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MLB Top 5 4/20/2011

There was a little reshuffling in my top 5 this week, with one team dropping off the list. The 4 that remain from last week change slots, and the World Series champs make the cut for this week's top 5. It's still very early and there are some other teams with solid records, but it's hard to compare wins and losses when teams are still rounding into regular season form. With that I felt like I had a little explaining to do with my choices.

The Cleveland Indians share the best record in baseball with the Colorado Rockies, but the Indians did not make the cut. They only have played in one full series against a team playing at least .500 baseball and they lost that series to the Angels. Their pitching has been lights out but it's still too early for me to tell if this streak is due to scheduling or a legitimate turnaround. Two other teams that I seriously looked at for spots on the list were the LA Angels and Cincinnati Reds; maybe next week guys.

Philadelphia Phillies

chase utley
The Phils look forward to Utley's return

The top team was not as clear this week as last, but I have to choose one and I'm going with the one that has four aces. The Phillies finished up their NL East tour with the Marlins this weekend, splitting a rain shortened set against Florida. They took the tough loss Monday in extras against Milwaukee; the Brewers taking advantage of the Phillies starting someone not named Cliff, Roy or Cole. There have been positive Chase Utley sightings and people are getting more optimistic about his return. The big question mark going forward for the Phillies will be their bullpen.

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies are currently sharing the best record in baseball with the Cleveland Indians. They are 8-2 over their last 10 games and had a great week last week. They went into New York and swept the Mets and then took 2 of three from the Cubs. Monday night they ran into the wall that is Tim Lincecum. The Rockies have been lead by their bats, but their pitching looks to get a boost Tuesday night with the return of Ubaldo Jimenez. Colorado will look to get back on the winning track against San Fran before heading to Florida and Chicago next week for three game sets against the Marlins and Cubbies.

Texas Rangers

josh hamilton
The Rangers have been reeling since Hamilton's injury

The Rangers were my number 1 team last week after a 9-1 start. Last Tuesday Texas was faced with the unfortunate news that MVP Josh Hamilton would be missing considerable time due to a broken arm. The Rangers have been on a slide since that game Hamilton went down, going 2-4 over their last 6. They ended up losing series to the Tigers and Yankees last week. CJ Wilson was able to right the ship for a night against the Ranger's AL West foes the Angels. Hamilton is not someone that is replaced, but I think the Rangers have the depth to work around his injury for the time being. They play their best ball at home (7-0) and welcome the Angels, Royals and Blue Jays in over the next week.

New York Yankees

The Yankees just made my list last week and were able to move up a spot after a 2 game sweep of the Orioles and series win versus the Rangers. New York found out that it is losing Phil Hughes for some time, but that may be more of a blessing with Hughes' 13.94 ERA. Nonetheless, he was slotting in as their 3rd starter, so the questions marks are still following this Yankee rotation. The hitting has been there, but if this team looks to improve they are going to need more consistency from their starters.

San Francisco Giants

matt cain
Cain and Lincecum lead the Giants

The Champs are here. San Francisco comes in at number 5 for me this week. They had a solid past week, taking series from the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. They started off this week on a good note, with their ace almost no-hitting the leaders of their division. Cain and Lincecum have started the year pitching lights out and Jonathan Sanchez has had a good early showing. While their pitching has been the story, the bats are also carrying their weight. The Giants have a bit of a tough stretch coming up as they finish their series against the Rockies and then head home and welcome in the Atlanta Braves. With Lincecum and Cain sitting at the top of the rotation, the Giants should hang around the top all season.
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Manager Fumes Over Faulty Pen

Ozzie Guillen is certainly no stranger to profanity-laced tirades. The manager regularly goes off on his team or others when he feels it necessary. You only have to go back to opening day of this year to find a classic Ozzie comment. While his players prepared for their opener against the Indians, Guillen was letting the MLB know his thoughts about their scheduling ability. Ozzie stated how it was "very stupid to play in Cleveland right now".

ozzie guillen
Ozzie is fed up with his bullpen

Sound bites aside, Ozzie is currently in a situation that would aggravate any manager. His team saw their third late inning lead of the week vanish last night against the Oakland A's. To put it mildly, the team's bullpen has not been one of its stronger points so far this season. But this is Ozzie Guillen we're talking about, and he is not one mince words.

I usually don't pay Guillen much mind, but I do feel bad for the manager in this situation. The team boasts one of the league's hottest lineups. White Sox starters have posted a sub 4.00 ERA. Even with these two phases hitting on all cylinders, the Sox have only managed a 7-5 record. If their bullpen was even somewhat effective, they could be 9-3, and this is still allowing relievers 2 early blown saves.

