MLB Power Rankings: Each Team's Biggest 2011 Controversy
The dictionary defines "controversy" as a prolonged disagreement. Sports fans have used the word to describe scandals and such, but not every team has had a Manny Ramirez or a player get caught driving drunk.
So before you comment about how something isn't controversial, ask yourself if it's something people have been arguing about, or if you think those within the organization might still be arguing about it.
It is important to give credit where credit is due. There are still teams in baseball who are so well run, their players know to avoid controversy. These teams make articles like this difficult. But I've come up with something that each team or their fans have argued about this season.
Organized by division...
San Diego Padres: Should We Trade Heath Bell?
He's been among the best closers in baseball. His ERA is hovering around 2.50 and he's saving them when the chances come up.
But the team is already 10 games out of the division, and with Anthony Rizzo getting called up this month, the minor league system doesn't have a lot going for it.
The team has some young talent, but Bell could bring in a group of young players who could give the Padres fans some semblance of hope for the future.
Los Angeles Dodgers: The McCourts
Frank is getting divorced, or didn't you hear? But instead of selling the team, or inviting MLB in to help when the divorce got messy, he has dragged the organization through every possible legal stalling tactic in the book.
It seems at this point that the team is going to be sold, but a major question is whether Bud Selig and MLB will preside over the sale, or a bankruptcy court. Remember it was a court that held the Texas Rangers' auction, and Mark Cuban almost ended up an owner.
I, for one, would be in favor of Cuban as owner of the Dodgers, but obviously Selig wouldn't allow it if it were up to him.
Colorado Rockies: Rotation Surprises
The ace, coming into the season, Ubaldo Jimenez is 3-7 with a 4.50 ERA. Jorge De La Rosa was 5-2 when he went down for the season.
They've been fortunate to get a breakout season from Jhoulys Chacin, but the Rockies are 38-40 and find themselves in third place in the NL West.
But it is the NL West, so if Ubaldo wakes up, they might be a week away from taking the lead in the division.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Offensive Balance
A round of applause to the Diamondbacks, who have largely stayed out of trouble, and made a clean run to the top of the NL West.
There is a strange stat though, for Arizona. They are sixth in runs, and fifth in slugging percentage. Nothing strange there. But they are also 18th in batting average and 17th in on-base percentage.
That sounds like some of those Yankee teams of the past decade, relying entirely on a few home runs to win each game.
The on-base percentage is going to have to come up if they are to keep up this pace.
San Francisco Giants: Lack of Offense
They are 30th in runs scored, 25th in batting average, 27th in on-base percentage, 25th in slugging...Oh, they can pitch pretty well, but there's a big difference between quality starts and wins.
With Buster Posey done for the season, nobody is batting over .300, nobody has 10 home runs or 40 RBI. Nobody has scored 30 runs, and Andres Torres is the only one with more than five steals.
It is imperative the Giants land some offense before the trade deadline. If anyone needs to be talking to the Mets about Jose Reyes or David Wright, it's San Francisco. They have the arms to make a run at a repeat, but the bats won't get it done.
Houston Astros...Where To Start?
Houston is simply bad right now. They are 18th in runs and 20th in on-base percentage. They are 29th in team ERA and 28th in WHIP.
It seems like time to unload Hunter Pence, and anyone else a contender might find useful, in exchange for as many quality young prospects as they can bring in.
This is not a team that can be saved with one key piece. They need to build for the future.
Cincinnatti Reds: Left Field Platoons
The Reds have more offense than they know what to do with. Drew Stubbs is one of the better center fielders in baseball. Jay Bruce is an up-and-coming power source in right field.
That brings us to left. Fred Lewis has played 19 games in left batting .278. Chris Heisey has played 48 in left, batting .271 with eight home runs. Jonny Gomes has played 46, batting .223 with 11 home runs.
While Dusty Baker should feel lucky to have the bats, there is the argument for a consistent lineup, letting one of these guys, Heisey most likely, find a groove.
Chicago Cubs: What To Do with Carlos Zambrano?
Five years, $91 million. When he signed it, he was coming off five straight seasons of 200-plus innings and 13-plus wins—not to mention three of those five years, he was top five in Cy Young voting. So I understand it from the Cubs' perspective.
But as soon as that contract was signed, things quickly fell apart. He hasn't touched 200 innings or 160 strikeouts since then.
The Cubs would love to unload him, but the contract makes Zambrano one of the most untradeable players in baseball. So it looks like Chicago is strapped in tight for the next year and a half, until Zambrano walks after 2012.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Buyers or Sellers?
Don't look now, but baseball's most consistent losers are 39-38. They're still in fourth place, and have allowed more runs than they've scored, but Clint Hurdle has his team on the plus side of .500.
The question remains: Are they buying or selling at the trade deadline? Is it worth it to hold out and try for a winning record, even if it amounts to a fourth-place finish anyway? I say yes.
Part of the problem in Pittsburgh is the players got used to losing. I say if you have the chance to end two decades of losing records, it is worth it.
