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Your Monday Morning Power Rankings

May 23, 2011, 10:31 AM EDT

Asdrubal Cabrera, Orlando Cabrera AP

1. Indians (5): They’re on pace to win 107 games. Even if they go .500 the rest of the way they’re an 87-88 win team. Does anyone think that won’t win the AL Central?

2. Cardinals (9): Not just winning — a 6-1 week — but winning impressively. They have the second best run differential in baseball after the Indians.

3. Giants (4): On the other hand, the Giants continue to win the close ones.

4. Phillies (6): Chase Utley comes back today, hitting third. Given how well they’re doing despite how little they’re scoring — really, any other team would be on a hellacious skid with their offense —  even a half-effective Utley should allow them to press down on the accelerator in the NL East.

5-7. Yankees, Rays, Red Sox (11, 2, 15): Or pick your order, I don’t care, because there isn’t a big difference between 5 and 7 in my mind.  A half game separates all three of them. Run differential is crazy, though: Yankees: +50, Rays: +25, Red Sox: +5.  But they don’t decide divisions by run differential, and for now we have a helluva race shaping up.

8. Marlins (7): A nice performance from Javier Vazquez on Saturday. If that’s a harbinger of things to come, the Marlins’ prospects are way brighter.

9. Reds (1): Cleveland is good now, so it’s not quite the same, but no one looks at the schedule back in March and says that getting swept by the Pirates and the Indians is part of the plan.

10. Brewers (19): The mood around this team has perked up in the past week as they seem to be turning the corner from erratic, sometimes good, sometimes bad play to something a lot more sustainable.

11. Blue Jays (14): The immediate future holds three against the Yankees, four against the suddenly-respectable White Sox and then three against the Indians. Not the easiest week if they expect to make the three-team AL East race into a four-team race. Not sure their week was worthy of a three-spot jump, but (a) I probably undersold them last week; and (b) I really needed to drop some teams ahead of them. Believe it or not, these rankings aren’t an exact science.

12. Braves (8): Don’t expect this position to last. Heyward to the disabled list, McLouth out, Fredi Gonzalez continuing to trade one nickel for two pennies when it comes to his offensive strategy.  I see a plummet in their future.

13-14. Rangers, Angels (12, 10):  Hard to separate these two at the moment, but with Josh Hamilton coming back soon, don’t expect that state of affairs to last.

15. Rockies (13): Jeckyll and Hyde: they won three of four games against the Giants/Phillies and then get rolled by the Brewers. And don’t look now, dudes, but you’re about to get passed up by the Diamondbacks.

16. Tigers (3): They went from the hottest team in baseball to one of the coldest, just like that. You can’t see it, but I just snapped my fingers.

17. Diamondbacks (22): Wins against the Padres, Braves and Twins count too, and Arizona got a bucket of them last week.

18. Mariners (28): Like Arizona, not the toughest schedule lately, but in a division that none of the contenders seem to want to take control of, the putatively non-contending Mariners sit one and half games back and sport a killer rotation. I ain’t gonna make any predictions about where this is heading, but I will say “hmmmm.”

19. Mets (18): Personally I think they’re treading water just fine and, if anything, are more respectable this year than many figured they’d be. But who am I to second-guess the team’s owner? So, “shitty” they are.

20. Athletics (17): After getting swept by both the lowly Twins and their cross-bay rivals, those couple of wins against the Angels early in the week seem like a long time ago.

21. Pirates (26): Two wins against the Reds and two against the Tigers combined with some improving attendance numbers make for a nice week.

22. Royals (16): I still can’t get my mind around how they walked 13 Cardinals yesterday while taking one walk themselves.

23. White Sox (27): 5-2 in the past week and they still stand nine games back. Just puts the size of hole they dug for themselves in perspective.

24. Orioles (21): They went 2-4 against Tampa Bay, Boston and New York in this last little stretch, but the road gets a bit easier going forward with Kansas City Oakland and Seattle.

25. Nationals (20):  The Nats’ offensive output over the past five games: 0, 0, 17, 3, 1.  One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn’t belong.

26. Cubs (24): I would just like to go on record and blame my pick of the Cubs to win the NL Central on swamp gas, weather balloons, my rough upbringing and society.

27. Dodgers (23): A bad series in Chicago as, in addition to losing, they left banged up.  This is turning into a totally lost season for L.A., both on the field and off.

