Final MLB Power Rankings: Giants No. 1, but who's No. 2?

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Final MLB Power Rankings: Giants No. 1, but who's No. 2?

Each Monday throughout the regular season, Cubs Talk's Tony Andracki and White Sox Talk's JJ Stankevitz ranked all 30 MLB teams. These are the final power rankings -- be sure to check out previous rankings below and offer up your comments to us on Twitter @CubsTalkCSN and @WhiteSoxTalkCSN.

Previous rankings: Preseason Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11 Week 12 Week 13 First Half Week 15 Week 16 Week 17 Week 18 Week 19 Week 20 Week 21 Week 22 Week 23 Week 24 Week 25 Regular Season

Tony
JJ Comments 1
Tony: Well, duh. They deserve it. Clearly the best team right now.
JJ: Two titles in three years. Good on you, San Francisco.
2
Tony: Don't deserve No. 2 slot, but WS runner-ups have to be, right?
JJ: Best team in baseball in regular season. Bullpen collapse doesn't erase that.
3
Tony: Had a second straight magical year, led NL in run differential.
JJ: Yep. National League had the three best teams in baseball.
4
Tony: Roster packed with talent...but it's an aging group. JJ: Got hot late after plenty of mediocre play.
5
Tony: Really wish they coulda won it all. Great story.
JJ: Incredible run to win the West deserves top-5 love.
6
Tony: Were my NL favorites from start of preseason. Love the core.
JJ: One controversial loss does not make a season. 7
Tony: Called it from outset -- postseason success won't come 'til 2013.
JJ: One loss does not make a season. 8
Tony: I put their chances of repeating at...4 percent.
JJ: Did well to win East, but offense totally tanked in playoffs.
9
Tony: Can they actually play more than one playoff game next year?
JJ: Apparently they play better with backs against the wall.
10
Tony: Everybody's due an off-year, right? World Series or bust in '13.
JJ: No matter what happens next year, '12 was a special year for O's.
11
Tony: My pick to win AL East next year.
JJ: Best team to miss playoffs. Thought about ranking them higher.
12
Tony: Can they really get by without Haren or Ervin?
JJ: Now we sit and wait to see if Trout gets the MVP.
13
Tony: Roster will be loaded next year.
JJ: All that money better pay off in 2013.
14
Tony: Sad end to the season. Will they challenge again in '13?
JJ: 85 wins not bad, but missing playoffs still disappointed.
15
Tony: Really think they should have hung on to Victorino, Pence.
JJ: Great AugustSeptember run fell short.
16
Tony: Will come on fast and furious next year.
JJ: Brutal spate of injuries doomed a talented team.
17
Tony: Norichika Aoki looks like a solid piece.
JJ: Has nothing to do with '12, but don't like the Bell trade at all.
18
Tony: Need to trade young talent for some major-league caliber offense.
JJ: Have some good pieces coming along, but can't fold in August again.
19
Tony: Once young pitching comes along, will be annual contender.
JJ: Like what they're building, but Headley's future is interesting.
20
Tony: Can they ever get over the hump?
JJ: Will moving the fences in help generate some more offense?
21
Tony: Really excited to see how they do next year.
JJ: So. Many. Injuries.
22
Tony: Should be more drama-free next year, at the very least.
JJ: Won't get over the hump until they find some pitching.
23
Tony: Should trade some offense for pitching. Maybe deal with SEA?
JJ: Continue to wallow in mediocrity.
24
Tony: Need to find a way to retain Wright.
JJ: We'll see if Farrell can clean up the mess.
25
Tony: Like Boston, will have much less drama in 2013.
JJ: Baseball's biggest disappointment, and now Ozzie's out of a job.
26
Tony: Don't appear to be anywhere close to a contender.
JJ: Were just awful after the All-Star break.
27
Tony: What is their goal? Are they technically rebuilding?
JJ: Echo Tony's sentiments -- what, exactly, are they doing?
28
Tony: Full season with Tulo, CarGo, Fowler, Rutledge will be interesting.
JJ: Pitching wound up looking like those bad pre-2007 teams.
29
Tony: What if everything goes right next year?
JJ: Gonna be a few years, but like the foundation being built.
30
Tony: Going to be a looooong couple of years, esp in AL West.
JJ: Long way to go, but have a talented front office for the job.

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Bears DL Akiem Hicks making the most of a chance the Saints never gave him

Bears DL Akiem Hicks making the most of a chance the Saints never gave him

Living well is indeed the best revenge, and sometimes nothing feels sweeter than proving doubters wrong. Akiem Hicks is savoring that exact feeling.

When the New Orleans Saints made Hicks their third-round pick in the 2013 draft, they typecast their big (6-5, 318 pounds) young defensive lineman as a one-trick pony.

“There were people in New Orleans that said, ‘You can’t rush the passer,’” Hicks recalled after the Bears’ win Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers. “They told me from my rookie year, ‘You’re going to be a run-stopper.’”

This despite Hicks collecting 6.5 sacks and 3 pass breakups as a senior at Regina in Canada. The Saints forced Hicks into the slot they’d decided he fit – nose tackle – then eventually grew disenchanted with him and traded him to New England last year – where he collect 3 sacks in spot duty.

Interestingly, Bears GM Ryan Pace was part of the Saints’ personnel operation. Whether Pace agreed with coaches’ handling of Hicks then isn’t known, but when Pace had the chance to bring Hicks to Chicago for a role different than the one the Saints forced Hicks into, Pace made it happen.

Pace likely saw those New England sacks as a foreshadowing or a sign that the New Orleans staff had miscast Hicks. The Bears defensive end now is under consideration for NFC defensive player of the week after his 10-tackle performance against San Francisco. Signing with the Bears last March 13 as a free agent was the career break Hicks has craved. For him it was a career lifeline.

“They have given me the ability to go rush the passer,” Hicks said. “So I love this organization – [GM] Ryan Pace, coach Fox, Vic [Fangio, defensive coordinator] – for just giving a guy the capability to put it out there and do what you feel like you can do.”

[MORE BEARS: Back from scary concussion, Leonard Floyd playing like franchise pass rusher Bears craved]

Hicks has been showing what he can do, to quarterbacks. For him the best part of win over the 49ers was the two third-quarter sacks of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Those sacks gave the massive lineman, who the Saints said couldn’t rush the passer, 6 sacks for the season – more than any member of the Saints defense this season. It has been a classic instance of putting a player in position to maximize his skills, not jam someone into a bad fit.

“Akiem has been in a couple of different types of packages before with New Orleans and New England,” said coach John Fox. The Patriots switched from a long-time 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 but “we’re more of a New England-type style. But we’re playing him more at end; he played mostly a nose tackle [in New Orleans]. He’s fit really well for us as far as his physical stature.

"But he does have pass rush ability. It shows a little about his athleticism. So he’s got a combination of both.”

That “combination” has been allowed to flourish at a new level, and the Bears’ plan for Hicks was the foundation of why he wanted to sign in Chicago as a free agent. The Bears do not play their defensive linemen in a clear one-gap, get-upfield-fast scheme tailored to speed players. Nor do they play a classic two-gap, linemen-control-blockers scheme typically built on three massive space-eaters on the defensive line.

They play what one player has called a “gap and a half” system, which requires being stout as well as nimble.

One Hicks rush on Kaepernick featured a deft spin move out of a block, not the norm for 336-pound linemen. He got one sack with a quick slide out of a double-team.

“I’m not freelancing,” Hicks said. “But I’m rushing ‘fast.’ There’s a portion of the defense where you have the [run] responsibility and don’t have the freedom or liberty [to rush]. It’s a great system for me and I love what they’ve let me do.”