Mikey’s MLB power rankings

The all-star game is behind us now, which means pennant races are about to heat up for real. And there are so many teams in contention this season, it really promises to be a wild rest of the summer. Here is a look at our post-all-star-game power rankings…..

1. New York Yankees (57-32)—Playing with heavy hearts this week after the passing of George Steinbrenner, but nothing else has changed. They just keep winning, and for the Yankees, that’s just what they do.

2. Tampa Bay Rays (54-35)—David Price is the real deal, and one of many reasons this young Rays team is battling the Yankees for AL East supremacy. They’re one of a handful of teams that can compete with the boys from Gotham, but they’d better not get swept this weekend.

3. Atlanta Braves (53-37)—They suddenly have a 5-game lead over the slumping Mets (and 5.5 over the Phils), and have the look of a team that wants to send Bobby Cox out on top.

4. Texas Rangers (52-38)—Cliff Lee and that lineup? The Rangers can start printing playoff tickets now.

5. San Diego Padres (52-37)—At this point, you can’t call it smoke and mirrors. Just like the Rays, this young team plays hard, manufactures runs and keeps games close with solid pitching.

6. Boston Red Sox (51-39)—Someone has awoken the beast that is David Ortiz. Home run derby was just a tease of what’s to come at Fenway this summer.

7. Chicago White Sox (50-39)—A 9-game winning streak was snapped yesterday, but the south side of Chicago is beaming. Too bad Jake Peavy is out for the year, but that doesn’t seem to matter much right now.

8. Cincinnati Reds (50-41)—See Padres, San Diego. Dusty Baker is one heck of a manager, and that is showing again now. Of course, when you have Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Scott Rolen in the middle of your lineup, all is right with the world.

9. Colorado Rockies (49-40)—This year, the Rockies won’t wait to make their move until September. They have already started making it, and the Padres had better watch their collective back

10. Detroit Tigers (48-39)—They have quietly kept right up with the White Sox, just one game back and now 2.5 ahead of the Twins. And Jim Leyland is still one of the best managers in the game.

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Mikey’s MLB power rankings

Not much has changed at the top of this list, but the Rangers are making a statement. Meanwhile, the Mets, Cardinals and Twins have been playing such mediocre baseball that a few upstarts have knocked them off this list. Here are the pre-All Star game power rankings:

1. New York Yankees (55-31)—It’s on. The Rangers out-bid the Yanks for Cliff Lee, but lookie here—the Bombers have won 7 in a row. They don’t need no stinkin’ Cliff Lee.

2. Texas Rangers (50-36)—Yesterday, Nolan Ryan and company vaulted their team from playoff contender to World Series contender by obtaining Mr. Lee. The middle of their lineup with Vlad, Hamilton and Nelson Cruz just might be the most potent heart of the order in baseball.

3. Tampa Bay Rays (52-34)—Sorry, Boston. Sorry, New York. These pesky Rays are not going away.

4. Atlanta Braves (51-35)—This pains me as a Mets fan, but the Braves made a series-opening statement last night at Citi Field. They are for real and they are trying to pull away from the Mets and Phils.

5. San Diego Padres (50-36)—You think the Mets wish they still had Heath Bell?

6. Boston Red Sox (50-36)—They aren’t giving in either. The next two and a half months are going to be very exciting in the AL East.

7. Cincinnati Reds (45-35)—That team dressed in red leading the NL Central is not the Cardinals. By the way, if Joey Votto didn’t win that online voting, it would have been one of the worst all-star snubs in baseball history.

8. Detroit Tigers (47-37)—Don’t look now, the Tigers have won four in a row and the White Sox six in a row, and they are 1-2 in the AL Central while the Twins are suddenly floundering.

9. Los Angeles Dodgers (48-38)—Will the NL West be like a stock market correction and have the Dodgers and Rockies take over the Padres’ lofty spot? The Dodgers are winning again and making their move.

10. Colorado Rockies (48-38)—Always a late bloomer, the Rockies are also making a move, and their stud ace Ubaldo Jimenez is a positively sick 15-1 at the all-star break.

Mikey’s MLB power rankings

Amazingly, we’re only 10 days away from the All-Star break. That means teams will re-charge and start to make a serious run at a playoff spot from mid-July on. And the power rankings haven’t changed much, other than most of the California teams dropping off the list. So without further adieu…..

1. New York Yankees (48-31)—The Bombers continue to ride their stars to victory, and survived a recent team hitting slump. There’s no reason to believe they won’t win the division again and contend for the title.

2. Texas Rangers (47-32)—Seriously, how scary has this team become? This past week Vlad gave his former team a taste of what they might be missing this year

3. Boston Red Sox (48-32)—Barely hanging on to second place in the tough AL East, but only two games separate the Yanks, Sox and Rays.

4. San Diego Padres (47-33)—Sure, the Rangers are a big surprise. But no team has been as surprising as the Padres, who just keep winning. And here’s a frightening thing for other National League teams—the Pads are now believing in themselves too.

5. Tampa Bay Rays (46-33)—Thankfully the Rays got off to a hot start, because everyone knows how much talent resides in the AL East. And has Carlos Pena become Dave Kingman? Yikes….he’s batting .196 with 16 homers and 50 RBI.

