By Mike Ivcic
Donât look now, but suddenly the team with the longest winning streak in the game is the New York Mets. I say this only because I still firmly believe this magic carpet ride will ultimately end â just like I think the Dodgers and Orioles will also wind up watching the postseason when game 162 is completed. But for now, those three teams occupy three spots in our top 10, all still looking up at the Texas Rangers. Records through Thursday, May 10.
1. Texas Rangers (21-11) 1 â Josh Hamilton may not owe the Rangers anything, but Nolan Ryan and company have to shudder sometimes thinking about where the Rangers might be without Josh Hamilton.
2. Tampa Bay Rays (20-12) 2 â Leave it to the Rays to force David Robertson into a blown save and cause every Yankees fan to have an ulcer remembering their division title hopes disappeared with a blown ACL in Kansas City.
3. St. Louis Cardinals (20-11) 4 â Nice 4-2 week jumps the Cards over the Dodgers. I think St. Louis is better equipped for a long season, especially once Chris Carpenter returns to an already solid starting rotation.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers (20-11) 3 â I love this team and the story around it, but they’re playing with fire relying on Ted Lilly and Chris Capuano to continue their performances from now until October.
5. Atlanta Braves (19-13) 6 â Rebounded nicely from their series loss to Philly by sweeping Colorado and now sit just a half game back of Washington. Again, I still don’t trust their pitching, but I guess this team’s not falling apart anytime soon.
6. Cleveland Indians (18-13) 9 â Johnny Damon might be the most underrated signing this entire offseason â not so much for what he’ll do on the field, but for his ability to teach this young, talented team what it takes to be a winner on a daily basis.
7. Baltimore Orioles (20-12) 7 â Followed up their sweep in Boston by dropping 3 of 4 to Texas. Not a major snafu, but no reason to jump this team any further up the rankings â yet.
8. Washington Nationals (19-12) 5 â Bryce Harper got his “welcome to the big leagues” message from Cole Hamels. The Nationals team got their “welcome to the big leagues” message from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Have to beat those teams to become elite.
9. New York Mets (18-13) 14 â Perhaps the Mets vanquished some of the horrors of ’07 and ’08 with their sweep in Philadelphia. It also helps that David Wright and Johan Santana are the only two guys still left from the ’08 team.
10. New York Yankees (17-14) 11 â Derek Jeter became the first Yankee in history to have 50 hits in the first 30 games of a season. Let that marinate for a bit as the future first-ballot hall-of-famer continues his incredible resurgence.
11. Detroit Tigers (16-15) 8 â Everyone thought Detroit was going to run away and hide with this division. Clearly the White Sox are better, and Cleveland has emerged as a legitimate threat, so the Tigers will have to step up their game to repeat as division champs.
12. Toronto Blue Jays (18-14) 10 â Rumors are swirling that the Jays have talked to Philly about both Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino. While I doubt the Phillies are making any moves right now, it’s good to know Toronto is serious about winning.
13. Miami Marlins (16-15) 22 â The Marlins are 8-1 in their last nine games, and now get a shot at redemption with the Mets coming to town. This is more like the team so many were picking to win the NL East back in March.
14. Cincinnati Reds (16-14) 15 â Nationals, Braves, Mets, Yankees, Braves. That’s the next two weeks for the Reds, after which everyone will have a much better idea of just how capable this team is of catching the Cardinals.
15. San Francisco Giants (15-16) 13 â
16. Chicago White Sox (15-17) 17 â In three starts since his perfect game, Philip Humber has allowed 8 or more runs in two of them. Is he trying to win the “worst pitcher to ever throw a perfect game” award?
17. Oakland Athletics (16-16) 21 â They’ve only scored 112 runs and are -18 in run differential, but somehow this team finds ways to squeak out wins. And they can’t even credit their ballpark â they’re only 7-9 at home this season.
18. Los Angeles Angels (14-18) 23 â Hallelujah! Albert Pujols finally hit a homerun! The best part? Not having to listen to fifty thousand talking heads debate when Albert Pujols will hit his first homerun.
19. Arizona Diamondbacks (14-18) 12 â I said in March this team would struggle a bit and come back down to earth. The bullpen isn’t replicating last year’s success, and Ryan Roberts has to start hitting soon.
20. Milwaukee Brewers (13-18) 20 â I’m calling this my “default spot” of the week. The Brewers hold at 20 because no one from 21-30 is good enough to jump them. That doesn’t mean this team isn’t in some serious trouble right now.
21. Seattle Mariners (15-18) 26 â After taking 2 of 3 from Detroit this week, the Mariners are now 5-1 against the Tigers this season. No truth to the rumor Seattle has applied for a move to the AL Central.
22. Philadelphia Phillies (14-18) 16 â GM Ruben Amaro just said his team will be sellers at the deadline if they continue to play this way. That has to be a bit of a shock to a team and fan base that’s just won 5 straight division titles.
23. Pittsburgh Pirates (14-17) 25 â Good mid-week showing from the Pirates, who really could have taken all three from the Nationals. In the cluttered bottom of the NL Central, Pittsburgh has some chance for separation hosting Houston this weekend.
24. Houston Astros (14-17) 24 â They have begun assembling a good, young team in preparation for their move to the AL, and they’ll only add to that young group when they trade Brett Myers sometime between now and July 31.
25. Chicago Cubs (13-18) 28 â The plucky Cubs just took 2 of 3 from both the Dodgers and Braves. Sweeping the Brewers in Milwaukee could put the Cubs in ::gasp:: third place in the NL Central at the end of the weekend.
26. Colorado Rockies (13-17) 18 â So much for “hanging around.” A 1-5 week against the Braves and Padres ahead of a trip to Chavez Ravine isn’t the type of baseball that will keep this team in the hunt for the NL West title.
27. Boston Red Sox (12-19) 19 â After getting swept by the Orioles and losing 3 of 4 to the Indians, perhaps it’s time to start considering that things may not actually get better in Beantown this season.
28. Kansas City Royals (11-19) 27 â Just like winning, losing is also contagious. The Royals will have to overcome their poor start with a lot of mental toughness and fortitude, but if they can it’s certainly looking like a winnable division.
29. San Diego Padres (11-21) 29 â Edinson Volquez, Clayton Richard, Jeff Suppan, Anthony Bass, and Joe Wieland. Not exactly the mid-90’s Braves when it comes to starting rotations. That might explain the losing record despite playing 25 of their first 34 games at home.
30. Minnesota Twins (8-23) 30 â MLB Network actually ran a discussion Thursday night about whether or not it’s time for the Twins to consider trading Joe Mauer. It’s one thing for me to throw it out there, it’s another for a national network to consider such a move.
Three series to watch this weekendâ¦
1) ATL @ STL (5/11-5/13) â The Braves didn’t do themselves any favors dropping 2 of 3 in Chicago heading into this series. Brandon Beachy will have to be good Saturday to match Adam Wainwright in a potential playoff showdown.
2) BAL @ TB (5/11-5/13) â In four years of writing baseball columns, this is the first time I’ve ever had Orioles-Rays as a series to watch. Such is life in the AL East in 2012, as the winner here will leave in first place.
3) LAA@ TEX (5/11-5/13) â I really almost went Mets-Marlins here, because the Angels almost don’t deserve this. It might be early, but I have no problem calling this a must-win series for LA. The only way they’re catching Texas is to beat them head-to-head.
Check out Mike Ivcic’s weekly column, “The Tenth Inning,” every Monday and the weekly “Power Rankings” every Friday, only at ultimatecapper.com
Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org