When you scroll down to look at the rankings, you'll see that for the second week in a row, the Milwaukee Brewers rest atop the chart. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, a former Baltimore Orioles assistant general manager, has done an excellent job piecing together a team that may have the right stuff to hang with the big dogs all season.
The most heavily publicized free-agent pickups in Milwaukee during the past two seasons were the unwanted duo of right-handed pitchers Kyle Lohse in 2013 and Matt Garza this past offseason. Both of them are paying dividends in 2014, and both may have had a stabilizing effect on the entire rotation.
How are these for numbers all the way through the rotation? Yovani Gallardo, 28, is 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA and a WHIP of 1.07. Wily Peralta is 3-0 with a 2.19 ERA and a WHIP of 1.14. Marco Estrada is 2-1 with an ERA of 2.87, and the best WHIP of all the starters at 0.96. Lohse is 4-1 with a 2.38 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. Garza has pitched better of late, and is 1-2 with an ERA of 4.09, and a respectable WHIP of 1.18.
Speaking of the Brewers, they were involved in two of this week's big baseball stories. Their rising star shortstop, Jean Segura, was literally knocked out of a game by teammate Ryan Braun. Braun accidentally hit him across the cheek while taking practice swings before going into the on-deck circle. Segura was at a Milwaukee-area hospital April 27 for concussion tests, which came back negative, but also to suture a huge gash under his eye. Braun and the Brewers may want to rethink the supposed ritual of Braun in light of this incident.
The Brewers' star outfielder Carlos Gomez was front and center in another one of his standing-and-watching efforts out of the batter's box. You may remember last season, Gomez hit a home run against the Braves in Atlanta and took close to 7-8 seconds to gaze upon his ball going out of the ballpark before endeavoring to round the bases. When he got to home plate, then-Braves catcher Brian McCann was there blocking the plate. An argument ensued, and it could have gotten ugly.
This time, in Pittsburgh, it did get ugly. Gomez stood again to admire his long ball, only this time, the ball didn't go out of the park, and Gomez was all out to get to third for a triple. Pirates starter Gerrit Cole went over toward third base and mouthed off to Gomez about the proper etiquette in running balls out, and this time, a full-out brawl ensued.
The Pirates lost two players -- outfielder Travis Snider for two games and catcher Russell Martin for one game. Meanwhile, reserve catcher Martin Maldonado was suspended for five games and Gomez was suspended for three games. I really don't have a problem with any of those suspensions, but missing from those suspensions is Cole, who initiated the entire brawl and received no suspension. Maybe the league offices could use replay for brawls before giving out punishments.
The hotdogging of some players is irritating, but the best way for pitchers to stop hitters from doing it is to get the batter out. What did Gomez really do in either of these situations that warranted the rebuke he got?
Also absurd are the baseball talking heads who made a big deal out of how small a deal folks thought it was for Angels first baseman Albert Pujols to reach what used to be the significant landmark of 500 home runs. These same talking heads, such as Casey Stern of SiriusXM Radio, who all but cried about it on the air on every show for a week, were highly critical of the cheaters who abused substances that led to a home run era that has left little credibility to what the numbers really mean.
So pardon me, Stern, the indignity. You can't stand up against cheaters as passionately as you do, and really think that the public now looks at all these numbers achieved during the past 15 years without a large dose of cynicism. Despite Pujols' threatened lawsuit against former MLB slugger Jack Clark, who claimed he knew Pujols was injected, and despite a resultant apology by Clark to save himself from an expensive lawsuit, the public views these high-number accomplishments with a ho-hum attitude.
Raise your hands if you play Fantasy Baseball? I admit I have played it with a great deal of zeal for close to 30 years. One of the things that drives fantasy players batty is the timing of when they have someone on their team, as opposed to the times they don't.
An example is that last season, the worst in all my time playing, I had three starting pitchers who I thought were worth the price I paid and would produce for me in 2013: Mark Buehrle, Jason Vargas and Kyle Gibson. Last season, all three were beyond pathetic, and while they certainly weren't the only performances that did me in, they sure were shoveling dirt on my grave.
This year, through April 27, Buehrle was 4-1 with an ERA of 2.16 and a WHIP of 1.23. Vargas was 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA and a WHIP of 1.00, and Gibson was 3-1 with an ERA of 3.63 and a WHIP of 1.48 -- even after allowing 10 hits and seven earned runs in just three innings April 22.
My point isn't how unlucky I am. It's that all judges of talent also need a little luck on their side. Take Orioles general manager Dan Duquette, who, sensing his 2013 O's were a bit short, made three significant trades to better his squad. He acquired pitchers Scott Feldman and Francisco Rodriguez and left fielder Mike Morse. Feldman did a so-so job, while Rodriguez and Morse were total busts.
