Additionally, Manfred addressed a series of recent happenings in the game, including Ichiro’s milestone. Ichiro became the 30th player to reach 3,000 hits on Sunday afternoon in Colorado, and he is the first MLB player to debut after age 25 and reach the milestone.
“Ichiro’s accomplishments speak for themselves,” Manfred said. “To have the sort of career that he had in Japan and then come here and get 3,000 hits, it’s just unbelievable. He is a class individual and a real tribute to the game.”
Regarding the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez possibly playing his final game on Friday, before he becomes a special advisor to the team, Manfred lauded Rodriguez’s efforts since returning from his full-season suspension in 2014.
“Alex has worked very hard since he came back from the suspension to do the right thing,” Manfred said. “I think that he found a way to go out on his own terms with the Yankees being fully supportive, and that’s a good thing.”
Earlier this season, finding compelling division races was challenging. More than half the division leaders had double-digit advantages over the next-closest team, and it was starting to look like the focus may shift exclusively to the Wild Card races.
Times have changed. Only the Cubs have a lead of more than 10 games, and in three divisions — the American League East, AL Central and National League West — the second-place team is within two games of the leader.
September is still a ways away, but it isn’t too early to predict that the race to the finish line is likely to be highly entertaining (and, for fans of a dozen or more teams, highly nerve-racking).
On to this week’s Power Rankings…
Biggest jump: The Tigers climbed four spots, from 12 to eight. This isn’t solely due to the return of J.D. Martinez from the disabled list, but let’s not downplay the importance of the outfielder’s return to the lineup. Martinez hit a pinch-hit home run off Chris Sale in his first at-bat back, and then three days later, sealed a 6-5 win over the Mets with a laser throw to the plate to prevent the tying run from scoring. Meanwhile, the Tigers have won 10 of their past 12 games and enter the week only two games behind Cleveland.
Biggest drop: Speaking of the Indians, they dropped four spots, from two to six. They were 2-5 last week, losing three of four to the Twins and two of three to the Yankees. In their past 2 1/2 weeks, the only bright spot was a three-game sweep over the A’s at the end of July. As a result, the AL Central is now a two-team race, with the Tigers trending way up.