27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" id="gtk0gv6f" width="400" height="400"><a href="" target="_new" title="">Ozzie loses it over Sox pen</a>

Two Chicago relievers have double digit ERA's while Matt Thornton, the man crowned closer this spring, has his sitting at 7.71. The White Sox players have got to be feeling the effects, while this display must be absolutely agonizing for fans. At this point it is probably in the player's minds every game, and starters may start pressing to secure wins and avoid the bullpen.

matt thornton
Thornton has blown 4 save opportunities this year

I think there is some hope in Chi Town; the pen is not as bad as they've pitched thus far. They've gotten solid contribution from former Twin Jesse Crain, and Thornton and the others cannot possible keep this pace up. While Ozzie doesn't have the option of calling up former White Sox pitcher Bobby Thigpen as he's stated, he could certainly make some roster moves if his pen does not start responding.
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Cooperstown Bound?

If athletes could map out their careers they would include things such as Rookie of the Year Awards, MVP's and of course plenty of championship rings. Many would plan a storybook ending, perhaps a tearful sendoff by a stadium full of their devoted fans. No one, if given the choice, would choose Manny Ramirez's exit.

Manny Ramirez
Manny carried the Dodgers in 08

Ramirez was notified that he had violated the league's performance enhancing drug policy for a second time. Rather appeal the violation or just serve his suspension, Manny decided to walk away from the profession that earned him at least $200 million. While the dust from his quick departure settles, many are looking ahead to the question of should Manny Ramirez be in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame?

I was certainly surprised by the announcement Friday. The Hall of Fame talk got me thinking, and I wasn't immediately sure what my decision was on Manny. I am an Orioles fan and can remember the havoc that Ramirez wreaked on the birds. There is no doubt he was a game changer, and anyone who disagrees has to look back no further than the amazing run he had with the Dodgers in 2008. After the Red Sox traded him to the National League, Ramirez hit an insane .396 and went on to carry the Dodgers in the playoffs, hitting over .500 for two series.

While it helps to be one of the most feared hitters of your time, your numbers have to stack up to make you Hall of Fame material. The one stat that many are aware of is his homerun total of 555. He ranks high in many offensive categories, his two most impressive feats are his career .312 batting average and .996 OPS.

Manny Ramirez
Ramirez posted a career .312 BA

While Manny Ramirez had a very good and borderline great career, in this period of performance enhancing drugs he would not get my vote for the Hall of Fame. Even without the cloud of steroids hanging over Manny's head I do not think that he belongs in Cooperstown.

No longer does the 500 home run mark unlock the door of the Hall of Fame for players. Manny ranks 14th on the career homerun list but was not able to crack the more celebrated 600 plateau. You also have to figure in his steroid and PED use. It is impossible to say how many more homeruns Ramirez hit while using these drugs, but guys take them and have taken them for a reason, it boosts your numbers. This is a fairly moot point for me because as I've stated hitting 555 homeruns even without taking steroids does not guarantee you my vote.

While statistics have shown that chicks do dig the long ball, you need to be a well rounded hitter to get into the Hall. This is where I believe you will find the strongest argument for Ramirez. His .312 batting average is very impressive and this is where I will give Manny credit. While steroids may help hitters achieve milestone homerun marks, they do not turn .250 hitters into guys who mash at a pace of .312. His OPS was impacted by his homerun totals, but a .996 mark is nonetheless impressive. These two marks definitely put Ramirez in the category of great right handed hitters, but alone do not make him bound for the Hall.

Another important but often overlooked aspect is a player's defense. This is an area that Manny will be getting little love. Ramirez has had several memorable moments in left field but not for the right reasons. Manny has had his share of fielding gaffs and was seen as more of a liability in the outfield during the ladder part of his career.

Finally there are the intangibles. Some may say that these are issues that do not matter, votes should be determined on the numbers alone. While the numbers usually do much of the talking, I believe there are some points to be won by being a great leader or teammate. This is another area where Ramirez comes up a little short. He was often a distraction and even gave up on the 2008 Red Sox until he got his wish and was traded to the Dodgers. He took innings or games off mentally, especially in the field. While he will be known for his easy going ways, I do not know that Manny Ramirez will go down as one of the great teammates in history.

Manny Ramirez
Manny being Manny

As I've laid out, I do not think Manny Ramirez is a Hall of Famer. Feared by pitchers and managers, Manny was certainly a great hitter and game changer at times in his career. However, his hitting alone doesn't overwhelm me and along with that he just did not have the defense or intangibles to warrant my vote.

So while Ramirez might not have had the storybook ending some would hope for, I'm sure that $200 million will keep him busy in Mannywood.
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Manny Done Being Manny?

It has just been announced that Manny Ramirez will end his illustrious and always entertaining career. Only a week into the new baseball season, the Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter is calling it quits. It appears that Manny was dealing with the league on an issue regarding MLB's Joint Drug Prevention Treatment Program. I'm certain that more information will be coming out of this situation, but I for one am certainly surprised.

Though he has seen his numbers tail off in recent years, Manny ended last season with a combined .298 batting average playing for the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. It is certain that he did not have the start that he wanted this year

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Lester's Performance Not Enough

The Red Sox came into today's game against the Indians looking for some momentum to take into their weekend series against the Yankees. Jon Lester did all he could to get the Sox their first win in this afternoon's start, holding the Indians scoreless over 7 innings while striking out 9. His strong performance was not enough thanks to Fausto Carmona.

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