There are plenty of observations to be made through the first five weeks of the baseball season, so let's roll through a few.
The Tampa Bay Rays won 90 games last season but have honestly shocked everybody with just how well they are playing. With an improved defense and offense, it's no surprise they are good. But with a rotation featuring Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell, veteran Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow, steal of the century via trade, the Rays are for real.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were fearful that ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw might never be what he once was, as his shoulder was a major cause for concern this spring. He missed Opening Day, which was a big deal. But he's made three starts, and while he may not have the velocity he did in his prime, he has a dazzling first 20 innings under his belt: 2.25 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 20 strikeouts and just four walks.
With the injuries to infielders D.J. LeMahieu and Gio Urshela April 29, the New York Yankees may end up with an unfathomable 15 players on the injured list. And yet, with all the injuries came an opportunity for manager Aaron Boone. Like a champion jockey, he has grasped what he's had to push, pull, whip and vigorously hand ride his team back into contention. Sure it's early, but his work right now rings loud and clear as worthy of Manager of the Year honors in the American League.
Speaking of managers, there are only two whose seats will get hot early. Don Mattingly's Miami Marlins have an MLB-low eight wins. Not much was expected of this Marlins bunch, but despite their Yankee ties, CEO Derek Jeter didn't hire Mattingly. Pressure may build for Jeter to look like he's busy doing something, and nothing quite says, "I am doing something," like changing managers. Here's a thought: Would Joe Girardi entertain the idea of a return to the Marlins' manager's position and working with the man who helped him guide the Yankees to their last World Series victory in 2009?
In Washington, D.C., much was expected of the 2019 Nationals. The club made several bold moves in allowing Bryce Harper to not only walk away but sign with Philadelphia, thereby creating a National League version of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. But Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo had a plan: He spent a good chunk of the Harper savings on the best free-agent pitcher available in lefty Patrick Corbin, then sprinkled more of the savings to boost the rest of the roster, adding infielder Brian Dozier, catchers Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki and relievers Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough.
So far, nothing has truly worked. The worst of the situation has centered around Rosenthal, who has been an out-and-out bust. But the bottom line is Rizzo may feel a sense of urgency to move on from manager Davey Martinez who is just 94-94 through his first 188 games, before the season gets away from him.
This is the type of team for which Girardi might jump at the chance to get back into filling lineup cards. The Nationals have had a couple of bad breaks recently. Shortstop Trea Turner is on the IL for at least another 4-6 weeks, third baseman Anthony Rendon has missed six of the past seven games after being hit with a pitch on the elbow ... and now first baseman Ryan Zimmerman is going to miss time.
The club made an uncharacteristic move in bringing up prized rookie Carter Kieboom, who has homered twice in his first three games. It smacks of Rizzo trying to make sure he leaves no stone unturned before he looks into moving on from his manager.
Now let's take a peek at this week's MLB Power Rankings:
1. Tampa Bay Rays (18-9, No. 1 last week): Hot start figures to get even hotter with the Rays' next seven games on the road in Kansas City and Baltimore. Can we smell the smoke?
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (19-11, No. 2): Lots of good stories here, but by far the best is outfielder-first baseman Cody Bellinger, who is batting an otherworldly .427 with MLB bests in hits (44) and RBIs (36) -- and he's tied with Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich for the home run lead (14).
3. St. Louis Cardinals (17-10, No. 5): When the Cardinals fired manager Mike Matheny last July, they were 48-46, but the Cardinals won 24 of their next 41 games under Mike Shildt. Just when it looked like they were going to push past the Brewers and Chicago Cubs in the NL Central, they fizzled to a 12-15 finish. St. Louis added first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, and Marcell Ozuna is now healthy. Lo and behold, the Cardinals are off to a 17-10 start.
4. Houston Astros (17-11, No. 3): The Astros started the season 2-5, but the 2017 world champs have won 15 of their last 21 games. Shortstop Carlos Correa and second baseman Jose Altuve are healthy and leading the charge.
5. New York Yankees (17-11, No. 7): So far the Yankees have been able to withstand the most players to ever be placed on the IL in one season (though I don't know about the most in DL history). As great a job as general manager Brian Cashman and Boone have done, seems they could be ready to cry uncle if they don't get some of their players back soon.
6. Philadelphia Phillies (6-12, No. 8): With Nick Pivetta back in the minors and Aaron Nola going through some early-season struggles, it was a matter of life and death for other starters to pick up the pace. Jake Arrieta is doing his part, and Zach Eflin (35 innings, 3.34 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) and Jerad Eickhoff (17 innings, 2.12 ERA and 1.00 WHIP) have really saved manager Gabe Kapler's bacon.
7. Seattle Mariners (18-13, No. 11): Pitching problems are starting to surface. With Wade LeBlanc out, the only truly dependable starter they have is Marco Gonzalez. That fact of life figures to catch up with team very soon. They just brought up the real Paxton booty from the Yankees in lefty Justus Sheffield.
8. Milwaukee Brewers (15-14, No. 6): Picking up lefty Gio Gonzalez was probably more essential than they'd want you to think. The club seems to have dodged the IL bullet with Yelich, who is day to day with lower back stiffness.
9. Boston Red Sox (11-17, No. 4): They stayed near the top last week based on the three-game sweep of the Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla. But at a certain point the reality of their issues is far greater than the equity of being World Series champions. They are at that point now. One more week like this and they'll be closer to 20 than the top 10.
10. New York Mets (No. 12, 14-13): There's good news and bad news. I'll tell you that ace right-hander Jacob deGrom is back with no apparent structural damage to his elbow. The bad news: Whoever is dressing in deGrom's uniform isn't living up to what the Mets paid big dollars to extend. Right-hander Noah Syndergaard has been even worse.
11. Minnesota Twins (16-9, No. 13)
12. Chicago Cubs (14-12, No. 14)
13. Cleveland Indians (15-12, No. 15)
14. Atlanta Braves (13-14, No. 10)
15. Washington Nationals (12-14, No. 9)
16. San Diego Padres (16-12, No. 16)
17. Oakland Athletics (14-16, No. 17)
18. Pittsburgh Pirates (12-14, No. 18)
19. Colorado Rockies (13-15, No. 19)
20- Arizona Diamondbacks (16-13, No. 24)
21. Toronto Blue Jays (14-14, No. 23)
22. Texas Rangers (14-13, No. 20)
23. Los Angeles Angels (12-17, No. 22)
24. Detroit Tigers (12-14, No. 21)
25. Chicago White Sox (11-14, No. 26)
26. Cincinnati Reds (11-16, No. 25)
27. San Francisco Giants (11-17, No. 27)
28. Kansas City Royals (9-19, No. 28)
29. Miami Marlins (8-20, No. 29)
30. Baltimore Orioles (10-19. No. 30)