MLB Power Rankings: Handing out 'Top 100 Movie Quotes' for Each Team's Season
The MLB season itself is like one giant movie. The dizzying array of characters and plot twists makes the storyline harder to follow than a Christopher Nolan film.
With about 100 games left, the season has barely even reached its rising action. Still, the "small sample size" caveat is becoming less and less relevant as teams and players begin to establish who they are.
With that, here are the teams, in alphabetical order, with an "AFI Top 100 Movie Quote" that best encapsulates their seasons thus far.
*All stats courtesy of Fangraphs.com. Stats accurate as of Monday, June 17.
"Here's looking at you, kid." -Rick Blaine, Casablanca
After an offseason of upheaval, many expected the D-Backs to take a step back from their .500 finish last season.
But numerous breakouts from young stars have propelled the team into first place in the NL West. Paul Goldschmidt is fifth in the NL with 15 home runs, while shortstop Didi Gregorius has justified the trade of pitching prospect Trevor Bauer with an above average season.
Of course, the biggest surprise has been second-year starter Patrick Corbin, whose 9-0 record and 2.28 ERA has him in serious contention for the NL starting pitcher slot in the All-Star Game. His emergence has kept the pitching staff afloat, given Daniel Hudson's setback from Tommy John surgery and Ian Kennedy's struggles.
"Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a mirac...It's in the hole! It's in the hole! It's in the hole!" -Carl Spackler, Caddyshack
And yet, the Braves are firmly in control of the NL East, thanks to the shocking exploits of catcher/outfielder/pinch-hitting extraordinaire Evan Gattis. According to Joe Lemire of Sports Illustrated, Gattis is a mind-boggling 6-for-8 as a pinch hitter with four home runs. And if that weren't enough, check out his harrowing tale to the big leagues that included bouts of drug addiction and depression.
The Braves are a good team in contention for the National League pennant yet again. They just haven't gotten there the way most expected.
"Wait a minute, wait a minute. You ain't heard nothin' yet!" -Jack Robin, The Jazz Singer
Many expected significant regression for the O's this season after their record-setting 29-9 record in one-run games last season. However, the Birds have proven resilient, forging their way into the middle of a packed four-team AL East race.
This year, the Orioles are actually amongst the league leaders for blown saves, a reversal from their clutch late-inning pitching last season. However, they have balanced that regression with huge MVP-caliber performances from Chris Davis and Manny Machado, who have already combined for an astounding 7.2 WAR this season.
When you essentially add Miguel Cabrera and David Wright to your lineup, you can handle a little late-game regression.
Boston Red Sox
"Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." - Rick Blaine, Casablanca
Substitute "Louis" for "John Farrell" and you have the sentiment of Red Sox Nation.
The Red Sox were never as bad as their 69-win 2012 season indicated. But a perfect storm of injuries and underperformance was exacerbated by polarizing manager Bobby Valentine. Fortunately, Red Sox management realized their mistake, hiring the former Red Sox pitching coach and bringing back memories of the Francona years.
Under Farrell, Clay Buchholz has had a breakout season, ranking ninth in WAR amongst all starters. Red Sox starters, whose 5.19 ERA was fourth worst last season, have shaved nearly a run-and-a-half off that total so far.
"Who's on first?" -Dexter, The Naughty Nineties
Anthony Rizzo's on first, that's who. Though the young slugger has hit just .194/.307/.337 over the last month, Rizzo still represents arguably the brightest piece in Theo Epstein's rebuilding project. Even with the slump, Rizzo is walking about 2 percent more, and his ISO has gone up nearly 50 points from last season.
The Cubs are bad, and probably will stay that way for another year or two. But with several high ceiling bats in an improving farm system, Chicago will probably get another chance to torture its fans in the playoffs within a reasonable amount of time.
