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MAKING THE GRADE: Week 3 MLB rankings

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It can't happen, Part I: Of the five teams with winning percentages of .667 or better through Thursday, four are among the cursed teams in the sport. The Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox and San Francisco Giants are a combined 40-18 this season. Alas, history suggests we shouldn't hold our breath waiting for any of those clubs to win the World Series. Entering this season, the Red Sox, Indians, White Sox and Giants are working on a combined world championship drought of 267 years. The White Sox lead the way at 84 title-free years — they won their last World Series in 1917, one year before the Red Sox's last crown — while the Indians and Giants have suffered "the least" at 53 and 47 years, respectively. It can't happen, Part II: The Seattle Mariners are the fifth team with a winning percentage of .667 or better. The Mariners made history of a kinder sort last year, when they won an AL-record 116 games. Every preseason prognosticator this spring predicted the Mariners would win fewer games this year than last. So now the Mariners (13-3) are on a 131-win pace. That, of course, probably won't last. As for the White Sox, Red Sox, Indians and Giants, hopes springs eternal in these early weeks that this will finally be the year to remove the hex of fill-in-your-favorite-ex-player. But if history is any indication, the Mariners will win it all long before the White Sox, Red Sox, Indians or Giants. By now, though, fans of those four teams are probably expecting that.
'Making the Grade' rankings
Rk.TeamGradeLW
1. San Francisco Giants 93 1
T2. Arizona Diamondbacks 86 T3
T2. Seattle Mariners 86 T3
T4. Houston Astros 85 6
T4. Pittsburgh Pirates 85 8
T6. Cleveland Indians 84 2
T6. New York Mets 84 21
8. Florida Marlins 83 T13
9. Atlanta Braves 82 T3
T10. Montreal Expos 81 T13
T10. St. Louis Cardinals 81 12
T12. Cincinnati Reds 80 T10
T12. Minnesota Twins 80 T17
T14. Colorado Rockies 79 9
T14. San Diego Padres 79 T13
T14. Toronto Blue Jays 79 7
T17. Chicago White Sox 78 T22
T17. New York Yankees 78 T10
T17. Oakland Athletics 78 T13
20. Los Angeles Dodgers 77 27
21. Boston Red Sox 76 T25
T22. Chicago Cubs 75 20
T22. Philadelphia Phillies 75 19
24. Tampa Bay Devil Rays 73 T17
25. Baltimore Orioles 70 T22
26. Anaheim Angels 69 24
27. Milwaukee Brewers 66 T25
28. Kansas City Royals 64 28
29. Texas Rangers 60 29
30. Detroit Tigers 46 30
Behind the numbers
Biggest rankings jump: Mets (+15)
Biggest rankings drop: Blue Jays, Devil Rays, Yankees (all -7)

Top three this week:
1. Red Sox (95)
1. White Sox (95)
3. Twins (92) Top three pitching:
1. White Sox (96)
2. Mets (94)
2. Red Sox (94) Top three hitting:
1. Mariners (97)
2. Red Sox (95)
3. Twins (94) Top three momentum:
1. Mariners (100)
2. White Sox (98)
3. Red Sox (97)

1. San Francisco Giants

Year-To-Date Grade: 93
Pitching: 87
Hitting: 83
Momentum: 80
This Week: 83
Last Week: 1 (97) Lost series to Padres and have lost four of last seven games overall, but the Giants' five losses this year have come by a total of eight runs. Pitching has been splendid, but Bonds is worried about his hammy. If that goes, so do the Giants.

T2. Arizona Diamondbacks

Year-To-Date Grade: 86
Pitching: 82
Hitting: 90
Momentum: 84
This Week: 85
Last Week: T3 (84) Six straight wins are six straight wins, but four came against the Rockies and a fifth against soon-to-be-retired Andy Benes. But at least a starter other than Johnson or Schilling won a game and the D-Backs (52 runs in seven games) can still score with anybody.

T2. Seattle Mariners

Year-To-Date Grade: 86
Pitching: 90
Hitting: 97
Momentum: 100
This Week: 90
Last Week: T3 (89) There's a heat wave rolling across the country, but the M's are the proverbial snowball down the mountain right now. They won 10 straight on the road to earn baseball's first perfect score in the momentum category, and now they return to Safeco for three against woeful Texas. Remarkably similar to last season in that there's a new hero every night. Thirteen straight seems like a safe bet.

