|Over a three-game span, Beltre smacked five homers and had nine RBI. (AP)|
Not enough has been said about the Rangers' wisdom in signing Beltre, which may wind up being the key decision for half a decade in the battle of the ever-improving AL West. The Rangers won the division title again last year (and went back to the World Series) and the $80 million, five-year commitment to Beltre was a key reason. And they've led almost the whole way this year, also thanks in large part to Beltre, who looks like a bargain at $80M guaranteed over five years (plus a sixth-year vesting option that by all rights should be picked up).
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The real beauty of the deal is that the two main competitors in the Beltre Derby were the second- and third-place A's and Angels. The Angels actually had the upper hand because Beltre still lives in Los Angeles, dating to his early Dodgers years. But like the A's, the Angels didn't want to go much beyond $65 million or $70 million.
Beltre had a shot at winning the MVP last season before a hamstring knocked him out for six weeks. And he's been just about as good this year, with a .310 batting average, 24 home runs and 77 RBI heading into Monday's games. And the most recent week was his best. On Wednesday, he hit three home runs in a 12-3 win over the Orioles. Two days later, he hit for the cycle in an 8-0 victory over the Twins. Over a three-game span, he had 10 hits, five home runs and nine RBI.
Ozzie Guillen says nobody he's ever seen during his three decades-plus in baseball has Stanton's type of power. Though Stanton got off to a painfully slow start (no home runs through April 28), missed a lot of time this season and plays in a new pitcher's park, Stanton has a chance to lead the NL in homers, thanks to a recent rush. He has eight home runs in his past 11 games, giving him 29 and a shot to catch and pass Ryan Braun and others for the title.
The last week makes one wonder what his limit is. He had one home run in Denver originally estimated at 474 feet, then re-estimated at 494 feet -- the longest home run in Marlins history. And as teammate Austin Kearns noted, "It was against the wind." Nothing, it seems, can stop this young fellow. And what's better, he's a terrific young man. So at least there is one very good thing -- beyond their fun new park -- happening with the Marlins this year.
3. Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals, SP
The Cardinals are in playoff position now, and this guy is one of the big reasons. As is typical in the year after Tommy john surgery, he has built strength as he's gone on and seems to be his old self. With Chris Carpenter out, Wainwright's vital for the Cardinals. And no matter how good their big hitters -- Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman -- have been (and generally, they have been excellent), Wainwright is the main reason they have a shot to defend their World Series title.
Wainwright beat the first-place Reds 8-2 on Sunday, making it five wins in five August starts. It would have been seven straight quality starts, too, but he came out after 5 2/3 innings. In the start before, Wainwright threw a five-hit shutout that included 12 strikeouts and only one walk. No question, he's back.
1. Ricky Romero, Toronto Blue Jays, SP
It has been some kind of frustrating season for Ricky Romero, and his latest outing (eight walks and no strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings) was merely the culmination of everything that's gone wrong. Overall, he is 8-11 with a 5.63 ERA and 1.57 WHIP. He also has walked 87 and only whiffed 104, a pretty terrible ratio during an unusual season.
Romero's struggles could not have come at a worse time for the Jays, whose pitching staff has been decimated by injuries -- and a few season-ending injuries. With Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison out for the season and most of their other starters suffering injuries, they just couldn't tolerate an off year from their ace. (Teammate Colby Rasmus, who had a recent 0 for 23 stretch with 13 strikeouts, could get dishonorable mention.)
2. Weeks Brothers. (Jemile Triple-A A’s 2B, Rickie, Brewers 2B)
They've made this unwanted list as a pair before. But this is probably their worst week. Rickie is in a 2-for-28 slide to drop him to .212 (with 13 home runs and 45 RBI). And Jemile, who had the better week at 2 for 12, was sent down to Triple-A.
One positive: In the face of his struggles (and he's been between .200 and .230 since May 25, and was at .220 when demoted), Jemile hasn't lost faith in himself. As he said on the day of his demotion to the Sacramento River Cats: "At the end of the day, I'm going to be a star in this game, man." Not yet he isn't.
3. Dan Uggla, Atlanta Braves, 2B.
At some point, I'm going to reserve a permanent spot for him here. This is his third appearance as a Bear, not too good for an All-Star. But a 2-for-22 week. with no home runs and no RBI will do that for you. Overall, he's at .206, though he does have 15 home runs and 62 RBI.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez had the good sense to spare him further negativity, as Gonzalez benched him Sunday night against Tim Lincecum. Uggla is 0 for 10 with six strikeouts against Lincecum lifetime. For all the Marlins' struggles, at least they don't have Uggla anymore.