28. Padres (25): My brother got tickets to Saturday’s Padres-Mariners game. He isn’t necessarily a Padres fan, but he’s been in San Diego for close to 15 years now and is getting there. His response to the game: “I didn’t think I’d have much fun and probably wouldn’t have gone if someone didn’t give me the ticket. But man, that Michael Pineda kid sure can bring it.”  Padres fever: catch it!

29. Astros (29): With the losing and the new owners coming in, the talk of the team now is who gets traded and when.

30. Twins (30): It’s not fun for Twins fans, but it is somewhat amusing for non-Twins fans who have been beaten over the head for years with the largely erroneous “Minnesota is fundamentally sound and does all of the little things right!” talk to hear the team’s downfall this year blamed largely on being fundamentally unsound and not doing the little things right.

  1. halladaysbicepts - May 23, 2011 at 10:44 AM

    I think you are being to generous with ranking the Phillies at (4). I don’t care how good the pitching is. .246 team batting average. No balance to this team. Worse hitting Phillies team I have ever seen offense-wise in my lifetime. This team, if the playoffs started today, would lose in the NLDS.

    I’d rank them no higher than 10.

    • Chris Fiorentino - May 23, 2011 at 1:48 PM

      You must not be too old then, because in 2000, the Phillies hit .251 for the SEASON and were dead last in the NL in RUNS, HOME RUNS, and SLG.

      • halladaysbicepts - May 23, 2011 at 2:09 PM

        Actually, I’ve been following the Phillies since the late 70′s to answer your question. I’ve live through some of the worse teams in Phillies history.

        And how this team has been hitting over the last month, they are heading for the worse overall stats in the league this year unless they can turn it around AND make a trade to bring another bat in.

        Utley returning tonight….how effective will he be over the next couplf of months.

        Dominic Brown….what kind of player will he be at the MLB level??? Don’t know yet, I haven’t seen him play enough to make that determination.

        Ben Francisco….mediocre player at best.

        Jimmy Rollins….in decline, both at the plate and with his glove.

        Raul Ibanez….do I need to even say anything…

        Common Chris, get a clue before coming at me. I’ll out debate you in my sleep.

      • Chris Fiorentino - May 23, 2011 at 2:20 PM

        “Arguing on the internet is like running in the Special Olympics… Even if you win, you’re still retarded.”

        You got me…the Phillies are terrible. Why do you bother to watch then, if all you care about is offense? Do you realize that the combined ERA of the 4 aces is 2.81 and their WHIP is 1.084? This is with Cliff Lee not at his best and Oswalt with a balky back. Doc’s ERA+ is 171!!! They have the second best record in baseball and the only thing you want to say is that the offense sucks. Nothing about how good the starters are pitching? Or how well the bullpen is holding up considering they are on their third choice for closer?

        Maybe you should just go to sleep.

      • halladaysbicepts - May 23, 2011 at 2:32 PM

        Because Chris, the f****ing game of baseball is about more than PITCHING!!!! YES, they have great pitching and it’s a joy to watch. No question!!! I agree with you 1000 percent. It’s not about that. Watching the F****ing offense every night is sickening.

        Why do I watch everynight? Because I’m a fan of the team. I’m aggrevated with this teams offense because it is OFFENSIVE to watch. OFFENSIVE!!!

        I’m mad because I give a sh*t about both facits of the game. Baseball is not just pitching, although it is the most important part and cannot win without it. But you need to play good defense AND score runs as well. Is this a difficult concept to understand.

        You can get on you team…it’s OK. It’s part of being a diehard fan.

      • Phillies Homer - May 23, 2011 at 2:50 PM

        “Pitching is the most important part and you can’t win without it”

        What YOU just said is why you need to relax about the hitting!

        The offense has been terrible… yet they are one or two base hits away from winning EVERY game they’ve played during their “offensive slump” b/c how incredible the pitching has been.

        The return of Utley and soon Victorino will solidify the offense. Again… Howard is being thrown garbage right now. Once the offense gets healthy, Howard is going to see better pitches. And the whole offense as a whole will produce better. Just take a deep breath and think about the “lineup” the Phillies had to march out there in recent weeks.

      • Chris Fiorentino - May 23, 2011 at 2:58 PM

        Believe me, I get on my team as much as anyone when it is warranted. if the Phillies were hitting to their potential, without injury, they would be 10 games up in the division already. Would that make you happier, or would you be whining about an error they made in game 5 that cost them the game and a chance to be 11 games up???