T4. Houston Astros

Year-To-Date Grade: 85
Pitching: 80
Hitting: 88
Momentum: 76
This Week: 81
Last Week: 6 (81) Might not be a finer young pitcher-batter combo in the NL than Oswalt and Berkman. But Astros blew a chance at a series sweep of Reds on Thursday and hadn't won a series since beating Milwaukee two of three in the series opener. Is it time to get worried about Miller?

T4. Pittsburgh Pirates

Year-To-Date Grade: 85
Pitching: 93
Hitting: 73
Momentum: 88
This Week: 85
Last Week: 8 (81) Scored just 23 runs in past seven games but gave up just 21. Pirates are last in the NL in batting average but third in ERA and first in holds. We say every week they can't keep it up, but sweeping pitiful Brewers is a positive sign — always important to beat the teams you should beat.

T6. Cleveland Indians

Year-To-Date Grade: 84
Pitching: 75
Hitting: 75
Momentum: 68
This Week: 73
Last Week: 2 (94) In the midst of a three-game losing streak after 10 straight on the plus side. Maybe the White Sox were the first to realize that the Indians were just playing over their heads. Tormented by ex-mate Lofton on Thursday. Colon took it on the chin. Thome's hit the skids again. At least Finley will get his divorce.

T6. New York Mets

Year-To-Date Grade: 84
Pitching: 94
Hitting: 84
Momentum: 96
This Week: 91
Last Week: 21 (82) Mets haven't fielded or hit well, but with 13 quality starts in 16 outings — including a two-hit shutout by Leiter on Thursday night — and an outstanding bullpen, it looks like just a matter of time before they run off a long stretch of Ws. Vaughn is due back soon and Alomar and Piazza seem to be heating up. Four straight series wins bodes well.

8. Florida Marlins

Year-To-Date Grade: 83
Pitching: 84
Hitting: 88
Momentum: 92
This Week: 88
Last Week: T13 (75) Gave up 20 runs in three games against Phils but won thanks to two ninth-inning outbursts. Have now won back-to-back series against Braves and Phils. Beckett's blister problems — and overuse by Torborg — are cause for worry but Fish should stick around, at least until Floyd gets dealt.

9. Atlanta Braves

Year-To-Date Grade: 82
Pitching: 85
Hitting: 70
Momentum: 70
This Week: 75
Last Week: T3 (85) With Sheffield out, Braves' offense came to a screeching halt (21 runs in seven games). Had to pull out all the stops to salvage series finale against Mets. Lots to worry about with Maddux. Braves will start scoring runs eventually, but they look old right now, especially after several early extra-inning games.

T10. Montreal Expos

Year-To-Date Grade: 81
Pitching: 75
Hitting: 93
Momentum: 84
This Week: 84
Last Week: T13 (83) Can score with anybody (46 runs in seven games, including 23 Tuesday and Wednesday against Cubs) but having trouble stopping anybody (42 runs allowed in seven games). Vazquez was aces Thursday against Leiter, who was even better as Expos fell 1-0. Chen will eventually give the Expos a pretty good top four, though.

T10. St. Louis Cardinals

Year-To-Date Grade: 81
Pitching: 78
Hitting: 88
Momentum: 78
This Week: 82
Last Week: 12 (82) Added by subtracting washed-up Andy Benes. But Cards, already wracked by injuries to Woody Williams and ineffective Stephenson, need Bud Smith and somebody else — Triple-A call-up Josh Pearce — to pick up the slack. But Isringhausen struck out the side on nine pitches last weekend and the offense is rolling aside from Martinez, who hasn't done anything to quiet those who saw last year as nothing more than a contract drive.

T12. Cincinnati Reds

Year-To-Date Grade: 80
Pitching: 84
Hitting: 82
Momentum: 82
This Week: 83
Last Week: T10 (80) Nice comeback win over Houston to salvage last game of three-game set, but with Griffey out and Casey ailing, there's no margin for error on offense. Won four in a row last week then lost three in a row, which is probably how things will go most of the year. But Don Gullett's working wonders with pitching staff (3.80 ERA).

T12. Minnesota Twins

Year-To-Date Grade: 80
Pitching: 93
Hitting: 94
Momentum: 88
This Week: 92
Last Week: T17 (71) Had their best week of the season and registered a 21-point improvement over last week. Were fortunate to be playing Detroit and Kansas City, however. Three at home against Cleveland should be a stiffer challenge. Getting solid production out of the DH spot (we're looking at you, David Ortiz — 16-for-31 before tweaking knee on Thursday). Twins are 1-6 when trailing after seven innings. Knoblauch was booed this week, but Metrodome fans didn't throw anything.