Chicago White Sox
"Hasta la vista, baby." -The Terminator, The Terminator 2: Judgment Day
White Sox fans can probably say goodbye to whatever hopes of contention their team had. Though it appears Alex Rios is breaking his trend of alternating good years with terrible ones, the rest of the position players are in shambles. The bottom has finally fallen out on the ageless Paul Konerko, while Adam Dunn is having a year only slightly better than his historically awful 2011.
Likewise on the pitching side, it's Chris Sale and a lot of replacement-level talent. The team desperately needs to restock its farm system, which Baseball America ranked dead last in 2012. A fire sale could be in short order here.
"I'm walking here! I'm walking here!" -Ratso Rizzo, Midnight Cowboy
Much of that improvement can be attributed to new lead-off hitter Shin-Soo Choo, acquired from the Indians in an offseason trade. After years of batting on-base sinkholes like Willy Taveras and Corey Patterson first, Dusty Baker finally found himself someone who can set the table for run producers like Joey Votto and Jay Bruce.
Choo's .428 OBP has been a huge boon for the Cincinnati offense, ranking third in the majors behind Votto and Miguel Cabrera.
"Nobody puts Baby in a corner." -Johnny Castle, Dirty Dancing
After his acrimonious divorce from the Red Sox, you knew Terry Francona wouldn't be down for long. A year after losing 94 games, the Indians currently sit in second place in the AL Central, within distance of a wild-card berth.
No one is necessarily expecting playoffs in Cleveland this year, though. Free agent acquisitions Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds were all signed to below-market deals. Their name value may have given the impression of a team trying to contend, but this year is about developing young talent like Trevor Bauer, and restocking a farm system that doesn't have much high-ceiling talent in the lower minors.
At the very least, Cleveland has a respected voice in the dugout who knows how to win. That's more than they've had in years.
"Shane. Shane. Come back!" -Joey Starrett, Shane
Rockies fans are certainly crying for Troy Tulowitzki to come back after the franchise shortstop suffered a broken rib that will keep him out 4-6 weeks. Tulowitzki is the best shortstop in baseball when healthy, but this will likely mark the fourth time in six years that he plays fewer than 125 games. For Rockies fans, it's eerily reminiscent of Larry Walker, whose injuries limited a potentially Hall of Fame career.
It's not all bad news in Colorado, though. The pitching staff has been surprisingly effective, buoyed by returns from Jhoulys Chacin, Juan Nicasio and Jorge de la Rosa. The team started 13-4 and have remained in contention in the NL West up to this point.
But the injury to Tulowitzki may be too much to overcome. Even if the Rockies fall out of contention, 2013 has still been a step forward from their dismal 98-loss 2012 season.
"Round up the usual suspects." -Louis Renault, Casablanca
Once again, the Tigers are riding the backs of their offensive superstars and pitching staff to likely another AL Central crown.
When you have four starters with a WAR over 2.5 and the reigning Triple Crown winner threatening to do it again, you're going to be really good.
See, sometimes baseball is easy.
"Houston, we have a problem." -Jim Lovell, Apollo 13
And we have a winner for the most obvious connection!
Houston's real problem stemmed from years of poor drafting, which depleted the farm system and left no support for aging and mediocre major league talent.
General manager Jeff Luhnow, hired away from the Cardinals two seasons ago, has done remarkable work in a short amount of time. In that time, the Astros farm system has rocketed up Baseball America's rankings from 26th to ninth this year, via Rany Jazayerli of Grantland.
The Astros may lose 100 games this year and the next, but their long-term project is on the right track.
Kansas City Royals
"Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." -Forrest Gump, Forrest Gump.
Royals fans must be frustrated with what they're getting from their prospects. Just two years after holding the top farm system in the league, Kansas City is once again stumbling through another sub-.500 season.
Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have combined for a disheartening -0.2 WAR, and pitching prospects like Mike Montgomery, John Lamb and Jake Odorizzi either flamed out or were dealt away.