        Say what you will, but they have had their starting Catcher, starting Center Fielder, 2 closers, starting Second baseman, #3 pitcher all injured and on the DL this season and yet, after only 46 games, they are 10 games over .500 and have the second best record in baseball. When everybody is back playing…when the lineup is the following for more than 1 week…if they don’t score with this lineup after a week…THEN I will whine about the offense. Until then, I’m happy with their 99 win pace.

        Rollins
        Polanco
        Utley
        Howard
        Ibanez
        Victorino
        Brown
        Ruiz
        Ace

      • halladaysbicepts - May 23, 2011 at 3:09 PM

        Chris,

        Fair enough. But if this offense continues to stuggle, I hope to hear your critism of them. But, I hope you’re right:

        Tonight’s lineup just released, Chris.

        Rollins
        Utley
        Polanco
        Howard
        Ibanez
        Chooch
        Brown
        Mayberry
        Hamels

        Utley batting second? Guess they want to plit up lefties. Thoughts?

      • Chris Fiorentino - May 23, 2011 at 3:19 PM

        I would bat Utley third, if only because I don’t know enough about how he is feeling. But if he can run well, then he can hit second. I just didn’t think they would take the chance of clogging up the bases. What him hitting second means to me is that he is fine and will be fine.

        By the way, I like that lineup A LOT. Mayberry may have the most power of any #8 hitter in baseball. And if Brown can find his stroke, they will be a very dangerous offense.

        As far as this week, with that lineup, they should hit tonight. Tomorrow night might be tough against Cueto, but then Wednesday they should hit Wood. I don’t care how well he pitched against them last year…they should hit him and his 5+ ERA. Then Thursday, they get Bailey and his 2.08 ERA so that could be another tough one.

        No matter what happens with the offense, though, I still think they will win 3 out of 4, which to me is really all that matters.

      • halladaysbicepts - May 23, 2011 at 3:26 PM

        Yeah, I have no problem with hitting Utley second for the time being. I guess they have no choice at the 5th hole between Ibanez and Mayberry. Pick your poison. Brown near the bottom of the lineup takes pressure off the kid.

        I pray that we will see some sort of offensive outburst soon. I’m not looking for a 17 spot that the Nats put up the other night. 6 runs would be nice, though.

        The Reds can rake with the best of them. But, Cole is undefeated against them lifetime. Should be a good series.

  2. kingkillerstudios - May 23, 2011 at 10:47 AM

    “I would just like to go on record and blame my pick of the Cubs to win the NL Central on swamp gas, weather balloons, my rough upbringing and society.”

    But your writing’s mighty fine.

  3. Chris Fiorentino - May 23, 2011 at 10:58 AM

    Craig, no mater what the other fair-weather Phillies fans complain about, I know that in the deepest,darkest corners of your mind and heart, you KNOW that the Phillies are the best team in the National League. There are 2 parts of a baseball team(Hitting and Pitching), and when one of them is the greatest in the history of the game, it more than makes up for the other one can being less than stellar.

    Again, I don’t care what other Phillies fans whine about…I am enjoying watching the greatest pitching in the history of the game. When October comes, I’ll worry. For now, it’s a wild ride and I am on board. You guys who are complaining should just enjoy watching Roy, and Cliff, and Roy, and Cole go out there 80% of the time. The are 3-2 on this homestand so far and people are whining about the hitting? Relax.

    • halladaysbicepts - May 23, 2011 at 11:23 AM

      Fair-weathered Phillies fans? I’m assuming your referring to me. I’ve been watching the Phillies for many, many years. I have probably missed 10 games in the last 5 years. I’m hardly a fair-weather fan. I am critical of this offense because I watch them game in and game out and am sick and tired of watching the slop that comes to thge plate every game. I love the starting pitching. It’s the best I have ever seen in my lifetime as a Phillies fan.

      But, don’t kid yourself to say this team has no problems. Stop being such a homer. It’s OK to critisize your own team. It’s part of being a fan and having your team take resposibility for it’s troubles.

      • Phillies Homer - May 23, 2011 at 11:37 AM

        You can criticize the offense when they are at full strength. But, when they are throwing 2nd and 3rd stringers out there on a daily basis you have to assume that the offense is not going to produce.

        As a Phillies fan… you just have to sit back in awe into how well this rotation is holding the team together while their starters get healthy. You don’t need a lot of offense to win. Look at the Giants last year. Look at the Phillies this year… they are in 1st place!

        They are most definitely a top 5 team right now.

