I am closing out a sixth consecutive season of my MLB Power Rankings. As I am sure you know by now, I love baseball more than any other of the big sports. I watch, I talk, I watch some more and I talk some more. This year, I even endeavored to do a Facebook Live version of my old radio show.
I had a blast doing it, and the numbers of viewers we got was truly remarkable.
But two things that also keep me close to the game are playing fantasy baseball and doing my weekly power rankings. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I do putting them out.
I'll be writing a bit during the postseason, but here for one last time are my 2017 MLB Power Rankings.
1. Cleveland Indians (102-60 overall record, No. 1 ranking last week) -- They're at the top of a quartet of teams that have a solid chance to snag the brass ring. You have to like the depth of the Indians' pitching staff.
2. Houston Astros (101-61, No. 2) -- They have the best mix of position players and a strong closer in Ken Giles. The Astros really need to get the "old" Dallas Keuchel back to form in order to stay with the big boys.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers (104-58, No. 3) -- The hope has to be that an 8-2 finish has restored their confidence. Still, there is a lot of difference between June/July swagger and crunch-time swagger.
4. Chicago Cubs (92-70, No. 5) -- I am confident the hitting will be there in the postseason. That leaves it up to the starting quartet of Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana. That I am not so sure about.
5. Boston Red Sox (93-69, No. 4) -- Could they show up in a big way? Sure, but it feels much more like the end of the road for manager John Farrell's run at the helm.
6. Washington Nationals (97-65, No. 6) -- First they got outfielder Jayson Werth back from the disabled list, quickly followed by shortstop Trea Turner's return to health. Now, right fielder Bryce Harper returns from his scary knee injury. But, just as they are about to start the playoffs, ace pitcher Max Scherzer suffers a hamstring injury and had to be lifted from his last start Sept. 30 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. It seems like it's always something for this team.
7. New York Yankees (91-71, No. 7) -- If right-hander Luis Severino holds to form, he should be able to pitch the Yankees past the Minnesota Twins and into a best-of-five match up with the Indians. The Yankees are young, but dangerous.
8. Arizona Diamondbacks (93-69, No. 8) -- It's been a great first season under manager Torey Lovullo. Having right-hander Zack Greinke should get them easily past the Colorado Rockies in the National League wild-card game. The Diamondbacks also are young and dangerous.
9. Minnesota Twins (85-77, No. 9) -- Two stretches tell you all you need to know about this team's character. They went 7-13 from July 9-Aug. 4 to drop to 51-55. The Twins seemed to be "sellers," trading left-hander Jaime Garcia, who was acquired about 10 days earlier from the Atlanta Braves, and closer Brandon Kintzler. Then they finished the season on a 34-22 run to finish at 85-77 and put away a horde of teams that had been chasing them for the second American League wild-card spot.
10. Colorado Rockies (87-75, No. 10) -- Bud Black had a fine first year as the Rockies' manager. They were just good enough to beat out the Milwaukee Brewers for the second National League wild-card spot, but the Rockies will likely be eliminated by Greinke and the Diamondbacks in the NL wild-card game.
11. Milwaukee Brewers (86-76, No. 12) -- It was a season of great progress and promise. The new Brewers smartly didn't trade away young players for an abbreviated postseason appearance. The loss of right-hander Jimmy Nelson to two repairs of the labrum of his pitching shoulder was not just a blow for 2017 pennant chase, but it also will cause him to miss time in 2018. The Brewers were 30th in total payroll for 2017 at approximately $63 million.
12. St. Louis Cardinals (83-79, No. 11) -- We'll never know what right-hander Alex Reyes' 2017 rookie season would have been like. His Tommy John injury in mid-February was a blow manager Mike Matheny's troops could never quite overcome.
13. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (80-82, No. 13) -- The Angels had a disappointing, 12-17 finish after owner Arte Moreno went all-in with the acquisitions of outfielder Justin Upton and aging second baseman Brandon Phillips. They're poised to remain relevant if they can retain Upton and have a healthy rotation. Albert Pujols, 37, has played with the Angels for six years and driven in 100-plus runs four times, but he's due $114 million from the club over four more long years.