St. Louis Cardinals: What Do We Offer Albert?
Well, he won't be getting $30 million per year, or 10 years. But that was a mathematical improbability as it was. The question is, does it hurt him more to be batting a mere human .279, or to be hurt?
Most baseball executives and scouts agree his performance in the time after his return will be key to his contract. Expect Pujols to come back mashing.
And if he does, what is the contract? As a GM, I wouldn't go over seven years. I'd probably want to start around $25 million per year, but be willing to go up to around $200 million total.
Granted, that's out of most price ranges, but Albert was always going to be out of most price ranges. I still rank his destinations (by likelihood): 1. St. Louis, 2. Chicago (NL side), 3. NYY/BOS (too much money there to leave them out, 4. Los Angeles (AL side).
Milwaukee Brewers: The Prince
The Brewers would be wrong to let Fielder go. But he's batting .305 with 21 home runs and 68 RBI. He has an incredible 1.037 OPS.
If this season plays itself out, and Fielder stays the course to the tune of .300, 40 and 120, numbers well within his grasp, then he could demand Adrian Gonzalez money, and it seems tragically unlikely the Brewers could give it to him.
This may sound old-fashioned, but there is something about certain players that would just seem wrong for them to go elsewhere. Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, Joe Mauer...and I have to add Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder to that list.
Those two in Milwaukee make the Brewers a fun team to watch. If even one left, it would make it severely hard for the Brew Crew to compete in the heated NL Central.
Florida Marlins: Manager Situation
Edwin Rodriguez is out, Jack McKeon is in and the Marlins are still 10 games under .500. Hanley Ramirez hasn't figured things out, and Josh Johnson is still hurt.
I was high on the Marlins coming into this season. They are built to win a lot of games in the next decade, but they clearly have things to figure out in the meantime. Whether McKeon is the guy to take them there is yet to be seen. But he is the guy for now.
McKeon will, at the very least, be a steadying influence this season, to calm the young players and bring the group closer together. Expect me to be equally high on them next season.
New York Mets: Front Office Is Sinking the Ship
The Mets are right at .500, and could bring in one of the biggest hauls in modern baseball history if they decided to be sellers. They could also decide to be buyers, and add a couple pieces that could make them competitive for a playoff spot.
Instead, ownership is getting sued for $1 billion, and the front office is constantly downplaying its own trade chips.
The quotes coming from New York about Jose Reyes and David Wright, not to mention Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez, are making other GMs question why they should bother paying market value if the Mets don't even see them that high.
Washington Nationals: Jim Riggleman Quits
In a shocking move, Jim Riggleman resigned as manager of the Nationals, with the team sitting over .500.
The Nationals had been rolling fairly consistently until this story broke. Riggleman demanded the Nationals extend his expiring contract as a show of good faith and to secure his authority in the clubhouse, but the team declined and Riggleman stepped down shortly after.
The Nationals are a team on the upswing, but changing managers will certainly have some effect. It is important for the leaders in the clubhouse to keep the team focused on their play.
Atlanta Braves: Too Many Pitchers
Tommy Hanson: 2.48 ERA, 9.6 K/9 in 2011.
Derek Lowe: signed through 2012.
Tim Hudson: 17 wins, 2.83 ERA in 2010, signed through 2012, club option 2013.
Jair Jurrjens: 10-3, 2.07 ERA in 2011.
Brandon Beachy: 3.04 ERA, 10.5 K/9 in 2011.
Mike Minor: 3.02 ERA, 10.4 K/9 career in minors.
Julio Teheran: Baseball America 2011 No. 5 overall prospect.
It's a brilliant problem to have. But a problem nonetheless.
Philadelphia Phillies: Chase Utley
When he was first injured, medical experts said it wasn't really curable, but only manageable. He would be playing with pain.
In 29 games since coming back, his average is 23 points below career numbers, OPS is 82 points below career and he needs regular days off.
When healthy, Utley is among the elite second basemen in baseball, but how healthy will he be?
Minnesota Twins: Star Struggles
The Twins are 26th in runs scored and 27th in team ERA. That sums it up.
Or you can look at the fact Joe Mauer has played 19 games and is batting .206 in them. Justin Morneau is batting .225 with a .619 OPS. Francisco Liriano has a 4.98 ERA and the team's long-time elite closer, Joe Nathan, isn't closing.
Smaller-market teams need their stars to perform and it simply isn't happening for Minnesota.
Kansas City Royals: Changing of the Guard
Kansas City knew they had help coming, but considering how many hours their fans have spent arguing over when the future should arrive, it is only logical to assume the same arguments went on at all levels of the organization.
Apparently, Royals brass thinks the time is now, as Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have begun the renovation of KC. Mike Montgomery and Danny Duffy have followed on the pitching side, and there are more to come.
Chicago White Sox: Where Is the Offense?
That photo sums it up for Adam Dunn this season.