      • Chris Fiorentino - May 23, 2011 at 1:27 PM

        Where did you read me write the Phillies have “no problems”? You just put too much emphasis on the problems and not enough on the strengths. I watch as many games as you. Your problem is that you have no perspective for the fact that we are witnessing starting pitching 1 through 4 that hasn’t happened in a long time. You want to give me the Braves of the 90′s…OK, but I’ll say this…for this one year, there has never been a 1-4 staff as good as these guys, and they are proving it.

        Don’t you think that the offense is frustrating to all of us Phillies fans? But there’s a difference between being “frustrated” and feeling that the TEAM is not in the top 10. Seriously? There isn’t a TEAM in the NL I would take over the Phillies.

    • Jonny 5 - May 23, 2011 at 11:42 AM

      Bicepts, Everyone can see the negatives. But scoring them at 10 or lower when they have the second best record in MLB right now? Seriously? The offense is frustrating to watch right now, but these guys will get hot, and until they do the rest of the baseball world is just hoping they still aren’t in first place when they do. Yet some people will focus on only the negative aspects. And it’s tiring. You sound like the NY media complaining about the Yankees depending on the long ball too much.

      • halladaysbicepts - May 23, 2011 at 11:46 AM

        If you are not pissed about this offense right now, and watching bad plate appearance after bad plate appearance for over a month now, something is wrong with you. Are you even watching the same team I am? Seriously.

        Does every Phillies fan on this board work for the Phillies?

        Jonny 5, are you Ruben Amaro in disguise?

      • Jonny 5 - May 23, 2011 at 12:01 PM

        Yes I am watching, and still can’t understand you ranking them at 10 or below. People who despise Philly and everything within it’s city limits wouldn’t rank them lower than you would, a supposed “fan”. They have been offensively limp, you’re right. But that still doesn’t mean they suck. Ahhh whatever….. Wasting my time.

      • Jonny 5 - May 23, 2011 at 12:02 PM

        Oh, and ……

        http://images.usatoday.com/sports/_photos/2009/08/10/amaro-mainx.jpg

        Really Bicepts? Really?

      • halladaysbicepts - May 23, 2011 at 12:05 PM

        Jonny 5, you waste my time with your homerism. Go have a private moment with the Phillies Phanatic.

      • Phillies Homer - May 23, 2011 at 1:35 PM

        Bicepts… I’m watching a Phillies team deliver one solid pitching performance after another.

        I agree, the offense is annoying to watch but it is more than offset by the fact that the pitching is incredible. And more often than not, after a bad at bat, I’m saying, “Eh, it’s [insert a name below]… he won’t be in the starting lineup in a couple weeks.

        Names to insert:
        Pete Orr
        Dane Sardinha
        Wilson Valdez
        Ben Francisco
        Michael Martinez

        Teams have not had to pitch to Ryan Howard in awhile. Once Rollins/Victorino/Utley/or Brown is batting 5th, Howard’s going to see better pitches.

        As Douglas Adams would say… “Don’t Panic”

      • Chris Fiorentino - May 23, 2011 at 1:43 PM

        This dude is obviously one of those “sky is falling” nitwits who will be back on the bandwagon when the offense picks up again when everyone gets healthy. I find that what you need to do with putzes like this is just say “OK” and ignore them, and then celebrate with them once things get better and try not to remind them how stupid they sounded when times were tough.

        And when I say “times were tough” I do so with a grain of salt, considering the Phillies are in First Place, with the second best record in baseball, and, like Homer writes above, they have started the likes of Bobby Orr, Dane Sardine-can, and Mikey Martinez…three scrubs who would be playing for the River Sharks if not for injuries.

      • halladaysbicepts - May 23, 2011 at 2:13 PM

        Chris, you are one of the typical homers that I have to hear call in to the local sports shows in Philly and listen to how great the team is, how great Charlie Manuel is, and how you never can criticise them because they are in 1st place.

        You are a mindless drone. I’m glad you enjoy this offense.

      • Phillies Homer - May 23, 2011 at 2:55 PM

        Ha… no where in any posts did anyone say they are “enjoying the offense”.

        We are all enjoying watching a Phillies team ride first place for basically the entire season to date when the offense CAN ONLY GET BETTER!

        This team is going to be scary good when the hitting comes around. For now… I’m enjoying watching Halladay/Lee/Oswalt/Hamels make opposing offenses look silly.

      • halladaysbicepts - May 23, 2011 at 3:01 PM

        “I’m enjoying watching Halladay/Lee/Oswalt/Hamels make opposing offenses look silly.”

