Welcome to the MLB Star Power Index -- a weekly undertaking that determines with awful authority which players are dominating the current zeitgeist of the sport, at least according to the narrow perceptions of this miserable scribe. While one's presence on this list is often celebratory in nature, it can also be for purposes of lamentation or ridicule. The players listed are in no particular order, just like the phone book. To this week's honorees ...
Byron Buxton, Twins; Corbin Burnes, Brewers
Thanks to documents retrieved from the scriptoria of various medieval European monasteries, we know at least two things about the Big Ten conference as it was intended to be conceived and executed. Coming soon is a colon that will introduce a bullet-pointed list that's really too brief to justify use of said bullet points:Written utterance of the Big Ten shall never entail use of the numeral "10." Reference to a non-existent thing called the "Big 10" shall be punishable by a swift trip to a set of wooden gallows that also serve as the Purdue-Northwestern rivalry trophy. The constituent institutions of the Big Ten shall stretch not from sea to shining sea but rather from honorable cornhole board to trusty single-stage snow blower.
We are of course chagrined to report that this second stipulation has been violated anew. Already the Big Ten has been poisoned – it's poison, not venom – by the un-Midwest likes of Maryland and Rutgers, and now the beach-yoked likes of USC and UCLA have advanced this unseemly sprawl. (Big Ten beaches are acceptable only when appended to plump lakes capable of administering hypothermia well into June and year-round recreational-water illnesses.) Given these unfortunate trends, we of this space are honor-bound to Take Back the Big Ten, and we're going to do that by providing you with a mid-season update on the MLB Big Ten standings.
At this point, readers – all four of you – are probably best served by an explanation. It says here that the team with the best record across the National League Central and the American League Central is the MLB Big Ten champion for that season. One might be wondering whether the AL East and NL East can pair up for the ACC title or whether the two west divisions amount to MLB's Pac-12. They damn well may not, for reasons explained forthwith via our second round of bullet points for the busy sales professional:The author is partial to the Midwest. Vive le fire pits, rust-belt craft beer, mowing during a tornado watch, and pallid winter tongues burned back to life by scorching pierogies. MLB's central divisions are geographically coherent, at least by the standards of the genre. The NL and AL Central teams occupy seven different states, and six of those are home to actual Big Ten teams. Better yet, none of those six states is New Jersey or Maryland or California. The one state that isn't a part of True and Actual Big Ten country is Missouri, home of the Cardinals and Royals. However, you can still flood a basement there and imbue pizzas with meaningless quasi-regional distinctions. The Pac-12 has changed its name too many times to be honored herein and may soon cease to exist. Also, MLB's West divisions include teams from Texas, which is not western enough to fall under the Pac-12 banner. The SEC, alas and alack, doesn't have a regional analog in MLB. They also care too much about such things, which means they shall not get such things.We could call the Easts the ACC, but we're not going to do that for an array of reasons, none of which merits explanation. Just trust us that the Big Ten is the only reasonable conference title to award in baseball.
With those justifications laid out, let us highlight the top of the current MLB Big Ten standings:
St. Louis Cardinals
Chicago White Sox
Compelling baseball results! So that we may satisfy the spirit and workplace mandates of this weekly abasement, let us highlight those two players above – one from each of the teams atop the MLB Big Ten heap:Luis Arreaz leads the Twins in WAR at the moment, but the writer is choosing to highlight the power-hitting fly-catcher Mr. Byron Buxton instead. When healthy, he's the Twins' best player, and he's among the most scintillating and well-rounded players in the game today (author of triple plays!). As for his Midwest bona fides, he surely knows his way around the transfer switch of a backup generator. Corbin Burnes has by a margin as wide as nine Iowas been the Brewers' top performer this season. That was also the case last year, when he led Milwaukee to, yes, the MLB Big Ten title. This season the accomplished sump pumper boasts an ERA+ of 177 and an NL-leading 124 strikeouts.
In conclusion and in anticipation of what promises to be a white-knuckled second half of the season in MLB Big Ten Country, let us recite, in a vaguely nasally accent, the prior winners of the MLB Big Ten title as determined by regular-season record. Note that this hallowed ledger begins in 2013, when the Houston Astros were mercifully drummed out of the Centrals, thus restoring coherence and purity to the Centrals.
St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis Cardinals
Now -- Twins, Brewers, Cardinals, Guardians, and White Sox -- go forth and compete righteously to join this roll call of champions and also for the right to lose to Alabama in a high-stakes bowl game by the score of 38-13.