14. Kansas City Royals (80-82, No. 15) -- I'm not saying they were wrong to go for it this season, but they face some stiff challenges to remain relevant.
15. Tampa Bay Rays (80-82, No. 17) -- I'm not sure manager Kevin Cash can deliver, but the Rays sure have a penchant for developing pitchers.
16. Texas Rangers (78-84, No. 14) -- Partly due to Yu Darvish undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015, the Rangers were never able to parlay having two top-shelf starters in Darvish and Cole Hamels into any a serious playoff run. The bet here is that Hamels could be on the move.
17. Seattle Mariners (78-84, No. 16) -- They had terrible luck with the health of the starting staff. General manager Jerry Dipoto's long association with manager Scott Servais may blind him from making the right call. I would hate for my team to be in the position they are in regarding second baseman Robinson Cano, who has six years and $144 million left on his contract.
18. Toronto Blue Jays (76-86, No. 19) -- I could not believe they didn't work out a deal with designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion before the season, and they double-downed on one bad decision by opting to re-sign aging right fielder Jose Bautista. The loss of right-hander Aaron Sanchez for nearly the entire season dropped them from any relevance whatsoever.
19. Miami Marlins (77-85, No. 20) -- Right now, there are a lot more questions than answers. As negative as it would seem to the Marlins' beleaguered fan base, new owner Derek Jeter may be left with little choice other than to significantly slash payroll and rebuild.
20. Pittsburgh Pirates (75-87, No. 21) -- The good news is owner Bob Nutting has extended general manager Neil Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle for years.
21. Oakland Athletics (75-87, No. 22) -- Manager Bob Melvin was rewarded with a one-year extension that will keep him in the A's dugout through the 2019 season. All attention now will shift to the A's new stadium project and how they'll pay for it. That could cause the stadium to be constructed and ready for play in five years rather than the standard three years for these sorts of deals.
22. Baltimore Orioles (75-87, No. 18) -- Their starting pitching was an absolute embarrassment. It feels like internal dysfunction within its management could inhibit the club's chances to rebound. On the positive side, the O's have not had their position-player pipeline greased for production like this since the 1970s.
23. San Diego Padres (71-91, No. 23) -- General manager A.J. Preller pivoted quickly from his huge overplay entering the 2015 season to a total rebuild with loads of money being spent on foreign players. They really have no other option but to be patient. There were small signs of progress this season.
24. Atlanta Braves (72-90, No. 24) -- The shocking news of general manager John Coppolella's resignation due to an MLB investigation regarding the international player market will surely overshadow any decision on manager Brian Snitker's status. President of baseball operations John Hart will take over the GM duties until they name a replacement.
25. New York Mets (70-92, No. 25) -- General manager Sandy Alderson was right to lash out at anonymous sources within the organization picking apart manager Terry Collins on the his way out the door. Now the search begins in earnest for a successor. Dodgers bench coach Bob Geren could be a leading candidate, along with Chicago White Sox coach and ex-Mets player Joe McEwing.
26. Cincinnati Reds (68-94, No. 26) -- I suppose their ongoing support of manager Bryan Price, who is 276-372 (.426) over four seasons, could be interpreted as a realistic approach to a extremely patient rebuild.
27. Philadelphia Phillies (66-96, No. 28) -- The timing doesn't seem right for a managerial change while the club is in the middle of rebuilding. Manager Pete Mackanin moves up to special assistant's role under general manager Matt Klentak.
28. San Francisco Giants (64-98, No. 27) -- This figures to be whole new experience for general manager Brian Sabean: trying to quickly do a rebuild on the run. They just may not be that good. If the Marlins are serious about moving slugger Giancarlo Stanton, this could be the best fit for his talents and the dollars that need to be spent to acquire him.
29. Chicago White Sox (67-95, No. 29) -- As far as the teams in rebuilding mode in the AL Central, they have a jump-start on the Detroit Tigers, and general manager Rick Hahn seems to have a feel for this.
30. Detroit Tigers (64-98, No. 30) --Their rebuild is just starting, and it is unclear if executive vice president of baseball operations Al Avila has the goods for this type of project.