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By Mr. Ghostwriter (with a little help from Nightmare) – 

After literally YEARS of never missing a week of rankings, I’m now missing multiple weeks in a row.  Am I still fuming over not getting more than four Fun-Star votes?  Have Franklin and Tootin’ finally broken my spirit with their non-stop bullying?  Have I spun into a depression after getting my backside handed to me at the All-Star game?  Am I too busy watching (and re-watching) the video of me striking out Smallpox (looking)?  You’ll never know because you didn’t bother to ask.

That is, except for one person.  One person reached out to ask, “Nightmare, are you okay?  Do you need anything?”  

And I did need something.  I needed someone to do my job for me… and let me take all the credit.  And this person agreed.  And you know what made it even better?  Mr. Ghostwriter doesn’t want any credit for what you’re about to read.  And guess what’s more?  I’m going to let them stay anonymous, because I’m pretty sure these are better than anything I’ve written in months and I don’t want you going to someone else to get your (somewhat) weekly rankings humor.

Time for jokes…

(#20) Lugnuts (2-35).  It’s all poops and giggles until someone giggles and poops themself.  Dear Bears, did you ever stop and think what would happen if you let the ‘Nuts finally win a game, let alone a series… We’ll be hearing Franklin chirp about the “greatest sports performance of all time” for the next three seasons.  And we won’t always have Griz around to give stellar comebacks like he did in the All-Star game… The Lugnuts will finish padding the league’s stats next week against the Baby Cakes.

(#19) Bears (4-31).  I think the ‘Bad News’ moniker is a misnomer.  It’s not bad news to play the Bears.  It’s great news!  If the website is to believed (FYI, I believe everything I see on the internet), the Bears wrap their “all-fun-and-games” season against the Ponies in a series that could be pivotal - more on that later.

(#18) Millers (8-25).  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it at least one time… If any team has right of first refusal to move out of the bowl (Hopkins toilet bowl, not the beautiful Shakopee Bowl) and over to Eagan, it’s the Millers.  There must be a regression to the mean instead of a mean middle finger of fate for these fine fellows.  Millers, half your wins are against Eagan teams.  Come, join us in Eagan.  You won’t regret it.  The Millers conclude their road to Wifflepalooza with six games in 10 days, four of which are divisional.  Seems about right.  Godspeed Millers.

(#17) Mariners (10-25).  There is no doubt this is a team on the rise… a swell, angling for bigger fish… let’s just empty the fish pun tank… it’s about maritime.  Diddy put on a pretty pitching clinic in the noob/sophomore game.  Finding this diamond in the rough may be the highlight of the Mariners season.  The Mariners fishwrap (okay, I had one more) their season against the Twins before setting sail (one more still!) for Wifflepalooza.

(#16) Blue Sox (10-21).  During this pandemic, I’ve been watching a lot of gangster movies and the sOx continue to remind me of the cinematic trope where the old guys get pulled back into a life of crime.  Not because they want to, but because they have to.  Al’s got kidney stones older than half the players in the league, but you’d never know it watching him smack the youngsters around the rink.  The TwoBat/PorkBot duo are classic Tom Hardy playing his own twin (Legend 2015, absolutely awful film), and Thor is the quiet guy you just waiting to snap at the slightest provocation.  And Vlade?  Valde has been, and always will be, the consigliere to whatever team he plays for.  Take this advice, beat these guys if you will, but show some damn respect.  The sOx finish against the Ducks and the Mets.  What size cement shoe does Taco wear?  Do they make them in kids’ sizes?

(#15) Twins (10-21).  Number 15 in the rankings, fourth in their division, but first in our hearts.  I can’t quit these guys because they can’t decide when to quit either.  Has there been a more enigmatic team this year than the Twins?  Who has been impersonating Nelson this year?  Why do they call him Meat Hammer?  Why is Flow avoiding me?  With four games left against the Millers and Mariners, these boys could see considerable movement in the Wifflepalooza seeding race if the sOx flounder (see ‘Mariner Puns’ for $1000 Ms. Bialik… on this note, it’s B.S. LeVar Burton didn’t get the job, and if you disagree, you’re wrong).

