Last rankings in parentheses (stats through Thursday’s games):
1. Chicago Cubs (2): Wrigley Field DJ plays a song “Smack My Bitch Up” after reliever Aroldis Chapman pitched on Sunday, and then fired the DJ. “The selection of this track showed a lack of judgment and sensitivity to an important issue,’’ Cubs exec Crane Kenney said. You could say the same about the team that traded for Chapman.
2. Washingon (4): Stephen Strasburg, who was 15-1 with a 2.63 ERA two weeks ago, has given up 24 hits and 19 runs in his last three starts, covering 11.2 innings. Maybe the Nats should shut him down.
3. Toronto (7): Blue Jays increase 2017 ticket prices by 13% percent for two-thirds of their games and decrease by 7% for one-third. No word on much of the additional revenue is intended for free agents-to-be Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista.
4. Cleveland (6): Cleveland expected heavy traffic on Thursday when Browns, Paul McCartney and the Indians were all in town. McCartney would have played Progressive Field, but as Indians fans know, no one goes there.
5. Texas (3): Rangers GM Jon Daniels in a radio interview: “Maybe I shouldn’t say this. I wouldn’t want to take my kids and sit out in the sun for a day game here in the middle of July or August in Texas.” Translation: “We need a roof or a new stadium, and since we’re paying Elvis Andrus $15 mill, the taxpayers will have to pay for it.”
6. L.A. Dodgers (8): Dodgers are 26-17 and have gained eight-and-a-half games on Giants, taking the lead in NL West since Clayton Kershaw last pitched. Might have something to do with their improved offense: post-Kershaw Dodgers are averaging 5.2 runs per game, Kershaw Dodgers averaged 4.1. Makes you wonder how many games Kershaw, who was 11-2 before injured, could win with that kind of run support.
7. San Francisco (1): Giants fall out of first place when Jung Ho Kang homers off rookie Derek Law after Law, who’s played 49 major-league games, shook off the sign of catcher Buster Posey, who’s played 859 and won three world championships. Law would have done well to remember the Giants’ two rules: Rule No. 1: Posey is always right. Rule No. 2: see rule No. 1.
8. Boston (9): All-Star pitcher Steven Wright was hurt pinch-running for David Ortiz against Dodgers and manager John Farrell defended the move, saying, “I would love to be able to predict injuries; unfortunately I can’t.” Yo, John. Here’s one thing we can predict: there’s a better chance your best pitcher won’t get hurt if someone else pinch-runs. Say, Clay Buchholz?
9. Baltimore (5): Shortstop J.J. Hardy is a noted pingpong player which begs the question: How can he hit that ball so much better than he can a baseball when the latter is bigger?
10. St. Louis (10): Manager Mike Matheny stands by shortstop Greg Garcia, filling in for the injured Aldemys Diaz, saying Garcia is “our best option there defensively.” He better be, given the 0-31 stretch Garcia went through offensively.
11. Seattle (16): Since taking over as closer, rookie Edwin Diaz has saved eight games in nine appearances, allowed five hits and fanned 13 batters in nine innings.
12. Detroit (15): Tigers played Red Sox Thursday at 1 p.m. barely 12 hours after the visitors finished at Baltimore on Wednesday. “… There’s nothing vindictive going on here,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. He’s right. If there was, they’d have started at noon.
13. Pittsburgh (14): Francisco Cervelli misreads signs from dugouts and calls for an intentional walk when Pirates braintrust was motioning the infield to move in. Cervelli should have known better, given that the batter was Ehire Adrianza, who has a .219 career average. Adrianza has been intentionally walked once in 351 plate appearances with the Giants, and it’s a safe bet it wasn’t to get to Madison Bumgarner.
14. Miami (13): Ichiro donated the equipment he was wearing for his 3,000th hit to the Hall of Fame, providing one more distinction to be drawn between him and Pete Rose. The latter would have sold it to the highest bidder.
15. Houston (11): Astros release minor-leaguer outfielder Danry Vasquez, accused in a domestic assault. Forgive the cynicism, but would the Astros have been as forceful if Vasquez’s .696 OPS was 100 points or so higher?
16. Kansas City (17): Fan whose son was given Raul Mondesi’s first home run ball asks for season tickets and beer in exchange for the ball. His son and cousin got autographed balls and batting gloves instead. Dad should have held out. Given that Mondesi’s minor-league career high in homers is eight, the ball might be a rarity.