Ironically, the one Royals prospect to break through, Salvador Perez, never ranked higher than 20th in Kansas City's system before making the show.
Los Angeles Angels
"Show me the money!" -Rod Tidwell, Jerry Maguire
Arte Moreno has certainly opened up his wallet the past two offseasons, doling out roughly $450 million to free agents.
Unfortunately, the Angels have gotten almost nothing from that astounding investment. Josh Hamilton's slash line of .213/.271/.384 is in the same neighborhood as Vernon Wells and Matt Dominguez. Albert Pujols continues his steady decline, currently having a barely above average offensive season. And meanwhile, their pitching remains terrible, particularly the bullpen.
But hey, at least they can all afford to drive away in nice cars after losses.
Los Angeles Dodgers
"Sawyer, you're going out a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!" -Julian Marsh, 42nd Street
Yasiel Puig has been everything the Dodgers could have hoped for from their top prospect. His first two weeks have already seen him compile 1.0 WAR, which is more than Andre Ethier, Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp have had all season.
Unfortunately, it's that second part that has mattered more. Like the cross-town Angels, the Dodgers have not gotten enough for their massive investments. For a team with a $239 million payroll, Los Angeles has almost no pitching depth behind ace Clayton Kershaw, and little offensive production outside of Puig, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.
"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." -Rhett Butler, Gone with the Wind
Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria clearly doesn't give much of a damn about anything besides fattening his wallet. A year after constructing Marlins Park with over $500 million in public finances, Loria stripped the team, leaving a roster full of Triple-A talent and just four players providing more than 1.0 WAR.
Despite yet another promising farm system, Marlins fans know another team will likely reap the benefits of their consistently shrewd scouting. At this point, it seems Miami will be forever irrelevant until Loria sells the team.
"You don't understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could've been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am." -Terry Malloy, On the Waterfront
I believe in the concept of innocent until proven guilty, and Ryan Braun deserves a full review from the justice system before anyone can truly pass judgment.
But right now, it looks awfully hard to make a compelling case for the Brewers slugger. If Braun did indeed test positive after his 2011 MVP campaign, then his relentless attack on Dino Laurenzi, Jr., the man who supposedly contaminated Braun's sample, is unforgivable.
On the field, meanwhile, the Brewers haven't fared much better, floundering in the NL Central basement. Their short window of contention, culminating with a run to the 2011 NLCS, appears closed. With Braun being placed on the DL with a thumb injury, it appears the only drama left is whether the Brewers' $100 million slugger will be suspended.
"Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night." -Margo Channing, All About Eve
That's the message Twins fielders hear before every game. Minnesota's pitching staff is once again last by a country mile in K/9, continuing a bizarre trend of soft-tossing pitchers who have made their way through the Twin Cities the past few seasons.
Apart from an encouraging return to form by Joe Mauer, there isn't a whole lot to cheer about this season. Closer Glen Perkins is proving last year was no fluke, and he continues to excel in the late innings while being the one Twins pitcher who can consistently punch out hitters.
But until potentially franchise-altering bats like Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton get closer to The Show, there isn't a whole lot of reason to watch the Twins right now. Especially if you like strikeouts.
New York Mets
"What a dump." -Rosa Moline, Beyond the Forest
Outside of David Wright and Matt Harvey, that's pretty much what the Mets are—a dump. The franchise is still reeling from majority owner Fred Wilpon's involvement in the Bernie Madoff scandal, waiting for Wilpon to sell his stake. Any rebuilding efforts are hamstrung by the team's lack of funds, so GM Sandy Alderson is left to go bargain-hunting until better days emerge.
For now, the fanbase can be excited by the possibility of Harvey starting the All-Star Game in his home stadium, which has only happened four times in the past 50 years, per Jay Jaffe of SI.
There are several Grade-A prospects in Zack Wheeler, Nolan Syndergaard and Travis D'Arnaud who are almost big league ready. Brighter days are coming in Queens.