(#14) Trash Pandas (13-20).  If pNut doesn’t win ROY, the fix is in… and I blame the sOx.  How good is this kid?  The Pandas have a team batting average of .292, and only pNut is hitting over .286.  If I’m MacGruber I look to move this kid for prospects in 2022.  Two arms and a .300 hitter should do it.  The Trash Pandas finish their season with the toughest stretch in Eagan, having to battle the Cakes and ‘Riders before moving to the Wifflepalooza bracket.

(#13) Yankees (14-18).  In the movie Catch Me if You Can, Frank Abangale (Christopher Walken) tells his young son (Dicaprio) that the reason the Yankees win is because everyone’s looking at the pinstripes.  With a 9-man roster, most teams are just trying to figure out who’s who.  Z-dog is the most underrated pitcher in Eagan, [editor’s note: Nightmare didn’t write that, because Box is the most underrated pitcher and if Mr. GhostWriter disagrees, he’s wrong] and Rocket the most underrated hitter [editor’s note: true, true].  After that, it’s just an assault of East Coast Rap and great uniforms.  I think everyone in the HRL cheers for these guys because: 1) it’s more palatable than cheering for the MLB team, and 2) Torpedo and Rocket are like the brothers you never had, and you will never introduce to your girlfriend.  I will never be as cool as those guys, and I don’t need my girl to know it.  It will break my heart if these guys don’t finish the season .500.  They’ve forgotten more about wiffleball than many teams will ever know… I mean, what do you think they’re doing in all those Yankee huddles?  Anyways, what was I saying?… Oh yeah, everyone cheers for these guys.  Don’t count them out for an extended ‘Palooza run if they get hot.

(#12) Marlins (14-20).  When I’m not writing rankings, I’m writing pilots for 90’s era sitcoms… We start with an upbeat 90’s era theme song, think Family Matters or Full House.  The camera follows a run down, 70’s era van as it winds down a city street and pulls into the parking lot of an uptown, low rent apartment complex.  As the theme song gets to the part about the run-down apartment that’s full of fun and love, but also mold growing on mold, our starring cast piles out of the van.  The new guys are first, Yak and Cannablast comically fall out of the back of the van.  Schnoogs and Neut laughingly shake their heads as the pop out the sliding side door.  Box and Shippy, both wearing hilariously thick lensed glasses, don’t leave the van, but we can see them passionately arguing over a laptop keyboard.  Finally, the chronically irascible Professor hops out of the driver’s seat.  He looks up at the building, what crazy adventures will the complex, Marlins Place, bring this week?  As he looks up, the kooky neighbor, Fedawg frantically waves down at the group.  I don’t expect the pilot to get picked up, but down the road, all the stars will look back at their experiences making Marlins Place fondly… Wow, that went on longer than anticipated… Umm, oh yeah, they finish the season against fellow aquatic denizens, the Manatees.

(#11) Manatees (17-17).  I feel like the Manatees had their division right where they wanted it and then thought, “Hey guys, we’re manatees.  We’re not aggressive, we don’t really try hard, we just kind of float around and look cute.”  This team was poised to make a serious run with marquee names and established talent, but somewhere along the way Shirls’ music just sort of wrapped a trance around Boom and then… well… boom, they went belly up with a big ol’ Tootin’ grin.  Seriously, that guy’s smile is a thirst trap.  The Manatees cuddle up to a Yankees/Vibes/Marlins sandwich to finish the season.  Tasty.

(#10 and #9) Roughriders (20-13) and Rumble Ponies (19-15).  [editor’s note: it wasn’t my idea to combine two teams, but I was too lazy to write this myself, so here you go.]  Here’s where things get interesting for Eagan West.  The horse teams have shared the same rink enough times this season that the Ponies now feel comfortable bringing their girlfriends to the games in H8R’s presence.  Think about that…  Oh well.  Anyways, Ponies do Pony things… like playing three in Hopkins and then finding themselves a full game back in the Wild Card race.  Pick on a Chihuahua and yer gonna get bit, boys.  But they get the Bears next week, so does it matter?  Meanwhile, the Gothams v2.0 (Gothams minus Webby, plus Dumpy) are all hitting above .300 with double-digit HRs, and the continue to ride Dumpy’s arm to relevance. The Riders have put themselves in a position to steal the division from the Vibes pending a Vibes/Manatee third game on Thursday.  The plot thickens… Also, is it true that H9K is on the DL?  What does this mean for this Eagan West tilt at Sky Hill on Thursday?  Oh, the drama!

