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Ryne Sandberg's Power Rankings

Alternate title: When Bad Analysts Get Lazy. I made the mistake of reading this throwaway article and I can't in good conscience let it go without a critique. If you're here for Mariners news, skip this post, but if you've got a few minutes, then by all means, read on.

1. St. Louis Cardinals (95-56) - The first team to clinch a postseason spot, the Cardinals have known they would be in the playoffs for a long time, so the celebration was tame. I had another chance to see the Cardinals play over the weekend and they play the game right. They hit-and-run, bunt, run the bases well and play solid defense.

That's nice. They also do other things, like beat the crap out of the ball and slice through batting orders like a warm knife through butter. St. Louis has the #1 offense and #1 pitching staff in the NL. You should probably mention that next time.

2. Boston Red Sox (87-62) - The Red Sox enter the week only 1½ games ahead of the Yankees in the AL East, and they haven't played all that well of late, winning just five of their last 11 games. Boston should pick up a few games over the next week and a half as they play Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Toronto before finishing the season at home against the Yankees. How big will that series be?

Yeah, Boston's got it pretty easy, facing Baltimore, Toronto, and Tampa Bay before they take on the Yankees to end the season. But then, New York's got Toronto and Baltimore, too, along with a second series against the Orioles to cancel out Boston's series against the D-Rays. And who's been playing better baseball since the break? If anything, the Yankees have the easier path leading into that final set.

3. Chicago White Sox (90-58) - I'm probably going to take some heat for putting them so high, but I still think they'll hold on to the AL Central lead. Their pitching is just too strong. If they don't hold on, it'll be because they're just one big bat short of a great team. Obviously, they have the pitching to go far, but their offense has faltered at times. They'll be asking general manager Ken Williams why he didn't trade for Ken Griffey Jr. for a long time, even though Griffey was injured shortly after the rumors.

Chicago team ERA: 3.68
Cleveland team ERA: 3.64

But the White Sox' pitching is just too strong.

4. Atlanta Braves (85-65) - They hold a five-game lead over the Phillies and should wrap up the division some time early next week. Then, they'll be able to set their starting rotation for the first round of the playoffs. The Braves haven't played well lately, but don't worry - they'll be fine going into the postseason.

What, are they just going to suddenly hit the switch? They've won the division 13 times in the last 14 years, and have just a single World Series title to show for it. How can you just assume that these guys are going to be "fine"? Hello?

5. Cleveland Indians (87-62) - The hottest team in the big leagues, the Indians are playing without fear right now, an approach that has them on a roll. They're in contention for the AL Central title and hold a 1½-game lead over the Yankees in the AL wild-card race. Nobody, including me, has given them much credit this year, but the Indians play smart baseball with a bunch of guys hardly anyone knows much about.

I'd say they're playing with a lot of fear - like, say, the fear of missing the playoffs because they lost a bunch of games down the stretch. And if you don't know who Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez, or Jhonny Peralta are, that's your problem, not theirs.

6. Los Angeles Angels (84-65) - They own a two-game lead over the A's but have a four-game set in Oakland next week. They also face Texas six more times and Tampa Bay three more times. Still, the Angels are my pick to win the AL West because of their strong pitching, especially Bartolo Colon.

Anaheim team ERA: 3.70
Oakland team ERA: 3.64

Seriously, what's up with this guy?

7. New York Yankees (85-63) - The Yanks trail by 1½ games in the AL East and AL wild-card races, but I still like their chances to win a playoff spot. A ton of pressure is on them, though, because of their huge payroll and probably the most experienced, big-named lineup in the league.

Okay, so he's right about the pressure. But why does he like their chances? If he likes their chances so much, why did he rank them behind Boston, Cleveland, and Chicago, at least one of whom the Yankees would have to pass to make it into the postseason?

8. Houston Astros (81-68) - With a 1½-game lead in the NL wild-card race, the Astros have put themselves in great shape to make the playoffs. What Roger Clemens did last week - pitch a great game on the day of his mother's passing - speaks volumes about his tenacity and competitiveness.

So Boston is "only 1½ games ahead of the Yankees in the AL East," but Houston has put themselves "in great shape to make the playoffs" by having a lead of the same magnitude? And what does Roger Clemens' tenacity and competitiveness have to do with Houston's ranking?

9. Philadelphia Phillies - Trailing Houston by 1½ games for the NL wild card, the Phillies still have playoff hopes. They lack starting pitching (the starters' 4.23 ERA ranks ninth in the NL), but they have a fantastic closer in Billy Wagner (34 saves, 1.59 ERA).

The Phillies have the second-best team ERA on the road in the National League. It's not their fault they play in a bandbox.

10. Oakland Athletics - The A's continue to cling to playoff hopes. Their offense hasn't hit the ball very well of late, but with Barry Zito, Danny Haren and Joe Blanton, their starting pitching has kept them in the AL West race.

Zito/Haren/Blanton, post-ASB: 3.20 ERA
Rest of the staff, post-ASB: 3.16 ERA
Bullpen, post-ASB: 3.03 ERA

Meanwhile, Oakland's offense has the fourth-highest runs scored total in the AL since the All Star Break, despite playing in a pitcher's ballpark.

26. Tampa Bay Devil Rays (62-88) - They have been spoilers in the AL East, playing the Yankees and Red Sox tough.

The Devil Rays were swept by the Yankees presumably right before Sandberg penned this article.

27. Pittsburgh Pirates (61-88) - The Pirates haven't played much better since the firing of Lloyd McClendon.

The Pirates are 7-6 since firing McClendon (they were 48-76 beforehand).

28. Colorado Rockies (61-87) - The Rockies need to make a few moves in the offseason to put themselves into contention next season. Figuring out what to do with Todd Helton should be the first order of business.

His first sentence could apply to every team in the league. And Helton is the least of Colorado's problems right now.

29. Seattle Mariners (64-85) - They've been a huge disappointment this year. I honestly thought the Mariners had a chance to compete for the AL West, but it hasn't worked out that way.

Thanks. The one comment he gets right.

30. Kansas City Royals (48-99) - I can only imagine how tough the season has been for the Royals, who have been out of contention since June.

Considering that 13 of the 17 Cubs teams with which Sandberg played finished under .500, I'd say he already has a pretty good grasp of what losing feels like.