Paul Konerko is mashing, but Adam Dunn—38-plus home runs every year since 2004—is batting .173 with 100 strikeouts. Alex Rios is batting .224. Gordon Beckham is at .224, and the seemingly thunderous lineup is not doing anything.
It is hard to imagine this group playing this bad for the entire season, so it seems there is an awakening coming, but the pitching isn't good enough to carry Chicago, so they will need those bats to make a playoff run.
Detroit Tigers/Cleveland Indians: Sluggers Driving Drunk
Shin Soo Choo and Miguel Cabrera were both arrested and charged with driving under the influence since March.
The legal issues seem to be affecting Choo more than Cabrera but both have brought some tension to their clubhouses and fanbases.
While Choo had stayed relatively out of trouble previously, Cabrera has a long list of legal problems connected with drinking. He said he had gotten sober in the offseason, but regressed sometime before spring training opened.
These two AL Central powers will need their run producers when it comes to a playoff race, and they will need them un-distracted.
Texas Rangers: To Start, or Not To Start
Would you rather have one untouchable inning, or six pretty good ones?
The Rangers had this debate with both Alexi Ogando and Neftali Feliz. They left Feliz as the closer and put Ogando in the rotation where he has thrived.
But Ogando would probably need an innings cap to prevent injury, and while the Rangers offense is overpowering, the rotation without Ogando might need one more arm to make a deep playoff run.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Kendry Morales
Morales' freak celebration injury last season was supposed to keep him out until spring training. The Angels offense struggled to recover his production throughout 2010.
Spring training came and went and Morales wasn't ready. May came and went, and suddenly Morales needed another surgery to clean up the area, and he is done for another season.
The Angels offense is in serious trouble, and they need to either make a move before the deadline, or look to 2012 and Morales' supposed return.
Seattle Mariners: Buying or Selling?
Someone in the Mariners organization is looking at their record, one game below .500, and thinking they might still be able to contend in the division.
That person needs to be overruled. They are 29th in runs scored and 30th in batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage.
Michael Pineda should be on an innings limit, and Dustin Ackley will have his ups and downs in getting settled at the major league level. They are not built for 2011.
Oakland A's: Brett Anderson...Again
Between Josh Johnson and Brett Anderson, there is enough talent sitting on the DL for multiple Cy Young Awards.
In Oakland alone, the time spent on the DL between Anderson and Andrew Bailey in the last year has cost them what little chance they had to make a pitching-reliant run like the 2010 Giants.
If Anderson can stay healthy for an entire season, he might be one of the best in the game for that season. But when that will be or which team will be willing to pay him is difficult to say.
New York Yankees: How Much Power Does Jeter Have?
At this point in his career, Jeter's legend has far surpassed his palpable contribution to the Yankees. He is still a good shortstop, but not a star by any stretch.
That being said, he almost talked himself out of a DL trip for a serious calf injury that affected Jimmy Rollins for months when he sustained a similar one.
Jeter seems to twist the Yankees' arm into making less-than-ideal baseball decisions to keep their man in his spot. Perhaps it is time to move A-Rod to full-time DH and bump Jeter to third as his heir apparent has played nicely at shortstop.
Boston Red Sox: 0-for Start
The Red Sox endured their worst start in history this season, allowing Yankee fans to ponder life without Boston nipping at their heels.
But reality won out, and Boston quickly corrected themselves and we seem to be headed for another September race in the AL East to decide which of these juggernauts will win the division, and which will win the Wild Card.
One of the many arguments in favor of baseball's reorganization is the simple truth that the Wild Card is a fantasy for anyone in another American League division.
Tampa Bay Rays: Manny Being Manny
God bless Joe Maddon. He seemed legitimately to believe Manny would control himself in Tampa Bay.
He talked throughout the preseason about Ramirez' team attitude and positive contribution to the clubhouse and yada yada yada...meanwhile, the rest of us calmly sat back and waited.
Sure enough, Ramirez lasted less than a month before he failed another drug test and chose retirement over a 100-game suspension.
Toronto Blue Jays: Any Other Division
The Blue Jays have to wonder what their life would be like in another division.
They'd be 4.5 games back in the AL Central. They'd be just two back in the AL West. As it stands, they sit 7.5 games back, and in third place, looking up at the 2011 AL East Champion and probable 2011 AL Wild Card.
Meanwhile, Adam Lind is back to his 2009 form, Jose Bautista is the most impressive hitter in baseball and Brandon Morrow is starting to regain form after an injury hiatus. There is reason for hope in Toronto, but temper it with realism.
Baltimore Orioles: Whats Wrong with Brian Matusz?
Brian Matusz was expected to be the ace of the Orioles staff this season after he came out of his shell to post excellent second-half numbers in 2010.
An injury sidelined him for the first month of 2011, but hope was rekindled when he came off the DL. Matusz can't seem to find his fastball. He has labored in the mid-80s, with no apparent injury.
Buck Showalter was set to meet with the young southpaw on Friday to try and get a feel for Matusz' problem, but until then, Orioles fans are forced to watch their team plod along in the basement of the best division in baseball.