I rank the 10 best teams and the five worst teams in the major leagues each week during the regular season. I also single out a team that is on the rise and a team that is in decline.
To view previous rankings, click here.
Team records are through May 22.
THE TOP 10
1. Chicago White Sox (31-13) – The White Sox are the best team in the majors because of their ability to score runs even when they don't hit. A prime example: On Saturday, Carlos Zambrano allowed one hit over seven innings, and the Cubs held a 2-0 lead. The Sox then erupted once they got into the Cubs bullpen; they knew if they stayed close they'd have a good chance of scoring late in the game. Ozzie-ball is being noticed by all of baseball, except in Chicago. They should be drawing better.
2. St. Louis Cardinals (27-16) – St. Louis is starting to run away with the NL Central. Albert Pujols continues to put up MVP numbers, and the injury to Scott Rolen hasn't slowed them too much. Mark Mulder leads the team with six wins and has adjusted to the National League. Sometimes pitchers have the advantage when they arrive in a new league and face teams for the first time. Will Mulder be equally effective the second time around?
3. Baltimore Orioles (27-16) – B.J. Ryan leads the bullpen with 12 saves, but the starters need to get deeper into games. Baltimore is just 5-5 in its last 10 games and only two games ahead of the Red Sox, who still haven't played their best baseball, in the AL East. The Yankees also continue to creep up. They are the Orioles' biggest fear.
4. Florida Marlins (24-16) – The Marlins lead the NL East by a game and a half. But if they want to break Atlanta's steak of division championships they're going to have to get better production out of the top of the lineup, specifically Juan Pierre (.265, .330 OBP). Miguel Cabrera is a click below Pujols in the early MVP race.
5. Los Angeles Angels (25-18) – The Angels might not stay atop the AL West for much longer; L.A. takes on the White Sox this week while the Rangers face the Royals at home. And the injury to Vladimir Guerrero is going to hurt the Angels' offense a ton. The Cardinals have survived without Rolen because they have other big bats while Guerrero forces opposing pitchers to pitch to the entire L.A. lineup differently when he's in there.
7. Minnesota Twins (25-17) – The Twins have received great production from their two young talents, Justin Morneau (seven HRs and 24 RBIs) and Joe Mauer. Johan Santana has five wins but just a 3.96 ERA. The Twins are accustomed to leading the division come the second half.
8. San Diego Padres (26-18) – I took some hits for not putting the Padres in my top 10 in the past, but they deserve it now. San Diego is 8-2 in its last 10 games including impressive sweeps of the Marlins and Braves. Starters Jake Peavy and Adam Eaton both have No. 1 stuff and have shown flashes of brilliance. The Padres will battle for the division lead against the Diamondbacks starting Tuesday.
9. Atlanta Braves (24-19) – I dropped them considerably from last week as they're just 3-7 in their last 10 games. Chipper Jones is enjoying a solid year but has only 23 RBIs. And they're going to need more production from Johnny Estrada and Brian Jordan to keep up with the Marlins.
10. Texas Rangers (24-20) – The Rangers just make my top 10 because of their three-game sweep of the Astros. Alfonso Soriano leads the team with 11 HRs, and it looks like the move to the No. 5 or 6 spot in the lineup has helped him. Their offense provides steady punch from top to bottom.
ON THE RISE
New York Yankees (23-21) – The Yankees probably are the hottest team in the majors. All of the sudden, nobody is talking about their problems. A-Rod is having an MVP-caliber year, batting .310 with 13 home runs and 43 RBIs. He's always been the best player in baseball. Now he's comfortable in New York and playing at Yankee Stadium.
ON THE DECLINE
Los Angeles Dodgers (23-20) – L.A. is just 3-7 in its last 10 games and desperately looking for someone who can pitch as a starter. Their late-inning magic has abandoned them a bit, too. Scott Erickson is struggling (1-4 with a 7.22 in eight starts).
THE BOTTOM FIVE
26. Oakland Athletics (17-26) – The A's are a bad defensive team; they blew a good start from Barry Zito on Sunday by making a couple of errors late in the game. The offense is struggling with lack of production from Eric Chavez and Erubiel Durazo. Injuries also are taking a toll. And they lost their two best pitchers last winter. Other than that, they're fine.
27. Houston Astros (15-28) – The Astros are going to miss Jeff Bagwell in their lineup and in the clubhouse. He's a smart player who has a veteran presence about him. I wish him nothing but the best in whatever decision he makes about his career. Hopefully Craig Biggio isn't affected by Bagwell's injury woes. Those two are tight.
29. Kansas City Royals (13-31) – I would give the managerial job to Bob Brenly, if he would take it. Brenly is a great manager who won with the Diamondbacks in his rookie year. It was a bad situation toward the end of his tenure, with injuries and no players to work with. But he's a very good analyst on WGN and should be given another chance to manage.
30. Colorado Rockies (13-28) – The Rockies are having a heck of a time on the road, where they are 3-17. The hitters love to hit at Coors but have a harder time on the road. The pitching staff struggles everywhere.