Mikey’s MLB power rankings

It’s August 8, and we’re past 2/3 of the way through the MLB season right now. That means teams have roughly 50 games to get their act together and either make a run or hold on to their place in the playoff picture. Ironically as I say that, the rankings have barely changed at all this week. What you don’t see is that the Phillies are creeping up on the Braves, the Dodgers and Mets are falling way behind, and the Tigers have fallen out of their race about as fast as any team can in August. With that, here are the rankings for this week…..

1. New York Yankees (68-41)—The only reason the Yankees are still first here is because you’re first until someone knocks you off. But believe me, the Rays are going to knock them off any day now, no matter how many Berkmans the Yankees add.

2. Tampa Bay Rays (67-43)—Out to prove that 2008 was no fluke, and doing it with a vengeance. Do you think Fox is terrified of a Tampa Bay/San Diego World Series?

3. Texas Rangers (64-46)—Sale complete, but mission not complete. Tim McCarver said on Dan Patrick this past week that he thinks this is the best team in the American League. And who can really argue with that?

4. San Diego Padres (63-46)—Oh hey, speaking of the Padres, these guys just keep winning. Sure, their lead is now just one game over the Giants, but we didn’t expect them to be there in June, much less August or beyond.

5. Atlanta Braves (63-47)—It’s not smoke and mirrors anymore, and this team has a great mix of crafty vets and hungry youngsters. Just look out for the Phillies, because here they come, just two games back.

6. Boston Red Sox (63-48)—Don’t count them out yet. All those injuries and just 6 games back in that division? That’s all I’m gonna say.

7. San Francisco Giants (63-48)—This team has its eye on the NL West crown and they have the pitching to get there. Do they have enough offense (i.e., power) though?

8. Chicago White Sox (63-47)—Sorry Mr. President, I just don’t see this lasting much longer. The other shoe is going to drop, and the Twins are going to pounce.

9. Cincinnati Reds (63-48)—Two words—Joey and Votto. Dude might win the triple crown and his team might reach the promised land for the first time in 20 years.

10. Minnesota Twins (62-49)—Too much talent to be kept down in the AL Central. Do you ever wonder if Johan Santana regrets leaving Minnesota?

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

2009 NFL Week 13: Cardinals 30, Vikings 17

Here are five quick-hit observations from the Cardinals’ impressive 30-17 win over the Vikings in Week 13.

1. Warner still amazes.
The media loves to talk about what Brett Favre is able to accomplish at his age – and for good reason. But you watch a game like the on Sunday night and it’s hard not to be just as amazed at what Kurt Warner is able to do at 38-years old. He completed 22-of-32 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns, constantly stood in the face of pressure and delivered some rockets to Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. He’s still fun to watch.

2. Favre must be getting ready for the postseason.
With the playoffs coming up in a few weeks, Favre decided to get into postseason form tonight by playing like crap. I know, I know – he’s been brilliant this season. But considering the media waxes this guy’s nuts every week, I think we can take a little time to recognize how bad he played tonight. He made some downright rookie mistakes throughout the game and while he only threw two interceptions, the Cardinals could have had at least two more if it weren’t for drops by their defensive backs. I’m sure this was just one bad night, but it’s interesting to note that Favre threw off his back foot multiple times in the face of pressure – something he’s accustomed to doing when he’s struggling.

3. AP gets shut down.
What a fantastic job the Cardinals’ run defense did against Adrian Peterson, who finished with just 19 yards on 13 carries. He had zero running room tonight, as Arizona’s defense did a great job of gang tackling him throughout the game. He did haul in six catches for 46 yards, but you know AP didn’t have a great night when Percy Harvin and Chester Taylor outgained him on the ground.

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NFL Gambler Killer of the Week: Matt Hasselbeck

“Let’s see how many people I can screw with this throw…”

I’ve decided to introduce a new feature to TSR called “NFL Gambler Killer of the Week,” where I’ll call out a player or a team for having a hand in screwing bettors. In order to stay objective, I won’t indicate whether or not I personally was affected by the play.

The inaugural NFL Gambler Killer of the Week goes to Seahawks’ quarterback Matt Hasselbeck for his brilliant fourth quarter performance in Seattle’s 31-20 loss to the Cardinals.

Here’s the situation:

The Seahawks were 9-point underdogs heading into Sunday’s game in Arizona and actually jumped out to a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter. But being the gracious people they are, Seattle allowed Arizona to rack up 31 points, including 14 points in the fourth quarter to take a 31-20 lead.

With 5:20 remaining and trailing by 11 (remember, Seattle was getting nine points), the Seahawks took over at their own five-yard line. Hasselbeck then successfully moved the offense to Arizona’s 25-yard line and it appeared that the Seahawks would cut into their deficit with either a field goal or a touchdown and help bettors out in the process.

But being the gracious person he is, Hasselbeck threw into triple coverage on 2nd and 10 and was intercepted by Antrel Rolle.

“Damn!” Mr. Bettor is thinking to himself. “Could have been a nice backdoor cover.”

