MLB Power Rankings: Preseason

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MLB Power Rankings: Preseason

Every Monday throughout the regular season, we'll be running these power rankings -- but since the regular season gets underway in earnest this week, we're rolling out our pre-season power rankings today. Take a look and offer up your thoughts in the comments or to us on twitter @CubsTalkCSN or @WhiteSoxTalkCSN.

Tony
JJComments1
Tony: Not sold on them, but can't deny talent on paper.
JJ: No change at the top of AL from last two years.
2
Tony: Are Pujols, CJ enough to put them over the top?
JJ: Dan Haren's the best starter this team has.
3
Tony: Two WS runner-ups, can they finally win one in '12?
JJ: Better hope Pineda's okay.
4
Tony: Would be higher if Utley, Howard were healthy.
JJ: Rotation's easily still good enough to win the division.
5
Tony: Great lineup, but rotation questions.
JJ: Great offense, good pitching, laughable defense.
6
Tony: Love the upstart Rays and the underrated offseason moves.
JJ: Talent is there, can Bobby V bring it together?
7
Tony: Don't see a collapse in their future with second wild card.
JJ: Wainwright, Beltran should offset loss of Pujols.
8
Tony: Return of Posey will give offense huge boost.
JJ: Unreal amount of talent in this starting rotation.
9
Tony: Betting they learned from last year's epic collapse.
JJ: Gallardo, Greinke are a fearsome 1-2.
10
Tony: Great rotation, have full season of Braun.
JJ: If Josh Johnson stays healthy, playoffs seem likely.
11
Tony: Young, improving but won't sneak up on anybody anymore.
JJ: Don't sleep on Justin Upton as an MVP candidate.
12
Tony: Wainwright return is huge, Beltran helps with Pujols loss.
JJ: Should be part of a fun NL East battle.
13
Tony: Getting there, but can they put it all together in '12?
JJ: BRB, gonna go try to borrow some money from Matt Cain.
14
Tony: Up-and-coming, will challenge for 2nd wild card.
JJ: Things'll get interesting when Bryce Harper gets called up.
15
Tony: Will be a great drama, but good enough for postseason?
JJ: BRB, gonna go try to borrow some money from Joey Votto.
16
Tony: Future is very bright, but 2012 may not be it yet.
JJ: Tough to see them challenging Detroit. Solidly mediocre.
17
Tony: Can't even count them out, especially late in seasons.
JJ: Get on the Adam Dunn bandwagon while there's still room.
18
Tony: Is this the year they put together a winning season?
JJ: Hope Moyer can stay in rotation for as long as possible.
19
Tony: Second best team in AL Central, still not a "good" team.
JJ: Not enough pitching, but Brandon Morrow could be great.
20
Tony: BeckhamDunnRios rebound, but not drastically.
JJ: Team is meh, but Vin Scully makes them worth watching.
21
Tony: Magic's ownership will help turn club around.
JJ: Underrated in fairly-weak NL West.
22
Tony: Could be a Top 10 team...in two or three years.
JJ: Still a few starters away. Offense will score plenty of runs.
23
Tony: Wish I could rank them higher than Ryno's .
JJ: Jason Bay's situation pretty much sums up this team.
24
Tony: Season hinges on effectiveness of Mauer, Morneau, Liriano.
JJ: Bet they wish they never traded Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps.
25
Tony: Nope. Not even with the return of Santana.
JJ: Interested to see how Samardzija fares in the rotation.
26
Tony: Great farm system, not so great Major-league team.
JJ: Andrew McCutchen is a star; not much beyond him.
27
Tony: Montero, Ackley enough to score this team runs?
JJ: I want access to Bartolo Colon's magic pixie dust.
28
Tony: Will be a long year out in Cali.
JJ: Another sad year in a great baseball city.
29
Tony: A lot hinges on the young, inexperienced pitchers.
JJ: Let's just agree to enjoy the last few years of Ichiro's career.
30
Tony: Could challenge for worst record in MLB history.
JJ: Quick! Name five players on the Astros. Most can't.

James Shields gets first win in two months as White Sox beat Rays

James Shields gets first win in two months as White Sox beat Rays

James Shields’ time with the White Sox has not gone well. But Monday night was one of the bright spots, and it came against his former team.

Shields allowed just one run in his six innings of work against the visiting Tampa Ray Bays — with whom he spent the first seven seasons of his career — and earned his first win since July 26 as the White Sox opened this four-game set with a 7-1 victory at U.S. Cellular Field.

Shields didn’t exactly keep the Rays off the bases Monday, running into jams with multiple base runners on in four of his six innings. But he did keep them off the scoreboard, for the most part, getting some help from his defense with a couple double plays. He finished allowing just one run on seven hits with six strikeouts over his six innings.

The win was his first in two months after a brutal August — six starts with four losses and an 11.42 ERA — and a couple of rough outings in September. It was Shields’ sixth victory on the season and fourth since joining the White Sox compared to 18 losses on the season, 11 coming with the White Sox.