        Yeah, I am too. The only thing I’m not enjoying is watching opposing medicre pitchers making the Phillies’ offense look silly.

      • Chris Fiorentino - May 23, 2011 at 3:12 PM

        Seems that everyone agrees that the Phillies offense is struggling. Nobody is saying they are not. What the rational people are saying is that they have had injuries, have been starting the likes of Orr and Sardine-can, instead of Ruiz and Utley, and that it is too early to say they are in trouble. Especially since they are in first place and have the 2nd best record in baseball. Especially since they have 4 Aces who, for the most part, are pitching that way.

        Now tell me, “Mr. Genious Bicepts”, what would you have them do? Drug the Cardinals GM into giving them Berkman and Holliday for a bag of d**ks? Maybe they can get Pujols for 2 bags of d**ks. You know everything that is wrong with the offense, and yet you have no answers on how to fix the problem.

  4. shanemcdowell - May 23, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes in Minnesota the last few years, but it seems like the team has been slowly regressing for a while now. Poor defense in the corner outfield positions and instability in the middle infield. Shaky bullpen (though, that at least usually be addressed year-to-year). Way too many question marks for a team that should be competing, even if they had everyone healthy.

  5. umrguy42 - May 23, 2011 at 11:04 AM

    “I would just like to go on record and blame my pick of the Cubs to win the NL Central on swamp gas, weather balloons, my rough upbringing and society.”

    You forgot Congress :p

    • professor59 - May 23, 2011 at 11:48 AM

      And Twinkies. And the whole Wookie/Ewok defense, too.

  6. yankeesfanlen - May 23, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    I’d prefer HomeRun Yankees instead of Late Inning Yankees vs. Blue Jays for three days. We’re 3 for 5 so far, best bet is for Grandy to neutralize Bautista.
    Then a squirrely 9 game West Coast trip. Vindication or Disaster? Depends upon which M’s, A’s, and Angels show up.
    On the Indians matter, TigersfanRob says they are having an ’84 Tigers type of season, a couple more weeks of this and it won;’t make any difference is they suck after the ASG.

    • uyf1950 - May 23, 2011 at 11:30 AM

      It probably would surprise no one if I went with the Yankees #5 ; Rays #6 and Red Sox #7. Since that’s the order of the teams in the AL East Standing. How’s that for both a reason and an excuse.

  7. Justin - May 23, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    The Twins got my hopes up with 3 straight wins but then had to deflate that with getting swept by the Diamonbacks. Just that kind of season I guess. So frustrating.

    (Check out my blog http://minnesporta.wordpress.com or click my name)

  8. Jack Marshall - May 23, 2011 at 11:25 AM

    Nah. It won’t be a helluva race. The Red Sox spotted NY and Tampa a bunch of games, that’s all. By the time Boston’s run differential lines up with their win total, the race will be over. This assumes, of course, that Carl Crawford stops hitting like Caroll Hardy.

    • ryanmallettsbluntwrap - May 23, 2011 at 11:59 AM

      Jack …. First of all , let me say you were right about Wake , he did look great out there last night , second uyf is in fairy land if he thinks the yankees RIGHT now are ahead of the sox , yes they are a half game up in the standings , but who owns the best record in May ? Who started out 2-10 and is now only a half game back ? That shows you the Yankees are reeling and sox are speeding up , did anyone not watch the Red Sox take 5 of 6 games vs the Yankees this year ? Come playoff time the Yankees rotation is WEAK , Sox have the 2nd best 3 man Rotation behind the Phils . Beckkkkkkket , lester , clay … Compared to struggling CC , AJ , and then who ? I hope not Phil Hughes . Red Sox win division Rays take wild card , clearly both better then the Yankees, just ask Barry Larkin ^_^

  9. tomemos - May 23, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    “Does anyone think that [they] won’t win the AL Central?”

    Keith Law, for one.

  10. aceshigh11 - May 23, 2011 at 12:32 PM

    Did ANYONE expect this performance from the Indians this year? Was there any indication that this team would be playing this way?

    Amazing.

  11. ryanmallettsbluntwrap - May 23, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    I hate to agree with ESPN , but these power rankings are much more accurate ……
    http://espn.go.com/mlb/powerrankings

  12. PanchoHerreraFanClub - May 23, 2011 at 5:22 PM

    Just to let you all know I still stand by my prediction that the Cubs will win the AL West but it isn’t swamp gas I’ve been inhaling.

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