New York Yankees
"It's alive! It's alive!" -Henry Frankenstein, Frankenstein
The Yankees machine is indeed alive and well, and many are wondering if there really is something magical about those legendary pinstripes.
With many projecting New York to miss the playoffs for just the second time in 18 years, the Yankees have stayed afloat with early season contributions from scrap-heap free agents like Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay.
Currently in a heated wild-card chase, the Yankees will eventually need their stars to stay healthy and start performing. Losing Curtis Granderson again was a tough break, and it remains uncertain when Derek Jeter will return and whether or not they will get anything from A-Rod.
"All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up." -Norma Desmond, Sunset Boulevard
Many think the A's need the revenue from a new stadium, possibly in San Jose, to consistently compete. As usual, Billy Beane continues to prove the doubters wrong, even himself.
This year's scrap-heap surprise is Josh Donaldson, whose .310/.377/.500 line has him in serious contention for an All-Star berth. Donaldson was on Oakland's roster last year, but split time with Brandon Inge and Eric Sogard. He has created roughly the same amount of offense as Prince Fielder.
Donaldson makes $480,000. Fielder makes $23 million. That, folks, is how you play Moneyball.
"You can't handle the truth!" -Nathan Jessup, A Few Good Men
Phillies fans won't like to hear this, but it appears the window of contention is shut. The aging Phils look like a .500 team at this point, and that's with Domonic Brown's surprising surge to approach the top of the NL home run leaderboard.
It's the star-studded (and expensive) pitching staff that has let Philly down. While Cliff Lee is having an excellent season per usual, Cole Hamels has had his worst showing since 2009, and ominous signs of decline have filled Roy Halladay's past calendar year.
The Phillies were the class of the National League for about a five-year stretch, one of the best eras in team history. But its aging stars can no longer carry the burden, and each passing day brings Philadelphia closer to its harsh reality.
"Is it safe?" -Christian Szell, Marathon Man
Pirates fans are likely wondering if it's finally safe to believe in this year's version of the team. Pittsburgh is currently in the driver's seat to earn one of the wild-card berths, much like they were the last two years before August and September did them in.
Once again, the Pirates are relying on their pitching to pick up a below average offense. Their bullpen ranks fifth in the NL in ERA, and reclamation project Francisco Liriano has led a surprisingly effective rotation.
Unfortunately, the warning signs are in place once again. The Pirates bullpen has pitched the third-most innings of any team in the majors, and starters Jeff Locke and Wandy Rodriguez both have FIPs well above their respectable ERAs.
The Pirates may finally catch enough luck to finish over .500 for the first time in 21 years, but they may not have the horses to keep up down the stretch.
San Diego Padres
"I feel the need—the need for speed!" -Pete 'Maverick' Mitchell and Nick 'Goose' Bradshaw, Top Gun
Of course, most of that stems from shortstop Everth Cabrera, who currently leads the National League in that category. Along with Cabrera, the Padres have gotten offensive boosts from Jedd Gyorko and post-hype prospect Kyle Blanks.
Unfortunately, all that has been undone and more by the worst pitching staff in baseball. Their once-formidable bullpen has been thinned by trades and injuries, as the staff has the lowest K/9 in the NL. For a team that plays in notoriously pitcher-friendly Petco Park, you'd hate to see what happened if the same staff were transferred to Colorado.
San Francisco Giants
"There's no place like home." -Dorothy Gale, The Wizard of Oz
The Giants have the largest home/road record differential in the majors this season, a surprising fact when you consider the defending champs won seven road games in the postseason last year, including four elimination games.
It's the pitching that's suffered away from the vast confines of AT&T Park. Their staff ERA is more than a run-and-a-half higher on the road. Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum have been the primary culprits in this difference, as both have had subpar years regardless of location.