While the Orioles might have liked to re-sign Feldman, he broke the bank with a three-year, $30 million deal with the Astros. Neither Morse nor Rodriguez impressed the O's enough for the team to make any overture with either player.
So Rodriguez, who is still just 32 years old, had a tough time in Baltimore -- 22 innings pitched, an ERA of 4.50 and a WHIP of 1.36, while also allowing five home runs. He ended up liking Milwaukee enough to do another one-year deal at $3.25 million. How has it worked out for the first-place Brewers? Like everything else -- sensational. Rodriguez has pitched in 14 games, totaling 14 innings pitched. His ERA is 0.00 and his WHIP is microscopic as well at 0.57. Those otherworldly numbers have helped him accumulate 11 saves to date.
Morse came to Baltimore hurt. He had lingering wrist problems when he arrived for his cup of coffee in Birdland. In 29 at bats, he got three singles and no RBIs, and he batted to an average of .103. Somehow, he convinced the San Francisco Giants to buy him for a one-year contract with a cost of $6 million. It's early yet for a player who has spent a lot of time on the disabled list during the past few years, but through his first 76 at bats, he is batting .276 with six home runs and 17 RBIs. He is slugging at a .566 clip, and his OPS is .891.
So, like the fantasy players, big league general managers are subject to some luck, too.
Here's a quick factoid I heard on "The Front Office," which is a Sunday radio staple on SiriusXM Radio featuring ex big-league general managers Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden. I missed the phone call, but Ken "Hawk" Harrelson, a former big league slugger who has been doing White Sox TV for more than 20 seasons, called in to the show. It turns out Bowden's favorite childhood player was Harrelson, when he was with the Red Sox. The producer of the show said Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski wears No. 40 as a tribute to Hawk, who wore No. 40 when he played for the Red Sox during the late 1960s.
The Orioles got a little good news and bad news this past week. They lost first baseman Chris Davis for a minimum of 15 days with a strained oblique muscle. The crazy thing about this particular injury is you can't tell exactly how long it's going to take to heal properly. If the O's get lucky, Davis will be back after this short stay on the DL. If not so lucky, these injuries can linger for 35-50 days. What could possibly be the good news in Baltimore, you ask? Third baseman Manny Machado has upped the pace of his rehab, and while the club initially hoped he'd be ready May 2 in Minnesota, he may just be ready April 29 at Camden Yards to face the Pirates.
The Nationals continue to survive, but the odds are getting stacked against them. First, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman went down with a broken thumb, which is likely to keep him out of uniform for another five weeks. Now, outfielder Bryce Harper is joining Zimmerman on the DL with an undisclosed thumb injury. First-year skipper Matt Williams certainly didn't anticipate such a spate of big-time injuries. Starter Doug Fister has yet to pitch for the Nats, and catcher Wilson Ramos went down on Opening Day.
Here are my latest MLB power rankings.
1. Milwaukee Brewers (18-7 overall, No. 1 ranking last week)
2. Atlanta Braves (17-7, No. 4)
3. Detroit Tigers (12-9, No. 6)
4. Los Angeles Dodgers (14-12, No. 3)
5. San Francisco Giants (15-10, No. 9)
6. Oakland Athletics (15-10, No. 2)
7. Washington Nationals (14-12, No. 8)
8. Texas Rangers (15-10, No. 10)
9. New York Yankees (15-10, No. 11)
10. St. Louis Cardinals (14-12, No. 5)
11. Tampa Bay Rays (11-14, No. 7)
12. Baltimore Orioles (12-12, No. 13)
13. Boston Red Sox (12-14, No. 16)
14. Colorado Rockies (14-12, No. 14)
15. Cincinnati Reds (11-14, No. 19)
16. Minnesota Twins (12-11, No. 21)
17. New York Mets (14-11, No. 22)
18. Los Angeles Angels (11-13, No. 20)
19. Toronto Blue Jays (12-13, No. 19)
20. Seattle Mariners (10-14, No. 17)
21. Kansas City Royals (12-12, No. 15)
22. Pittsburgh Pirates (10-16, No. 18)
23. Philadelphia Phillies (13-12, No. 27)
24. Cleveland Indians (11-14, No. 23)
25. Miami Marlins (11-14, No. 24)
26. Chicago White Sox (13-13, No. 26)
27. San Diego Padres (12-14, No. 25)
28. Arizona Diamondbacks (8-20, No. 28)
29. Houston Astros (9-17, No. 29)
30. Chicago Cubs (8-16, No. 30)