Monday, April 11, 2011

MLB Power Rankings 4-11-2011

During the winter of 2000, ESPN had cameras follow the Manny Ramirez free agent saga for Outside the Lines.  A transcript of the show can be found here

The thing that struck me as I originally watched it and has stayed with me is just how coddled and babied he was during the process.  Coddling and babying a professional athlete is nothing new, but to actually see it was eye opening. 

Last week it was revealed that Ramirez had once again failed a drug test.  Instead of complying with a 100 game suspension he opted to retire.  At age 38, I don't think it was a shock that he decided to go that route.  I also don't think it was a shock that Ramirez would continue to use performance enhancing drugs despite the risk to his career and reputation.  A look at his numbers suggests why he may have taken the chance.

2009 was marred by his first drug suspension.  After a quick start before the suspension, he never regained his usual form and hit 19 homeruns in 104 games.  Then 2010 hit.  In just 90 games between the Dodgers and White Sox, Ramirez hit just 9 homeruns and slugged .460.  His OPS was still a strong .870, but it wasn't hard to tell that the end was near for Manny's career.  When the time came for him to sign for 2011, there were some teams kicking the tires, but he settled for $2,000,000 from the Rays. 

This was a player that was used to monster numbers.  This is a player that was used to being adored by fans even as he tested their patience to the point that the fans had to use phrases like "Manny being Manny."  Now he found himself having to get ready to play for a bad team in a bad stadium in front of empty seats.  Maybe he figured he'd have one last hurrah.  Maybe he'd get caught, but maybe he wouldn't.  If he got caught, he'd call it quits.  If not, maybe he'd hit 30 homeruns and give himself a chance next year to get to 600 for his career.  If that's what he was thinking, then that's a sorry thing for him to do to the Rays.  But hey, he was being Manny.  He also has goofy hair. 

But surely he knew that if he got caught again using steroids that his Hall of Fame potential would vanish.  Yeah, he had the positive test in 2009, but maybe people would buy his prescribed medication excuse.  And you know, he was named in neither Juiced nor the Mitchell Report.  He was the 13th player chosen in the 1991 draft, so it's not like greatness wasn't expected.  But a second failed test and he would be setting himself up for the Raffy Palmeiro treatment.  People would look at him and assume that he was always a PED user.

Maybe Manny just doesn't care about the HOF.  He's made over $200,000,000 in his career, he won 2 World Series, and he was a 12-time All-Star.  Maybe he has Juan Gonzalez Disease, where a player feels like he's cursed to be good at baseball.  He doesn't really like the game, but he's good at it and can make a lot of money doing it.  No different than plenty of accountants and salesmen out there today. 

But I keep going back to that Outside the Lines segment.  Manny was on the verge of setting his great-grandchildren up for life and he had grown men twice his age fawning over him like my wife when she sees Michael Vartan.  He wanted to relive those moments.  He wanted to be needed and adored again.  Maybe he was using during his younger years, maybe he wasn't.  The need for the adulation was greater than the risk of getting caught.  It doesn't make sense to me, but nothing really ever did make sense where Manny was concerned.  He was just, well, being Manny.

Now on to the Power Rankings

Last week's ranking in ( ).

1. Texas Rangers (2) - The perennially slow starting Rangers finished the week at 8-1.  The Orioles found out that you don't make the Rangers mad.  After being blanked in Game 1 of a doubleheader for their first loss, the Rangers responded by scoring 13 runs in the nightcap.  Tommy Hunter once again may be waiting in AAA until an injury opens up a rotation spot.

2. Philadelphia Phillies (1) - Cliff Lee got shelled, so the honeymoon there may be over, but this is still the best team in the NL.

3. Colorado Rockies (9) - They are averaging just 3.4 runs against per game.  Their only loss this week was in 14 inning to Pittsburgh.

4. Cincinnati Reds (3) - Their +17 run differential would be the best in the big leagues if Pennsylvania and Texas seceded from the Union.

5. Cleveland Indians (20) - This ranking doesn't look right to me, but they had a 6-0 week including sweeps of Boston (impressive) and Seattle (not as impressive).

6. Chicago White Sox (8) - I know Tampa Bay wasn't going to go 0-162, but Chicago did give them their first win, so I can't put them ahead of Cleveland this week even though I think they're better. 

7. Toronto Blue Jays (7) - Only 30 runs allowed through 9 games.  It seems weird to have them as the top team in the AL East, but I don't see why not.  Boston is struggling right now and New York lost twice to Boston.

8. Baltimore Orioles (11) - I'm still using my 2004 Rangers analogy with this team.  Nice start, but in their first series against a good team (Texas) they were found to be lacking.  They have something in Zach Britton, though.

9. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (19) - They went 4-1 last week and Dan Haren got a win in relief.  They have Cleveland, Chicago, and Texas coming up, so we'll have a better idea of them in 2 weeks.

10. Boston Red Sox (12) - They started off the week poorly with a sweep against Cleveland, including one loss by suicide squeeze.  But before their fans actually started mass suicides, they rebounded at home by taking a series against the Yankees.  This team will really have to tank for me to keep them too far out of the top 10.

11. New York Yankees (4) - They had a chance to really cause panic in Boston but failed.  Derek Jeter has decided to go back to his original swing.  You know, the one that got him 2,926 hits. 

12. Oakland Athletics (17) - They can't score runs, but their pitching is living up to expectations.  Kind of a typical A's season. 

13. San Francisco Giants (14) - They went 3-2 for the week. And....that's all I got.

14. Kansas City Royals (18) - The Royals just keep playing well.  It will be interesting to see if they can keep it up.  With the top farm system in the majors according to Baseball America, it shouldn't be long before they stay in the top half of the league.

15. Arizona Diamondback (23) - They beat Cincinatti once last week, which is nice.  They lost to the Cubs twice, which is not.

16. Florida Marlins (24) - They had a nice week going 4-2, but it was against Houston and Washington.  You almost should get docked losing at all to Houston.

17. Milwaukee Brewers (28) - Rumors of their demise may have been premature.  They won 3 out of 4 against Atlanta and 2 out of 3 against the Cubs.

18. Los Angeles Dodgers (5) - They're 5-4 and won a series against San Diego, but they have a -10 run differential.  So we'll see. 

19. San Diego Padres (10) - They had a so-so week and lost a series to the Dodgers.  If they won that series then 18 and 19 on this list would be flipped.

20. Pittsburgh Pirates (25) - They won 2 out of 3 against the Cardinals (isn't everyone these days) but turned around and lost 3 of 4 to Colorado.  And besides, they're the Pirates.  What do you expect?

21. Chicago Cubs (26) - Did you know their manager takes the train to Wrigley Field?  I didn't either.

22. Atlanta Braves (7) - They lost 3 of 4 to Milwaukee and then 2 of 3 to the Phillies.  Not good.

Time is getting away from me, and I don't feel like spending it on these teams, so here are the rest.

23. St. Louis Cardinals (21)
24. Washington Nationals (27)
25. New York Mets (15)
26. Detroit Tigers (13)
27. Minnesota Twins (22)
28. Houston Astros (29) - Thank God for Seattle!!!!
29. Seattle Mariners (16)
30. Tampa Bay Rays (30)


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