17. N.Y. Yankees (19): Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said social media convinced him the team’s fan base was ready for a rebuild. Imagine how Brian Cashman feels. He’s been telling Steinbrenner this reportedly for some time but the latter responds not to his GM but a few thousand random tweets.
18. N .Y. Mets (12): Former Mets catcher Choo Choo Coleman died this week at age 80. Coleman, one of the Amazin’ Mets of 1962, gave an answer to Ralph Kiner on the postgame show that, 54 years later, might still be the best ever. Kiner: “What’s your wife’s name, and what’s she like?” Choo Choo: “Her name is Mrs. Coleman — and she likes me, Bub.”
19. Colorado (20): Rockies are 27th in team ERA at 4.89. That would be their best finish since 2011, when they were 26th.
20. Chicago White Sox (18): Robin Ventura says he wants to return as manager, “but you have to have somebody ask you to do it and all that. That’s stuff that happens after the season is over … ” Only when your record is 57-63, like Ventura’s. If it’s 69-50, like Terry Francona’s, they don’t wait as long to ask.
21. Philadelphia (21): Ryan Howard slashed .148/.212/.344 through July 1 with 11 homers and 25 RBIs; since then he’s slashed .338/.351/.750 with eight home runs and 18 RBIs. Said Howard: “You just got to stick with it.” The Phillies had no choice, given Howard’s $25 million contract they were stuck with.
22. L.A. Angels (22): Asked about fangraphs.com numbers that rank Angels leadoff man Yunel Escobar as MLB’s fourth-worst base runner, Angels manager Mike Scioscia says, “I think he’s run into some throws that have been right on the money.” Amazing how that works. If you’re looking for a big-leaguer to play poker with, start with Yunel.
23. Milwaukee (23): Brewers moved Jonathan Villar, batting .296 with an .811 OPS, off shortstop for rookie Orlando Arcia, who is hitting .161 with two extra-base hits in his first 56 at-bats after hitting .267 with 18 double plays at AAA Colorado Springs. Sometimes the status quo is better.
24. Tampa Bay (27): At 7-16, Chris Archer still has a chance to be MLB’s first 20-game loser since Mike Maroth lost 21 in 2003. Archer has already equaled last year’s leader, Corey Kluber, who was 7-16. No one has lost more than 17 since Daniel Cabrera was 9-18 in 2007; Jeremy Guthrie lost 17 in 2009 and 2011, which makes you wonder why Ned Yost entrusted a Game 7 to him in the 2014 World Series.
25. San Diego (26): Padres announce top prospects will remain in AAA through the end of El Paso’s playoff run. “… we want them to have the experience of playing in the playoffs,” said big-league manager Andy Green. They’re certainly not going to get it with the Padres for a couple of years hence.
26. Oakland (25): Coco Crisp thinks the Athletics are limiting his playing time to keep him from reaching 130 games, which would make him a $13 million Athletic for 2017. Couldn’t have anything to do with his .238 batting average and .307 on-base percentage, and can’t imagine why the budget-conscious A’s aren’t willing to pay it.
27. Arizona (24): ESPN.com’s Keith Law calls for a purge of the Diamondbacks’ front office and the firing of Tony La Russa and Dave Stewart: “The La Russa/Stewart Reign of Error has been as mistake-filled as any front office regime in the last five years, with most of their gaffes becoming public embarrassments to the organization, contributing to the perception around the sport that Arizona’s front office is a laughingstock, falling well behind the rest of the industry in its processes and capabilities.” He’s not wrong.
28. Minnesota (28): Rookie infielder Jorge Polanco had nine extra-base hits in his first 43 at-bats, has now gone 58 at-bats without another one. He’s still batting .317 with a .797 OPS in 101 at-bats.
29. Cincinnati (29): Reds manager Bryan Price said the team is “trying to get away from getting too cliché with the bullpen.” The only cliche about the Reds’ bullpen, which ranks 29th in MLB with a 4.95 ERA, is that it’s not very good.
30. Atlanta (30): Freddie Freeman has accumulated 3.7 of offensive WAR; other Braves, not including pitchers, have combined for 2.3.
Sources: mercurynews.com, chicago tribune.com, sportsday.dallasnews.com, espn.com, cleveland.com, mlb.com, mlive.com, kansascity.com, chicagosuntimes.com, sandiegouniontribune.com