6. Atlanta Braves (47-33)—The Braves are a major league best 29-9 at home this year (.763 winning percentage). Too bad no one goes to their home games.

7. New York Mets (45-35)—With two more games against the suddenly slumping Nationals, the Mets still have a chance to close the gap with Atlanta this weekend.

8. Cincinnati Reds (46-35)—I’m getting closer to believing, and so are the Reds.

9. Minnesota Twins (44-36)—They haven’t been playing great baseball, which has allowed the mediocre Tigers and White Sox back into the AL Central race. But there is too much talent in Minnesota to keep the Twins out of the postseason hunt.

10. St. Louis Cardinals (44-36)—I’m now ready to put the Reds above the Cardinals, and Tony LaRussa’s boys had better start playing better away from home (18-22) if they want to keep pace.

NL East providing some exciting baseball

Going into the new baseball season, all eyes were once again set to watch the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays duke it out in the AL East. As it’s become customary, we assumed the division would deliver both the AL leader in wins, but also the Wild Card. Of course, this will probably still happen, but the hallowed division has turned into a head-scratcher given Boston’s poor start. I’m not lamenting this by any means (I’d love to see the Blue Jays in the playoffs, actually), but I’m here to tell you that there’s another division worth your interest: the NL East.

What? The NL East doesn’t just consist of the the Phillies and a handful also-rans? Well, not yet, anyway. Currently, three of the the division’s five teams have winning records (Mets, Phillies, Nationals), and the two others (Braves, Marlins) have enough talent to contend for the rest of the year. While I’d like to provide high-brow sabermetrics and detailed graphs, it’s really quite simple: The pitching and hitting on each of these teams are both decent at the very least. That’s it really, just decent. As long as one of these components isn’t woeful, a club should expect to hover above a .500 winning percentage. That may not satisfy a die-hard fan who has everything riding on their team making it to the World Series, but it sure does encourage neck-and-neck competition.

This is what we have in the NL East — an intriguing balancing act. The Mets surprisingly sit atop the leaderboard in the division, on the strength of their pitching no less. Mike Pelfrey has been sensational — who knows how — boasting a 4-0 record and a 0.69 ERA. With Johan Santana, Jon Niese and Oliver Perez performing well on the mound, the Mets have reason to be feel comfortable. And look, the hitting has not been phenomenal — merely decent. Jason Bay isn’t knocking blasts out of the park left and right, but guys like David Wright, Jose Reyes, Jeff Franceur and Ike Davis are getting on base. On base percentage can sometimes be the most feared statistic in the game. The Mets may not keep it up for long — there’s far too many question marks. Still, it’s nice to see the Phillies getting some guff from within.

Now, the Phillies will make the playoffs — there’s no way around it. Roy Halladay tops an intimidating rotation, and not even Brad Lidge or Ryan Madson will be able to consistently blow the countless leads provided by their hitting. I just think the NL East went a bit overlooked during the offseason. If it continues to play out as it has, this division could yield two playoff teams. None of the other teams look entirely vulnerable: the Braves quietly put together a solid unit during the offseason; the Nationals are stunning opponents with both power and unheard of pitchers; the Marlins are the Marlins, meaning we know nothing about them and they’ll still finish with a winning record.

I know, it’s strange, but the NL East had us fooled from the start. There’s some dramatic baseball in there.


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Five MLB storylines to watch in 2009

The A-Rod steroid mess is finally boiling over, the World Baseball Classic is fast-approaching and making GMs and managers nervous, and the 2009 regular season is a little over a month away. It’s hard to believe we crowned the Phillies world champs a third of a year ago, but time does fly like Jose Reyes around the bases. With that, let’s look at some interesting questions that beg to be answered in 2009:

1. Who will be the surprise team this year? Last year it was the Tampa Bay Rays, who not only won the ridiculously competitive AL East, but also beat the Red Sox in the ALCS to reach the World Series, which they eventually lost to the Phillies. In 2007, the Colorado Rockies won 21 of 22 games after September 17, including sweeping the Cubs and D-Backs in the playoffs before losing to Boston in the Fall Classic. In 2006 it was the Cardinals who squeaked into the postseason with an 83-78 record, ultimately winning it all. Who is going to do it this season? Or will it be a big-market, big-money World Series match up such as Yankees/Mets or Red Sox/Cubs? It’s almost impossible to say I told you so at this point to this type of question, but here are the teams I’m telling you to keep an eye on: Indians, A’s, Giants, Marlins.

2. How will the choking of recent seasons affect the Mets, Cubs and Angels? The Mets’ bullpen imploded two years in a row, and GM Omar Minaya went and picked up not one, but two lights-out closers in K-Rod and JJ Putz. Still, the Mets are not going to have an easy go of things in the NL East, and their lineup and starting rotation are bordering on suspect. The Cubs and Angels keep beating everyone up in the regular season only to flame out early in the playoffs. Do these two teams lack what it takes to win, or has the luck and clutch hitting of other teams been their demise? Honestly, you can’t keep talented teams like these three down for very long, and I expect all of them to be playing deep into October this time around.


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