“I had a few chances my last few starts to get some wins, but sometimes those things happen,” Shields said. “I’m just trying to finish the season strong right now. Body feels good, arm feels good, so hopefully I can get another win on Saturday to end my season and move into next year.”

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With just one more start on his schedule in the season’s final week, Shields won’t lose a visually upsetting 20 games. Avoiding that number might not make losing 18 or 19 much easier for fans and observers to swallow, but teammates understand what Shields has gone through this season.

“I think we’ve all been through it once or maybe even twice in our career. He works his butt off, though,” third baseman Todd Frazier said. “He looks at film. He watches everything he’s doing. To come out with the strong outing today, even in the first inning, getting two runners on and getting out of that jam, it goes to show you his resilience. Whenever he got runners on, he looked relaxed and induced a lot of ground balls which we needed.”

Certainly Shields’ teammates picked him up Monday. The two double plays while he was in the game were just half the infield’s total on the night, two more coming in the seventh and eighth, when Tommy Kahnle and Nate Jones put the first two hitters they faced on in each frame. But the double plays helped end those threats and keep the Rays down.

The White Sox struck first with a run in the first inning, Melky Cabrera scoring on Justin Morneau’s sacrifice fly. After the Rays tied it up in the fourth with an RBI single, the White Sox punched back, Frazier doubling, stealing third base and scoring on Omar Narvaez’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of that inning.

And as Shields and the relief corps danced out of jams, the White Sox added to their score. Jose Abreu singled in a run in the fifth, but it was a pair of two-run homers off the bats of Morneau and Carlos Sanchez in the seventh and eighth innings that provided the real insurance.

The win was the third straight for the White Sox, something that while positive won’t provide much solace in a season where competing for a playoff spot is a distant memory.

But, like Shields finishing his season strong, White Sox players in general can create individual momentum for each of their offseasons and into next year with good finishes to 2016.

“We want to end on a positive note,” Frazier said. “Everybody wants to meet their goals. Baseball is the most individualistic team sport there is. You have to have your individual goals just like your team goals, and our team goals are out the door right now. You don’t want to play for yourself, but at the same time play for your pitcher a little bit and help him out.”

Robin Ventura praises ex-teammate David Ross after night of ovations

Robin Ventura praises ex-teammate David Ross after night of ovations

On June 25, 2004, Robin Ventura took the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the ninth inning of a 13-0 loss to the then Anaheim Angels.

It was Ventura’s lone pitching appearance in his big league career, one that ended that season after 16 years.

And who was behind the plate? Current Cubs catcher David Ross, who’s in the final season of his own lengthy major league career and who experienced quite the moment on Sunday night. In the Cubs’ final regular-season home game, a packed Wrigley Field stood in recognition of the backup catcher and his career ahead of each of his three plate appearances — the second of which ended in a solo home run — and then again when manager Joe Maddon lifted him from the game in the seventh inning.

The roaring ovations were unusual for a backup catcher who’s batting .233 (after hitting just .176 last season on the North Side), but according to Ventura — a teammate of Ross’ in L.A. in 2003 and 2004 — they were absolutely deserved.

“It’s great. Anything he gets I think is great,” Ventura said. “Not often do you see a backup catcher with such a response. But he’s a different guy, and he’s earned that. They wouldn’t do that if he didn’t deserve it. Inside their clubhouse, that’s probably where it comes from, and then it exudes outside, spills over outside of that. I’m sure I’ll talk to him in the offseason.”

Ross hasn’t received a city-by-city sendoff the likes of which Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, David Ortiz and even White Sox legend Paul Konerko have received in recent years. But he sure has enjoyed his final season in the big leagues. And he might enjoy it further as the Cubs have the best record in baseball and World Series expectations.

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Ventura had his own final season in the bigs a dozen years ago, and he was the manager during Konerko’s final year in 2014.

“I know a little bit of what he’s going through. But when a guy is at the end and he knows he’s at the end, you can have a little more fun,” Ventura said. “Paulie had some of that his last year where you can exert some energy elsewhere. And it’s still fun, and you spread it around the clubhouse a little bit more than you do just as a player.”

It might be difficult for fans who haven’t closely followed the Cubs over the past two seasons to figure out why Ross has become so beloved. But as Ross’ former teammate, Ventura understands.

“Numbers-wise, he’s not going to jump out off the page to you. But the guys that play in there understand what he brings to it,” Ventura said. “It’s hard to sit there and for people to understand that, as grueling as the season is and the personalities are in that clubhouse. But when you’re talking about a guy that’s played as long as he has, been on some winning teams and continues to bring the enjoyment and really the boyish stuff that he brings. And that’s part of his charm is there’s still a kid in there, even at 40 — what is he? — he looks like 48. There’s a kid in there, and that comes out when you see him or you’re around him.”

So back to that pitching appearance. Ventura fared just fine, giving up just one hit in a scoreless ninth inning. Ross must’ve been calling a good game, right?

“He never put down a signal,” Ventura said. “I didn’t throw hard enough for him to put down a signal.”