T14. Colorado Rockies

Year-To-Date Grade: 79
Pitching: 60
Hitting: 85
Momentum: 60
This Week: 68
Last Week: 9 (82) Judging by four-game sweep at hands of D-Backs and 44 runs allowed in past seven games, Rockies are beginning annual swoon early this year. Hampton has been hideous — 54 baserunners allowed in 22.2 innings. So much for his proclamation that he could pitch in Coors. Advice to manager Bell: Rent, don't buy.

T14. San Diego Padres

Year-To-Date Grade: 79
Pitching: 92
Hitting: 80
Momentum: 85
This Week: 86
Last Week: T13 (84) Three straight series wins — against D-Backs, Dodgers and Giants — prove Padres shouldn't be lumped in with small-market losers. Lawrence is a soft tosser, but no one can catch up to him (18 straight scoreless innings). But offense (19 runs in last seven games, second-worst batting average in league) needs to kick in, and Jarvis' sore elbow is a big cause for concern on a team light on depth.

T14. Toronto Blue Jays

Year-To-Date Grade: 79
Pitching: 60
Hitting: 84
Momentum: 65
This Week: 70
Last Week: 7 (78) Two consecutive losses to Boston before a three-game set in New York kills the momentum grade. Too bad Delgado can't play at Tropicana Field every day ... wait, that would make him a Devil Ray — forget that idea. Home attendance has been down in the high teens. Lyon has been a home run machine (he's a pitcher). A strained right shoulder makes Mondesi the DH, but it could be a permanent move — at least until the Jays find someone willing to take him off their hands.

T17. Chicago White Sox

Year-To-Date Grade: 78
Pitching: 96
Hitting: 92
Momentum: 98
This Week: 95
Last Week: T22 (76) The 10-5 start is their best through 15 games since 1991, when they had the same record. Manuel says it's the best team he's had in his five seasons — better than the 2000 team that won the AL Central. Lofton might be the single biggest reason. Lost one game all week (to Baltimore) and now host Detroit for three. Trailed only Seattle in momentum category this week. Mark Buehrle became the AL's first four-game winner.

T17. New York Yankees

Year-To-Date Grade: 78
Pitching: 86
Hitting: 84
Momentum: 70
This Week: 80
Last Week: T10 (80) Lost four of seven to division foes, including three out of four in Fenway. Two consecutive against Baltimore doesn't do enough to boost momentum. Lead the league with 15 errors. Williams is in an 0-for-19 slump, the longest hitless drought of his career. Soriano, the team's most dangerous hitter at the moment, is in a 25-for-52 stretch. Bullpen has been stabilizer (except for seven pitches Tuesday by Mendoza) and Mussina is clear ace of staff.

T17. Oakland Athletics

Year-To-Date Grade: 78
Pitching: 82
Hitting: 84
Momentum: 80
This Week: 82
Last Week: T13 (62) OK against Anaheim but not too good against Seattle. Zito took his first loss of the season but Hiljus has won two consecutive decisions. Giambi and Chavez have been leading the offense. But Chavez's right hip flexor is a concern. Dye should be in uniform Saturday.

20. Los Angeles Dodgers

Year-To-Date Grade: 77
Pitching: 92
Hitting: 86
Momentum: 93
This Week: 90
Last Week: 27 (88) Awful first week is just a bad memory now. Daal was impressive in place of Brown, Ishii is for real and Beltre is heating up. Happy birthday, Orosco. Moral of this story: Raise your kids to be left-handers.

21. Boston Red Sox

Year-To-Date Grade: 76
Pitching: 94
Hitting: 95
Momentum: 97
This Week: 95
Last Week: T25 (72) Lost only one game all week and took three out of four against Yankees. Burkett (shoulder) will make another minor league start before returning to the rotation, which should help them in the momentum category — so should their immediate sked: three apiece against Kansas City and Baltimore. Tony Clark may see more bench time in the days ahead. But with Hillenbrand swinging like Yaz, who really cares?

T22. Chicago Cubs

Year-To-Date Grade: 75
Pitching: 84
Hitting: 74
Momentum: 74
This Week: 77
Last Week: 20 (72) Sosa and Patterson are ripping it up, but the Cubs' defense has been worse than so-so (10 unearned runs). Alou needs to warm up (1-for-10 so far). Cubs hoping Lieber's elbow pain is no big deal. It better not be.

