As is usually the case on holidays, I’m just going with my rankings sans comments. I’ll have rankings and a comment or two on the top 10 teams — or maybe even the top 16 now that baseball has increased the playoffs to a 16-team final chapter — for the rest of the season.
But that doesn’t mean I won’t take up a bit of space with a couple of topics.
No. 1, I cannot remember a 5-6 day period during which baseball has ever lost two amazing Hall of Fame players like Tom Seaver and Lou Brock. What can you say about Seaver? He’s one of the fiercest competitors to ever pitch in the big leagues, and I’ve never seen a better technician on the mound. We at PressBox had the good fortune of working with Seaver and his representative, Mollie Ann Bracigliano, when we came out with two separate collector magazines on the histories of Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium.
We arranged for Don Mattingly to sign the Yankee Stadium editions, and we were fortunate to get Seaver to sign the Shea mags. It was a thrill to meet him and have a couple brief chats with him about the magazines.
In Baltimore, we almost always think of the famous Frank Robinson trade in the 1965-1966 offseason as the best trade of all time. Well, fans of the St. Louis Cardinals might have a legitimate claim to that title as well. Their team acquired Lou Brock from the Chicago Cubs in June 1964 for journeyman right-hander Ernie Broglio. At the time, Brock was just a kid and had yet to get his legs underneath him. He played out the rest of that season with the Cardinals and went on to play 15 full seasons in St. Louis after that.
Brock accumulated 2,713 of his 3,023 hits and 888 of his 938 stolen bases as a Cardinal. He hit .297/.347/.414 with 129 homers during 15-plus years in St. Louis.
May Tom Seaver and Lou Brock, two of the game’s best, truly rest in peace.
Topic No. 2 is good news for Orioles fans. For a team in the middle of a long-term rebuild, a season without Minor League Baseball is truly its worst nightmare. But the off-field regime led by Mike Elias and the on-field group headed by second-year manager Brandon Hyde simply put their heads down and went to work.
And while the early improvements with the likes of Tommy Milone and Wade LeBlanc at or near the top of the rotation were mostly fool’s gold, the second half of this truncated 60-game season has gotten downright interesting with the call-ups of three young but experienced prospects. First, the club had to come to terms with two quick additions by subtraction. The O’s placed Chris Davis on the injured list and designated Dwight Smith Jr. for assignment.
The club then called up the most ready of its position players in slugger Ryan Mountcastle, who happened to be the International League MVP a season ago. We have heard nothing but doubts as to what position Mountcastle would ever be able to play. Well, he looks like he could be a fixture in left field for the next decade or longer. He’ll never win a Gold Glove out there, but he is more than serviceable. He is batting .333/.397/.549 in his first 51 at-bats and has three home runs, two doubles and 11 RBIs.
When the club traded Milone to the Atlanta Braves at the deadline, up came Keegan Akin for good. So far the lefty has made two starts totaling 9.2 innings. He’s allowed six hits, six walks and zero earned runs in those starts while striking out 14. He has been poised and has looked way more polished than I had any reason to believe he was.
Then Alex Cobb went on the injured list for an undisclosed reason. After the team’s win against the New York Yankees Sept. 5, Elias and Hyde called Dean Kremer and asked him if he’d like to drive up to Baltimore and start the next day’s game.
Kremer admitted that he didn’t exactly have the best night’s sleep. But that didn’t stop Kremer from coming to Camden Yards and tossing six innings of one-run, one-hit ball against the Yankees. That one run only scored when with the bases loaded in the second inning. Slow-footed catcher Erik Kratz bounced a three- or four-hopper to third baseman Rio Ruiz, who tried to get Kremer out of the inning by stepping on third and throwing to first. For some inexplicable reason, Ruiz took the ball out of his glove, put it back in the glove to touch the base and then reached back in to take the ball out — essentially the equivalent of a long double clutch — and Kratz beat out the play and a run scored.
As if the performances of Mountcastle, Akin and Kremer weren’t enough, former No. 1 pick DJ Stewart, who flopped miserably after making the club out of the summer camp, went back down to Bowie and put his head down and did the work. All Stewart has done since taking over for right fielder Anthony Santander (out for the year with a strained oblique) is hit three homers — including one off Gerrit Cole and another off Masahiro Tanaka.
Suddenly, the 2020 season has turned interesting, and there is some light that has made its way in from the end of that tunnel. And just as suddenly, a club looking to eventually attract fans back to Camden Yards might be closer to doing that than we thought.
Here are my power rankings:
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (No. 1 last week, 30-12)
2. Tampa Bay Rays (No. 2, 28-13)
3. Cleveland Indians (No. 4, 25-15)
4. Oakland Athletics (No. 3, 23-14)
5. Minnesota Twins (No. 6, 25-17)
6. Chicago White Sox (No. 7, 26-15)
7. San Diego Padres (No. 8, 25-17)
8. New York Yankees (No. 5, 21-19)
9. Atlanta Braves (No. 11, 24-16)
10. St. Louis Cardinals (No. 13, 17-15)
11. Chicago Cubs (No. 9, 23-18)
12. Philadelphia Phillies (No. 16, 19-17)
13. Houston Astros (No. 10, 21-19)
14. San Francisco Giants (No. 14, 20-21)
15. Toronto Blue Jays (No. 12, 23-18)
16. Miami Marlins (No. 19, 17-18)
17. Colorado Rockies (No. 15, 20-20)
18. Cincinnati Reds (No. 17, 18-23)
19. Milwaukee Brewers (No. 18, 18-21)
20. New York Mets (No. 20, 19-22)
21. Baltimore Orioles (No. 27, 19-21)
22. Washington Nationals (No. 21, 14-25)
23. Seattle Mariners (No. 25, 18-22)
24. Arizona Diamondbacks (No. 22, 15-26)
25. Detroit Tigers (No. 23, 18-20)
26. Los Angeles Angels (No. 28, 17-25)
27. Kansas City Royals (No. 24, 14-27)
28. Texas Rangers (No. 26, 13-26)
29. Boston Red Sox (No. 29, 14-28)
30. Pittsburgh Pirates (No. 30, 13-26)