This week’s rankings; previous ranking in parentheses. Stats through Saturday’s games:
1. Philadelphia (1): Cole Hamels complains of a dead arm. Isn’t that what ended Bobby Hoying’s career?
2. Boston (3): After hitting 1 homer in previous 19 games, David Ortiz has hit four in last eight and has team-high 24. Oh, and his contract is up after this year, and predictably, he’s not happy about the state of negotiations.
3. N.Y. Yankees (2): Yankees GM Brian Cashman encourages everyone to “smoke the objective pipe” when evaluating struggling starter A.J. Burnett. Good advice perhaps, except when coming from someone paying $16.5 million for an 8-9 starter with a 4.60 ERA.
4. Atlanta (4): Braves fans — and all baseball fans — mourning the passing of Ernie Johnson, 87, best known for his work as a Braves broadcaster on TBS. But Johnson was also a pretty fair pitcher in the Braves’ bullpen in the 50s — going 40-23 with a 3.77 ERA and 19 saves from 1950-59 (all for the Boston and Milwaukee Braves, but for Baltimore in 1959). He saved some of his best work for the Braves’ 1957 World Series win over the Yankees — seven innings of two-hit ball over three games, allowing one run and fanning eight. He was the hard-luck loser in Game 6 — pitching 4.1 innings of two-hit relief but giving up Hank Bauer’s tie-breaking home run in the seventh. Of course, that only set up Lew Burdette’s shutout win in Game 7.
5. Milwaukee (7): Like Red Sox, Brewers have multiple MVP candidates. Think front office wants the Brewer who’s staying — Ryan Braun — to win? Or the Brewer who’s going — Prince Fielder?
6. Texas (6): Yorvit Torrealba, career .260 hitting, has 11-game hit streak. Manager Ron Washington is so impressed he plans to use Torrealba at DH Sunday. Why not? He’s only 22 games behind Dan Uggla.
7. Arizona (8): Justin Upton’s previous best strikeout rate: 1 every 3.8 at-bats in 2009. This year he’s fanning but one every 5, and has career-high .934 OPS entering play Sunday.
8. St. Louis (9): Cards are first and third in the NL in OPS, and neither is Albert Pujols, who is 12th. Lance Berkman leads at .992, Matt Holliday is but 8 points back.
9. San Francisco (5): Manager Bruce Bochy uses hypnosis to end habit of dipping tobacco; hypnosis involved methods of relaxation and keeping his eyes closed. Maybe struggling center fielder Andres Torres should try it at bat. He can’t do any worse.
10. L.A. Angels (10): Last five Ervin Santana starts: 43 innings, 25 hits, 4 earned runs, 7 walks, 31 Ks, 1 no-hitter. He’s too late for the Cy Young Award, but he’s been baseball’s best pitcher this month.
11. Tampa Bay (11): Pitcher James Shields didn’t allow a stolen base until Tuesday — to Eric Hosmer of all people. It helps when you allow so few baserunners (.279 on-base against).
12. Detroit (12): MLB.sbnation.com’s Jason Brannon, paraphrasing renowned sabremetrician Winston Churchill, says Tigers are worst team in AL Central. Except for all the others.
13. Cleveland (13): Recent Hall of Fame inductees Robert Alomar and Bert Blyleven, both former Indians, were honored by team Friday though neither (Alomar, Jays; Blyleven, Twins) has an Indians hat on his plaque. That won’t be the case for Jim Thome or Omar Vizuqel — if the latter makes it.
14. Toronto (14): Once-certain MVP Jose Bautista will have to win it over the last six weeks after 14-for-74 spell in last 22 games has his OPS down to MLB-best 1.071.
15. Cincinnati (15): Reds hits seven home runs Saturday night, score nine runs in first three innings, 13 in all. Yes, cycnical Reds fan, they won.
16. Chicago White Sox (20): Adam Dunn, 3-for-79 vs. lefties, finally sits vs. one on Tuesday. Nice to see manager Ozzie Guillen has discovered this new-fangled trend called platooning.
17. N.Y. Mets (17): New York Post quoted Mets pitcher Mike Pelfrey as saying it was “unrealistic” to expect the Mets to win a championship this season. Given that Pelfrey, 6-9 with a 4.53 ERA,
is part of the rotation, he might have a point.
18. Pittsburgh (16): Pirates 2-10 since trading for now-injured Derrek Lee. Might have been worse if Lee wasn’t 5-for-18 with 3 extra-base hits.
19. Florida (18): Logan Morrison banished to New Orleans. Looking forward to his next tweet from Bourbon Street.
20. Colorado (19): Rockies pitcher Juan Nicasio, hit by a batted ball, told manager Jim Tracy he’ll be at Coors Field for Monday’s game less than two weeks after surgery. Tracy said it made his day, and it should.
21. Washington (21): Minor league catcher Sandy Leon, on ESPN.com, on rehabbing starter Stephen Strasburg: “When you throw 98 or 99, it’s easy to catch.” Easy for him to say.
22. L.A. Dodgers (22): Dodgers’ usher plays joke on young fan, taking a foul ball from him and walking away (link below) before returning. Someone should tell the usher the Dodgers are funny enough on the field.
23. Oakland (24): Texas pitcher C.J. Wilson on pitching at Oakland: “I hate pitching there. The mound sucks, the fans suck.” Wilson omitted the one benefit to pitching at Oakland: the A’s aren’t so good either.
24. Minnesota (23): Tsuyoshi Nishioka has eight-game hit streak, has raised average from .206 to .224. Shades of Dan Uggla.
25. Seattle (26): Recently recalled Willy Mo Pena, age 29, compared himself to wine, said “when they’re old, they taste better. I’m getting old . . .” Willy Mo should be vintage in about 2017.
26. San Diego (27): MLB.com notes that Cameron Maybin has career-highs in average, steals, doubles, walks, RBIs, runs and triples. Of course, previous highs weren’t that high.
27. Chicago Cubs (28): GM Jim Hendry said he dealt outfielder Kosuke Fukodome so Cubs could evaluate Ty Colvin. Now manager Mike Quade says he won’t throw his veterans to the bench. What we have here, is either a failure to communicate, or Quade’s attempt to communicate that having watched Colvin hit .132, he’s finished his evaluation.
28. Kansas City (25): Royals manager Ned Yost says rookie Mike Moustakas, batting .187 and slugging .235 in 187 at-bats, isn’t going back to minors, is good enough to fix his ills and compared him to George Brett, Mike Schmidt and Robin Yount. No pressure there. What, Chris Pittaro wasn’t available for comparison?
29. Baltimore (29): Orioles are 45-72 entering play Sunday, heading toward fourth straight last-place finish and 14th straight under .500. This year’s .385 win/loss percentage is worst since 1988’s 54-107 .335 finish. Good thing they hired Buck Showalter, or it would have been worse.
30. Houston (30): Astros have never lost 100 games, but they will this year. They lost 90 games or more their first seven seasons and 10 times in all, but never more than 97 (1965, 1975 and 1991; the ’65 Astros had two Hall of Famers — Rookie of the Year runner-up Joe Morgan and Robin Roberts — plus Jimmy Wynn, Rusty Staub, Larry Dierker, Mike Cuellar and one guest start from 1956 World Series pefect game pitcher Don Larsen).