Last rankings in parentheses. Stats through Monday’s games:
1. Oakland (1): The A’s are talking to an architect about their new baseball-only stadium. If only someone could help build a first-round playoff victory.
2. L.A. Angels (2): Jason Grilli had 4.87 ERA with Pirates, 2.45 with Angels. Reliever he was traded for, Enesto Frieri, had 6.39 ERA with Angels, 10.13 with Pirates and broke Paul Goldschmidt’s hand, which got Andrew McCutchen plunked in retaliation. Then Frieri was let go. If they’re keeping score of trades, Angels GM Jerry DiPoto wins this one by mercy rule.
3. L.A. Dodgers (4): Case for Clayton Kershaw as MVP builds. It’s a reasonable argument, though see Miami at No. 19. Trivia: Who was the last NL MVP who was a pitcher? Who were the pitchers who have been MVPs (it’s happened 24 times; twice by two pitchers, once consecutively, once 11 years apart)? Answers below. Hint: There have been six AL pitchers who were MVPs since there was one in the NL, seven if you consider that both MVPs were pitchers the last time the NL MVP was a pitcher.
4. Baltimore (12): Orioles manager Buck Showalter asks: “Is there such a thing as a man crush on your team?” Not sure. Checking with Rick Santorum.
5. Milwaukee (3): First to 14 wins? Brewers’ Wily Peralta, who had 13 in his career entering 2014.
6. Washington (6): Manager Matt Williams fumed when asked by media if struggling Bryce Harper should be sent to minors: “The minute you think you can read my freaking mind, you’re sorely mistaken.” Then he proved it by apologizing for his outburst the next day.”I didn’t sleep much last night. So I just wanted to apologize to members of the press for my actions yesterday.” Kudos to Williams for his belated professionalism. And the karma paid off. Harper homered to win a game a few hours later.
7. Detroit (5): Kate Upton says Yankees wouldn’t let her wear Tiger hat in support of boyfriend Justin Verlander when she sat in the Legends section at Yankee Stadium. Given boyfriend’s 4.76 ERA, they were probably just trying to save her from embarrassment.
8. Kansas City (13): First-place Royals host fan from South Korea, who gets a ball, gives Danny Duffy a kiss, bear-hugs Mitch Maier and is treated royally by team and fans. Who doesn’t love a winner?
9. Seattle (7): Mariners, the team which did pay Robinson Cano $24 million a year for 10 years, are eight games over .500 entering play Tuesday, two games better than the four-over Yankees, the team that didn’t. And the Yankees are on their sixth second baseman, having released Brian Roberts and traded for .171-hitting shortstop Stephen Drew. For whatever it’s worth.
10. Pittsburgh (15): Pirates are 11th in slugging in MLB and seventh in average, 16th in ERA, but key to their resurgence is their standing in on-base percentage: first at .333. That’s up 20 points over last year, when they were 17th and 29 points over 2012, when they were 27th.
11. St. Louis (11): Rookie Oscar Taveras dropped to eighth in batting order because “manager Mike Matheny said it should be viewed as a push to get hitters who are hotter than Taveras higher in the order,” according to stltoday.com. Given that the Cardinals are 29th in MLB in runs scored, good luck finding any.
12. Toronto (8): Blue Jays fan Rob Ouellette scatters his stepbrother’s ashes on Rogers Centre field. Unfortunately, it’s turf, and ashes were vacuumed off field. Oh, and charges pending.
13. San Francisco (10): Giants GM Brian Sabean on not making a deal at the deadline: “I’ve done this a long time, and I feel as good about not getting something done as any year we’ve done something.” Spoken like a man who traded Zack Wheeler for a half season of Carlos Beltran. Oh, and the early returns on Jake Peavy for Heath Hembree and Edwin Escobar aren’t good.
14. N.Y. Yankees (16): Derek Jeter retirement gifts include pinstriped boots, a paddleboard, a bronzed bat, a No. 2 subway tile, a bench made of bats, a seat from the Kingdome and a pinstriped guitar. You have to wonder how long it will be before most of it starts showing up on eBay.
15. Cincinnati (14): Homer Bailey takes a line drive off his cheek, and tells media afterward he’s been “bit harder by bedbugs in Saltillo, Mexico.” Bailey’s never been there: it’s not a Reds’ minor-league franchise but a line from Lonesome Dove. Bailey: “That’s my favorite book and movie.” Sam Malone would have just seen the movie.
