for them this year, next year, the year after, until infinity and BEYOND!

  16. PanchoHerreraFanClub - Mar 31, 2011 at 11:25 AM

    On Morning Cup of Jazz, Alisa Clancy played Harvey Hindemeyer’s 1908 version of ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’. This is obviously a sign that it is the Cubs year to … finish last in the NL Central. I know that predictions are great fun, but whatever dude, it will be fun to give you a hard time when the small bears finish below the Astros and Cubs. Hey, at least the guy from ESPN that picked the Astros had more sense than to pick the Cubs.

  17. dfensfelix - Mar 31, 2011 at 11:41 AM

    @ #3…..Settle down.

  18. umrguy42 - Mar 31, 2011 at 11:43 AM

    Looking at those ESPN picks… what is Berthiaume smoking, and where can I get some? It *must* be good stuff, to not even have the Phils in the playoffs!

  19. talbaugh - Mar 31, 2011 at 11:58 AM

    Cardinals only 14th! :-O

    I have three good reasons they should be higher:
    -Albert Pujols is a monster
    -Your head is a butt
    -Your butt is probably a head, otherwise … you’d be down a head?

  20. dnc6 - Mar 31, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    Cleveland says “thanks, I guess.” Maybe instead of talking about the disparaging of the city for most of the blurb and hinting at the great time, you can actually talk about the great time?

  21. addictedzone - Mar 31, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    I think you are doing the Marlins outfielder a grave disservice hinting that he could be in the category of Dave Dingdong and Rob Deerintheheadlights. He was called up in June, has played 100 career games, and in September he hit .316 with a .992 OPS.

    He also appears to be able to actually play a position.

    I’m older. Hopefully he’s closer to one of the M&M boys than to Dong & Deer.

  22. TheTimotin - Mar 31, 2011 at 12:30 PM

    As a lifelong Mariner fan, I know that we won’t be good this year, but I am going to predict a strong two week run in which we manage to actually crack the top 15 in the power rankings. Feel free to mock my optimism…. NOW!

  23. pestiesti - Mar 31, 2011 at 12:39 PM

    Too many positions in that lineup where offense is being punted, I believe.

    3B, C and, maybe 2B. Raburn, Ordonez and Peralta aren’t in the lineup because of their defense.

  24. mncubsfan - Mar 31, 2011 at 11:43 PM

    All i’ll say and i realize i’m getting into the discourse late is

    CUBS>brewers

    this will be obvious by game 162 i don’t care if the cubs are fifth in the central the brewers or “brew crew” as their unfortunate fans call them are going to be sixth.

    that is all for now…

  25. dshepson - Apr 1, 2011 at 12:17 PM

    Seriously Craig? I think someone hacked into your account and hijacked your mind! You seem so bitter and angry, what’s wrong with you? Baseball is back, the sky is blue and the birds are singing. Do you need a group hug? Write with love man, this is the game we love!

    “Save it. I don’t care who you root for. I don’t care who I root for. If you take these rankings personally or particularly seriously, you’re not worth the keyboard clicks it took for you to register your disgust. This is supposed to be fun, so let’s have some damn fun out here, OK?”

    and

    “3. Yankees: Nowadays everybody wanna talk like they got something to say, but nothin comes out when they move they lips, just a buncha gibberish, and motherf*****s act like they forgot about the fact that the Yankees scored more runs than anyone last year and actually look like they could score more this year.”

    Go Sox!

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