For a team that has relied on arms to carry them to two world titles the past three seasons, the signs aren't good for San Francisco. If the Giants even want to have a chance to defend their title, they cannot rank 10th in the National League in ERA.
"What we've got here is a failure to communicate." -Captain, Cool Hand Luke
When the Mariners moved in the fences at Safeco Field over the winter, they said it would increase the team's offensive output. While they've slightly improved from last year, Seattle still ranks in the bottom third of most offensive metrics.
Much of the M's offensive ineptitude stems from the astounding number of "can't-miss" hitting prospects who have done exactly that in Seattle. Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero have both been optioned to Triple-A this year, and Justin Smoak appears settled in as a replacement-level first baseman.
For a team that has put in this much investment in offense, the total lack of results is nothing short of alarming. What the Mariners have is a failure in the offensive scouting department.
St. Louis Cardinals
"A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti." -Hannibal Lecter, The Silence of the Lambs
The Cardinals have been a ruthless machine this season, devouring teams en route to the best record in the majors. When Oscar Taveras, arguably the top prospect in baseball, can't even crack your lineup, you know things are going well.
Catcher Yadier Molina reminds me of Tony Parker—a quiet presence who gets taken for granted, yet consistently emerges as one of the best players in the game each year. This might finally be the year Molina gets serious MVP consideration. When you combine a .352/.394/.488 line with the best defense amongst catchers, the National League might have back-to-back catcher MVPs.
Tampa Bay Rays
"Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!" -Mame Dennis, Auntie Mame
Though their pitching has carried them for years, it's Tampa's offense that has surprised this year. Astoundingly, the Rays have the second-best offense in all of baseball after finishing 18th in runs last season.
Much of this improvement stems from surprising production from James Loney and Kelly Johnson. Loney currently carries a .476 slugging percentage, nearly 50 points higher than his previous career high, while Johnson has an excellent ISO of .202 (for reference, that is currently higher than Ryan Braun and Carlos Beltran).
Based on payroll, the Rays should be starving for wins. But they continue to feast while other suckers overpay for lesser talent.
"I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" -Howard Beale, Network
After last year's stunning collapse to lose the AL West crown and subsequent washout against the Orioles in the play-in game, the Rangers look like a team on a mission. Though the jettisoning Josh Hamilton has taken a toll on the team's offense, the pitching staff has held together well while weathering injuries to Colby Lewis, Neftali Feliz and Matt Harrison.
Of course, Yu Darvish has been the steady anchor holding down the staff, holding a massive strikeout lead and vaulting himself into Cy Young consideration. The slider has been the key to Darvish's success rating as by far the best in the majors this season. Because Darvish can throw that pitch from the same arm slot as all his others, hitters have had a difficult time picking up on his offerings.
Led by its ace, Texas appears hell-bent on avenging last season's shocking ending.
Toronto Blue Jays
"Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!" -Oliver, Sons of the Desert
After suffering through an 89-loss season in 2012, the Jays thought a few bold offseason acquisitions could turn things around. Many had them projected as division, even World Series, champions. And when you can add players like Jose Reyes, R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson, why wouldn't you be optimistic?
Alas, the Jays are firmly entrenched in the AL East basement this season, largely due to injuries and underperformance. You could have copied and pasted that statement to last year's team (though the Red Sox nightmare season saved them from last place). Just substitute Jose Reyes for Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera for Adam Lind and Ricky Romero for, well, Ricky Romero.
At least some things never change.
"Snap out of it!" -Loretta Castorini, Moonstruck
Nats fans are certainly hoping Washington can snap out of their season-long funk before they fall too far behind in the playoff chase.
Their supposedly dominant pitching staff has been middling throughout the season, with Dan Haren especially falling short of expectations. Phenoms Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper are both on the DL, with the latter making the dreaded visit to Dr. James Andrews. Ryan Zimmerman can't seem to throw to first anymore.
There's still time, but with all the preseason hype, the Nationals are certainly the biggest disappointment of the season so far.