Rank Index -- NL West
Good afternoon sports fans, and welcome to another edition of the Rank Index right here at Yard Work. We're heading into the home stretch of the 2005 season: a time when pennant races heat up and the games really start to count. With the trade deadline just around the corner, it's time to think about the Yankees, Red Sox, and all the other teams who are gunning for the playoffs. So let's take a closer look at one of baseball's most intruiging and competitive divisions -- the NL West.
San Diego Padres -- As long as Jake Peavy continues working his magic on the mound, with Brian Giles and Ryan Klesko slamming balls out of NL ballparks, the Padres remain the team to beat in the West. They've proven that they're the class of the division by holding off the Diamondbacks and Dodgers for most of the season, and until they're dethroned, they earn top grade. A+
Arizona Diamondbacks -- They've shown remarkable character in 2005 by rebounding from 110 losses to pennant contender in only one year. Only fourteen seasons ago, the Braves accomplished the exact same feat -- and they haven't finished out of first place ever since! Could this be an omen of things to come for the 2001 World Champs? A
Los Angeles Dodgers -- After winning the division in 2004, they added former MVP Jeff Kent and 2004 playoff hero Derek Lowe. They haven't let injuries to Eric Gagne and J.D. Drew get them down, and with Brad Penny and taco king Jeff Weaver filling out the rotation, the Dodgers can be counted on for big things down the stretch. Plus, you can never, ever, underestimate a defending champ. A
San Francisco Giants -- Despite a season of turmoil, with superstars Barry Bonds and Jason Schmidt missing significant playing time due to injuries, the Giants are a mere 1.5 games behind defending champs Los Angeles. The Giants find a way to be in the thick of things every year, and with one of the smartest managers in the game in Felipe Alou, expect to see the Giants causing trouble in the NL West this September. A
Colorado Rockies -- Clint Barmes was looking like a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year before his tragic staircase injury. Nonetheless, things are looking up for the Rockies thanks to the resurgence of Todd Helton and the inspired pitching of young Jeff Francis. Imagine the hang time that newcomer Eric Byrnes will get on his diving catches in the thin air of Denver! A-.
AJ Burnett -- He's the name on everybody's lips, and has been for weeks. Even the Dodgers don't have the glitz to compete with the Hollywood-esque exposure that Burnett has received from fans, players, and managers throughout the game of baseball. The Giants might be able to upstage him if Bonds were to return this season, but barring that, it's top grades all the way for Burnett's meteoric rise. A+