16. Atlanta (9): Want to know how B.J. Upton bats leadoff 36 times? Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez: “At the end of the day, I think you go with your gut. I think 30 managers would tell you the same things. Information is good. But sometimes you just have to know personnel and what you’re doing is the right thing.” Sure, why use data when you can play a hunch? Wonder what Fredi’s gut tells him about Upton’s .278 on-base percentage.
17. Cleveland (17): Indians announce plans to reduce capacity at Progressive Field by 5,000 seats. The way they’re drawing — MLB 29th-worst 18,659 fans per game — they can cut down the upper deck and they won’t be short of seats.
18. Tampa Bay (20): Owner Stuart Sternberg on trade of David Price: “I think people got that and understood that we’re still in it to win it, and it really was the classic one-eye-on-the-present, one-eye-on-the-future deal.” Yo, Stuart: that eye on the present? It’s now closed.
19. Miami (18): Giancarlo Stanton goes to Lion Country Safari, rides a camel, pets a rhino and feeds a giraffe, reminding them all that with 31 home runs, he’s the king of the jungle.
20. N.Y. Mets (23): Mets leaving top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard at AAA, saying there’s no room in rotation. “He’s very close,” said GM Sandy Alderson. Close to what? His 4.79 AAA ERA and .304 batting average against suggest otherwise.
21. Chicago White Sox (19): Ace Chris Sale has embarked on a word of the start campaign, using a new word in every post-game interview. June 1 was capitulated, which given the team’s 56-63 record, best sums up the season.
22. San Diego (26): New Padres GM A.J. Preller said he was “cleared” by MLB’s investigation into his actions on the international market. Sure they did, in the same way MLB “cleared” Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal with a 50-game suspension. Padres fans probably feel better already.
23. Minnesota (22): Joe Mauer returns from a month on the disabled list to deliver a game-winning hit Monday. Given his 274/346/354 slash and $23 million salary, he’s still about $22 mill in the hole.
24. Boston (24): Red Sox owner John Henry says TV ratings are down because the game is too slow. “Attention spans are shortening in regard to media. That has been the case for some time now. Making fans wait between pitches isn’t a big issue at the ballpark, but on TV it’s very easy to switch to something else. There is too much waiting in baseball for 21st century television viewers.” You have to wonder if he was as concerned about the time of games when the Red Sox were winning more of them.
25. Philadelphia (28): Ryan Howard’s last four home runs have come off lefties (Tony Sipp Thursday, Dallas Keuchel Tuesday, Vidal Nuno on July 27 and Wei-Chung Wang on July 10). Last home run off a right-handed pitcher was almost two months ago, on June 19 vs. St. Louis’ Shelby Miller.
26. Chicago Cubs (21): Cubs official Twitter account tweeted out Cubs’ 4-0 loss to Rays on Saturday before the Cubs batted in the bottom of the ninth. Probably because Javier Baez could only bat once.
27. Arizona (30): Arizonasports.com poll says by 87%-13% the media coverage of Paul Goldschmidt/Andrew McCutchen injuries has been unfair to D’backs. And Tony La Russa swears he only voted once.
28. Houston (29): Chris Carter batting .348 and slugging .765 when he puts the ball in play, which isn’t often. He’s fanned 124 times in 354 at-bats, lowering the totals to .226 and .497 overall.
29. Colorado (27): Rockies have team average of .317 and .879 OPS at home, .236 and .660 on the road. Charlie Blackmon is a Coors Field All-Star only: he’s Todd Helton at home (hitting .332 and slugging .537), Charlie Culberson on the road (.232, .314)
30. Texas (25): Rangers are 0-20 when Scott Baker pitches. It’s not all his fault, but 5.95 ERA hasn’t helped.
Trivia answer: Pitchers who were MVPs: NL (8): Bob Gibson, 1968; Sandy Koufax, 1963; Don Newcombe, 1956; Jim Konstanty, 1950; Mort Cooper, 1942; Bucky Waters, 1939; Carl Hubbell, 1936; Dazzy Vance, 1924. AL (14): Justin Verlander, 2011; Dennis Eckersley, 1992; Roger Clemens, 1986; Willie Hernandez, 1984, Rollie Fingers, 1981; Vida Blue, 1971; Denny McLain, 1968; Bobby Shantz, 1952; Hal Newhouser, 1945 and 1944; Spud Chandler, 1943; Lefty Grove, 1931; Walter Johnson, 1924 and 1913.
Sources: sfgate.com, arizonasports.com, masn.com, the star.com, dallasnews.com, mlb.com, baseball-reference.com, bostonherald.com, nydailynews.com,, espn.com