But then Seattle’s defense gives Mr. Bettor a sliver of hope by forcing Arizona to a three-and-out and giving the offense the ball back with 3:05 remaining. The crafty Hasselbeck once again led the Seahawks into Arizona territory and then down to the Cardinals’ 3-yard line.

“You sweet son of a bitch! You’re going to save me, Matt,” Mr. Bettor screams.

Then, in one of the dumbest decisions of the NFL season, Hasselbeck gets the snap, almost fumbles it, and then tries to shovel it to his running back three feet in front of him. But instead of falling incomplete or into the loving arms of his running back, Adrian Wilson comes out of nowhere and snatches the ball out of the air like the Black Angel of Death he is. (It was actually a great play by Wilson; one of the best of the day.)

“Are you serious?! What were you thinking?! What were you thinking! F-you Matt, you pile of garbage!”

Game over. A field goal in either one of those situations probably would have given bettors a cover, but instead they had to watch as Hasselbeck lost his mind on two separate occasions.

He must have had the Cardinals –9.

Warner rebounds as Cardinals crush Bears

Kurt Warner shook off a five-interception performance last week in a loss to the Panthers to throw for 261 yards and an eye-popping five touchdowns in a 41-21 rout of the Bears on Sunday. Warner didn’t throw any interceptions while completing 22-of-31 passes for 261 yards.

Warner did all this without Anquan Boldin, who sat out with an ankle injury. Larry Fitzgerald seemed to enjoy the spotlight, because he hauled in nine passes for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The 83-year old Warner (I’m kidding) is now on pace for 32 touchdowns and 4,350 yards.

Of course, Warner and the Cards racked up these gaudy stats against a Chicago secondary that couldn’t cover Fat Albert and the gang. The Bears thought that Charles Tillman could cover Fitzgerald one-on-one, which was incredibly smart on their part. Remember Boldin didn’t play, so why Lovie Smith and his coaching staff thought Tillman could (or even should) go one-on-one with Fitzgerald was questionable to say the least. Speaking of questionable, the Bears also decided to throw the ball seven straight times to open the game. Apparently the words “offensive balance” mean nothing to Smith and Ron Turner.

Not to kick dirt in the faces of Chicago fans, but many Bear-lovers thought this would be a Super Bowl team after they traded for Jay Cutler. I’m fully aware that they’ve had injuries on the defensive side of the ball, but even if Brian Urlacher were healthy, the offensive line and secondary are still a mess and Matt Forte has dropped off the face of the earth (part of the reason is because the O-line hasn’t opened any holes). He only had 33 yards on five carries today, but when you’re trailing 31-7 at halftime you’re not going to get many carries.

Their 30-6 win over the hapless Browns gave the Bears some false confidence. But this loss today proves how far Chicago is from being a legitimate contender.

Kemp helps Dodgers take Game 1 over Cards

Thanks in part to Matt Kemp’s two-run dinger in the top of the first off Chris Carpenter, the Dodgers earned a 5-3 victory over the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLDS.

From MLB.com:

It didn’t start well for the Dodgers. Wolf worked himself into a first-inning mess, loading the bases with no outs on a walk to Skip Schumaker, a ground-rule double by Brendan Ryan and an intentional walk to Pujols. He caught Matt Holliday looking and appeared to get Ludwick on a popup behind second base.

Ronnie Belliard, starting instead of Gold Glove second baseman Orlando Hudson, headed out and Kemp came in as the ball hung in the air. At the last moment, Kemp yielded to Belliard, who tipped the ball with his glove but didn’t catch it as a run scored. Belliard made amends on the next batter, ranging up the middle to glove Yadier Molina’s sharp bouncer and turning it into an inning-ending double play.
The Dodgers added to the lead in the third. With runners on the corners, Casey Blake grounded over the third-base bag. Mark DeRosa made a diving stop and, as Andre Ethier scored from third, DeRosa airmailed the ball into right field trying to erase Manny Ramirez going to second base.

But Wolf opened the fourth by walking No. 8 hitter Colby Rasmus, who was bunted to second by Carpenter and doubled home by Schumaker as Weaver started warming up. With two outs Wolf walked Pujols intentionally for the second time. But when he nicked Holliday with a 1-2 pitch he was replaced by Weaver.

Carpenter was back in trouble in the fifth with two on and no outs. After pinch-hitter Juan Pierre’s sacrifice bunt, Furcal increased the lead to 4-2 with a sacrifice fly that ended an 11-pitch at-bat. The Dodgers sixth started with Ethier’s double, which was cashed in when Kyle McClellan hit Russell Martin with a pitch with the bases loaded.

All playoff games are big of course, but this one carried extra weight for the Dodgers because they hadn’t played well the week heading into the playoffs (they nearly handed the division over to the Rockies) and Carpenter had owned them in previous outings. So for Joe Torre’s club to get a win in Game 1 to set the tone for the rest of the series is big.

Earning a win in Game 2 isn’t monumental, but it’s highly important for St. Louis. I’m sure before the series started Tony La Russa figured that he had to get at least a split out of the tandem of Carpenter and Adam Wainwright in these first two games before heading back home. We’ll see how Wainwright fares against Clayton Kershaw.

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