T22. Philadelphia Phillies

Year-To-Date Grade: 75
Pitching: 75
Hitting: 84
Momentum: 70
This Week: 76
Last Week: 19 (78) Lost two games in the ninth inning to the Marlins, which can be demoralizing. Why did the Phils sign Mesa through 2004? Padilla and Duckworth have been nasty, but Phils might not do much until fellow youngster Brett Myers is ready to join the top of the rotation ... next year.

24. Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Year-To-Date Grade: 73
Pitching: 72
Hitting: 73
Momentum: 70
This Week: 72
Last Week: T17 (55) Lost two in a row to Detroit. Yikes. Had a three-game stretch early in the week during which they allowed 34 runs. Greg Vaughn is in a tailspin. Alvarez has a rib cage strain. And Wilson has shoulder stiffness, which leads you to wonder if this kid will ever get his career off the ground.

25. Baltimore Orioles

Year-To-Date Grade: 70
Pitching: 73
Hitting: 70
Momentum: 70
This Week: 71
Last Week: T22 (73) Lost four of five series so far and split the other — a two-gamer vs. Tampa Bay. Did come from behind to beat the Yankees on Tuesday. Three at Devil Rays this weekend could be their first chance for a series win. Hairston has had groin problems and Segui could have an injured right knee after leaving Thursday's game in New York early. O's had hit seven straight solo home runs before Mora's three-run homer beat White Sox last Sunday.

26. Anaheim Angels

Year-To-Date Grade: 69
Pitching: 85
Hitting: 70
Momentum: 65
This Week: 73
Last Week: 24 (66) Snapped their six-game slide with two consecutive wins, but now have dropped two in a row. All this despite playing the fewest road games in the major leagues (three). Glaus is scuffling and striking out with regularity. Sele and Washburn have struggled, but bullpen has been solid. Percival is back now too. Three more at Oakland not a good sign for the weekend.

27. Milwaukee Brewers

Year-To-Date Grade: 66
Pitching: 65
Hitting: 70
Momentum: 55
This Week: 63
Last Week: T25 (63) Key off-season acquisition Eric Young is hitting .140 and the Brewers are still striking out more than a geek at singles night. So it must be Lopes' fault. Have still lost 10 of 12 after 2-2 start and won Thursday only when Sexson drove in all seven runs. Hurlers Rusch, Sheets and Figueroa give new manager Royster something to work with, but in an everything-is-equal world, Brewers would be contracted tomorrow.

28. Kansas City Royals

Year-To-Date Grade: 64
Pitching: 78
Hitting: 70
Momentum: 65
This Week: 71
Last Week: 28 (83) Lost four of five, but it would have been five of six had the rain not spared them in Cleveland last Sunday. Randa's having some hamstring problems. Byrd's off to a fast start, but he won 11 in first half of '99 for Phils and then fell off the earth. Reichert's got to get his act together — he could be 0-3 by Sunday. Have only five home runs with a team on-base percentage of .320.

29. Texas Rangers

Year-To-Date Grade: 60
Pitching: 65
Hitting: 78
Momentum: 60
This Week: 68
Last Week: 29 (57) Only win of the week came Wednesday against struggling Anaheim. Irabu earned first career save. Everyone in the Lone Star state is waiting to see if Rocker will accept his demotion. Team ERA is 5.52, so all of Hart's fancy maneuvering has yet to change a thing. The starting staff has actually been credible, with Davis, Rogers and Valdes. But Burba has been terrible and the bullpen is a minefield. Three in Seattle over the weekend, have fun.

30. Detroit Tigers

Year-To-Date Grade: 46
Pitching: 70
Hitting: 70
Momentum: 65
This Week: 68
Last Week: 30 (32) Two consecutive wins, even though they came against Tampa Bay, is an accomplishment. That diesel momentum was halted with a 6-4 loss on Thursday. Easley's on the DL and Patterson still can't throw. The hitters are generally slow and have hit into a ton of double plays. The bullpen has allowed at least one run in 13 of 14 games this season. Jerry Beach (jbeach@e-sportsnation.com) and Bryon Evje (bevje@e-sportsnation.com) are senior writers for E-SportsNation.com. You can get exclusive news and information from E-SportsNation.com, including in-depth coverage on baseball by subscribing to E-SN Premium. Click here for more details.
Tagged: Red Sox, Angels, White Sox, Indians, Brewers, Twins, Yankees, Athletics, Mariners, Blue Jays, Braves, Cubs, Reds, Astros, Dodgers, Nationals, Pirates, Cardinals, Padres, Giants, Rockies, Rays, Mark Buehrle, David Ortiz

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