MLB Power Rankings for September 10th, 2013

david-ortizNow entering the final stretch before the postseason, several teams are jockying for playoff berths. Only the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Atlanta Braves and LA Dodgers have their playoff paths clearly laid out. Quite a few other teams are hoping for a good run to close out the regular season so they can join the World Series hunt. That said, let’s look at how the clubs that are still alive currently rank.

1. Boston Red Sox (87-58, 1st in AL East) – Boston is gelling at just the right time after scoring 57 runs in the last six games. Considering this feat came against the Tigers and Yankees, that’s quite an accomplishment. With Clay Buchholz (9-0, 1.71 ERA) returning, there’s no reason to think that they won’t finish with the league’s top record.

2. St. Louis Cardinals (83-60, 1st in NL Central) – Not only do we think that St. Louis is tops in baseball’s toughest division, but they’re also playing the best out of any NL team period. Following a sweep of the Pirates, this team finishes with a very favorable schedule that includes 12 home games.

3. Atlanta Braves (86-57, 1st in NL East) – Atlanta may have lost the league’s best record over the weekend, but that’s certainly no cause for concern. They’re a virtual lock for the playoffs and are still in the pole position for home field advantage in the NL playoffs.

4. LA Dodgers (84-59, 1st in NL West) – With a 12-game lead on the Diamondbacks, LA shouldn’t have much trouble grabbing the NL West title. However, they can’t be too happy about being swept by the Reds and losing four straight overall.

5. Oakland A’s (83-60, 1st in AL West) – Unlike several of the teams listed above, Oakland is no lock to win their division title. However, we like them to build some distance from Texas thanks to six upcoming games against the Twins.

6. Cincinnati Reds (82-63, 3rd in NL Central) – Cincinnati’s postseason dreams are far from a sure thing. However, they are doing their best to control the situation by winning three of four at St. Louis, and sweeping the Dodgers.

7. Detroit Tigers (82-62, 1st in AL Central) – Detroit has played dismally max-scherzerover the past two series. In fact, this might be putting it lightly since they’ve lost five of their last six games. The past two contests against the Royals were just awful as they surrendered 36 runs! Hopefully staff ace Max Scherzer (19-3, 3.01 ERA) can stop the bleeding.

8. Texas Rangers (81-62, 2nd in AL West) – Texas has cause for concern after losing two straight series to the A’s and Angels. But all is not lost since they have an opportunity to get the AL West lead back in an upcoming home series against Oakland.

9. Pittsburgh Pirates (82-61, 2nd in NL Central) – Pittsburgh is in a great position to grab a postseason berth this year. The only question is if they’ll be playing in a Wild Card game or grabbing a division title. If it’s going to be the latter, they’ll need to play better than they did recently, after being swept by St. Louis.

10. Tampa Bay Rays (78-64, 2nd in AL East) – The battle for the last Wild Card spot in the AL is going to be very competitive. Right now, Tampa Bay leads this race with a slim 1.5-game lead over Baltimore and Cleveland. But their postseason chances will be severely tested by Boston this week.

11. Baltimore Orioles (77-66, 3rd in AL East) – Can the Orioles hit enough homers to bat their way into the playoffs? A telling series against the Yankees this week will go a long ways towards answering this question.

12. Cleveland Indians (77-66, 2nd in AL Central) – The Indians will hope cleveland-indiansto take advantage of a favorable September schedule in their push for a Wild Card spot. Series against the Twins, White Sox and Astros should provide some wins. But what about the six games they play against the playoff-hungry Royals?

13. Kansas City Royals (75-69, 3rd in AL Central) – Don’t count Kansas City out of the postseason just yet. As just mentioned, they play Cleveland six times and also have Detroit and Texas coming up. This is certainly not an enviable schedule. But if KC can catch fire, maybe they’ll be a surprise postseason addition.

14. New York Yankees (76-68, 4th in AL East) – The last club with realistic playoff chances is the Yankees. Unfortunately, these chances just took a huge hit after Derek Jeter went down again with another ankle injury. Already dealing with a shaky bullpen, this injury definitely doesn’t help New York’s cause.

David Ortiz accused of Steroids

david-ortizUp until this week, David Ortiz was off to a red-hot start as he was hitting well over .400 and averaging an RBI a game. The Boston Red Sox slugger has since fallen off this pace (.338 BA), but that hasn’t stopped one columnist from accusing him of steroids.

Dan Shaughnessy, who writes for the Boston Globe, actually approached Ortiz in the Red Sox clubhouse to level steroid accusations. The 6’4″, 230-pound DH wasn’t having it though as he said, “They test me all the time. They make you pee and they test your blood, too. This year I would say I’ve probably been tested five times, peeing. Blood, just once. That was in spring training. They don’t warn you. They just show up.’’

Ortiz continued by saying, “In 2009, I was coming back from a hand injury (left wrist). I injured my hand, badly. I tried to come back, but I wasn’t the same. It carried over until my hand started feeling better. I got bad habits from that.” He added, “Once I started feeling better, I went back to be who I was. It wasn’t any different. I went back to hitting homers like I was doing before that. It wasn’t like I started hitting homers after I figured it out in ’09.”

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox, Game 3The reasons for Shaughnessy’s bold steroid witch hunt are many, but none are overwhelmingly telling. First off, he brings up a bad season from 2009, when Ortiz hit .238. But since that time, he has never batted below .270, with two full seasons where he hit .309 and .318.

Another point that the Boston Globe columnist brings up is the fact that Ortiz is 37. Now this might seem like a valid argument for pulling out the steroid torches and chasing after the 16-year MLB veteran. But then again, Ortiz explained that he had a wrist injury several years ago, which hampered his play in 2009. Furthermore, he hit well at age 34, 35 and 36, so is he really expected to experience that big of a decline by age 37?

david-ortiz-2By far the most far-out allegation that Shaughnessy leveled is the idea that Ortiz is juicing simply because he’s Dominican. The writer’s basis is that a number of other Dominicans have been busted for roids, so this must automatically mean that Big Papi is also juicing then, huh?

Not surprisingly, this set Ortiz off the most as he vented when talking to Grandes en los Deportes. “You mean that in Dominican Republic there are no players who try to do things right,” said Ortiz. “We are all in the same boat. And the people here who have been caught, does that put everyone here in the same boat?”

Perhaps Shaughnessy will be happy now because ever since he grilled Ortiz about steroids, the Red Sox star has hit 1-for-16 with four strikeouts. Does this mean he suddenly put his vials and syringes up for the season once confronted by Shaughnessy?

In reality, David Ortiz’s hitting streaks are just representative of baseball. Now if he were suddenly on pace to hit 70 home runs – when he hasn’t hit more than 35 in the past seven years – that would be a different story.

But a proven hitter who starts out with an above .400 batting average in his first 15 games…well, this by no means indicates a guy who’s in the midst of a steroid cycle. And it especially doesn’t give Shaughnessy the green light to accuse somebody of using steroids just because they’re Dominican and played badly four years ago.