(#8) Chihuahuas (17-11).  The dogs were set loose this week against Eagan’s horses and the ankle biters did what ankle biters do.  The pitching isn’t always consistent, but the bats are scary good.  The Wish steals the highlights, but the supporting cast [editor’s note: minus AJizz] is what makes this Hopkins team my upset favorite.  What’s more, they have a team medic and 4 divisional games with which to spoil the ‘Merican’s wild card chase.  What’s with the West divisions and nail biters in the final weeks?  I love it.  It’s like Breaking Bad versus Eagan East’s Golden Girls.  [editor’s request: can someone explain this joke to me?]

(#7) Racist Team Name (19-15).  Seriously… I can’t think of a better team to have to finish out the season with three against the Lulu Crew.  With 13 games required to be rostered for the playoffs, it looks like it’s a 4-man squad going to 'Palooza, and I’m just fine with that.  And I think they will be too, because it would be hard to find a better 4-man squad to roll with.  Fun facts: Chops has the most plate appearances in the HRL this season, and the most walks (in Hopkins).  Sanchez is tied for 4th in the league for HRs.  This team has patience and power… if only they had the will to choose a better team name… 

(#6) Vibes (21-12). I’m sure the winter meetings for this organization will be animated.  Certainly, more animated than Epstein, but that’s not particularly difficult.  [editor’s note: that wasn’t my joke… but I wish it was.]  Management has been either genius or disastrous.  Say what you will, but putting the division crown on the line to play three against the Cakes was… wiffleballsy.  Or was it…? Getting swept and then facing the ‘Riders for the division crown may just be the vibe these guys need going in the playoffs.  I’ve consulted my TI graphing calculator, and there is a scenario in which the Vibes end up in ‘Palooza… but I put the chances of that happening at about the same level as Huck Finn cussing out a waitress at post-games.

(#5 and #4) Rubber Ducks (24-11) and Americans (23-9).  [editor’s note: I’ll have a talk with Mr. GhostWriter about combining ranks… sigh.]  The Ducks are one of few teams that have timed their peak with the end of the season perfectly.  Stache is doing Stache things, and Old Yeller is still scaring small children and player wives from attending.  With all the drama in Eagan West it’s easy to forget that the Hopkin’s Wild Card team is far from settled.  Lulu’s been playing like somebody insulted his mom since the Americans dropped four in a row to the superior city (Eagan).  The Mets have the opportunity to mess with all these teams which is very Mets-like.  The Ducks finish against the Taco Corp., and perennial spoiler, sOx.  The Americans finish with 4 divisional games and a pair against the Yanks and Nuts.  Count on tight grips, and long distance bat tosses.

(#3) Baby Cakes (25-5).  [editor’s note: I removed everything that wasn’t flattering of my beloved Baby Cakes.]  The Cakes finish their season against the Lugnuts.

(#2) Mets (29-3).  Can we talk about J.C. for a minute?  [Editor’s note: yes, always.]  If ever there was a call for PED testing in the HRL, JC is the poster child.  He was, like a Met, crafty about it.  Get strong, but not too strong.  Get angry, but not too angry.  8-0 with a 1.09 ERA.  JC: making old guys think they can still hang with the young bucks.  I tip my cap to you sir.

(#1) Crawdads (29-4).  The problem with the ‘Dads is only one of them is an actual Dad, but he has enough kids for the whole team.  In fact, WebGem could start his own team with his progeny, but then that would ruin the entire premise of playing in the HRL.  I think Mrs. WebGem would appreciate it.  If Web plays until he’s Al’s age, every one of his kids will be old enough to play beside him and ruin his Thursday nights forever.  Meanwhile Smallpox will find out how it feels to have the next generations pass him by.  Is a Crawdads/Mets City Final a fait accompli?  Yes.  Is that boring?  Best to wait until Mippey releases the video to decide.

[editor’s note: it just occurred to me that this week’s rankings are a little spicier than usual.  And you might be thinking that I made up Mr. Ghostwriter in order to say spicy stuff without taking any responsibility for it.  And maybe you’re right.]

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