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Baseball's hot stove always seems to flare up in spurts. Weeks of inactivity go by with rumors flying but few trades surfacing. Then, in the course of a weekend, everything can change.

The Red Sox's long pursuit of Adrian Gonzalez finally came to an end, as Boston will trade several young prospects for the chance to add a hugely important left-handed bat to its lineup. Gonzalez seems tailor-made for Fenway Park and instantly changes the balance of power in the AL East. Meanwhile, the Nationals made their biggest free-agent signing ever, inking Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126 million contract. Werth is a big-time talent, but the Nationals may have overpaid in their pursuit of true relevance. Would you rather have the slugging excellence of Gonzalez or the five-tool consistency of Werth?

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1. Who would you rather have: Gardenhire or Black?

Neither of their teams advanced in the playoffs, but both Ron Gardenhire and Bud Black have been deemed Managers of the Year for their respective leagues. Gardenhire had to make do without Justin Morneau for much of the season, while Black had to contend with an offense that featured Adrian Gonzalez ... and that's pretty much it. Which manager would you rather have?

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The standings say the San Diego Padres own the best record in the National League as play begins Monday, riding a four-game winning streak out of the All-Star break to some breathing room in the NL West. The statistics say no team in either league has allowed fewer runs than the Padres, fueling the best run differential in the National League.

Is SportsNation -- which ranked the Padres behind the Yankees, Rays, Braves, Rangers and Red Sox at midseason -- selling San Diego short or showing sage skepticism?

Arguing for the prosecution ...

And arguing for the defense ...

Mark (San Diego)

Are the Padres [going] to move Adrian Gonzalez in the off season if a contract can't be agreed upon? It would seem to be the smart thing to do. They could probably get a huge package in return.

Jayson Stark
Jayson Stark

That's what I think almost has to happen. They're not going to be able to sign him. And they certainly can't trade him now, when they're in first place. But this winter will be a time to establish once and for all that he's not signable (by them, anyway). And once that's out there, I think even the people in San Diego who love him will understand that they have to deal him. Full transcript

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Let's just say SportsNation wasn't bullish on the Padres when the season began. If voters could have slipped some Pacific Coast League teams ahead of the team from San Diego, well, the Fresno Grizzlies look pretty good this season. As it was, voters ranked the Padres behind every team but the Royals, Pirates and Nationals.

Yet here we are with Memorial Day approaching and Bud Black's team is in first in the NL West. In looking at some of the season's biggest surprises, Jerry Crasnick suggests Adrian Gonzalez needs more help but does find some reasons for continued optimism.

It's not just the Padres. Check out the upward mobility of some of the season's biggest surprises through the lens of SportsNation's Power Rankings.

trevor (ca)

which of your top three surprises is most likely to keep surprising?

Jerry Crasnick
Jerry Crasnick

Trevor, The only reason I think San Diego can hang around longer than Toronto is that the Padres play in the NL West. But they really need someone to step up and take the pressure off Adrian Gonzalez. Remember, Toronto started off quickly last year, then faded in June and July. That AL East is a bear. Full transcript

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It's just like the census, only this one is fun and doesn't come in the mail. And nobody from FOX News or MSNBC will yell at you about it. It's time for ESPN The Magazine's Ultimate Standings, in which SportsNation grades organizations on everything from ticket prices and stadium experience to the talent on the field, court or rink. Which team will end up on top this year? It depends on what you say.

Take part in the 2010 MLB survey
2009 MLB Ultimate Standings
1. Los Angeles Angels (Overall: No. 1)
2. Milwaukee Brewers (Overall: No. 7)
3. Tampa Bay Rays (Overall: No. 16)
4. Minnesota Twins (Overall: No. 23)
5. Philadelphia Phillies (Overall: No. 24)

Take part in the 2010 NFL survey
2009 NFL Ultimate Standings
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (Overall: No. 3)
2. Green Bay Packers (Overall: No. 13)
3. Indianapolis Colts (Overall: No. 14)
4. Tennessee Titans (Overall: No. 15)
5. New England Patriots (Overall: No. 19)

Take part in the 2010 NBA survey
2009 NBA Ultimate Standings
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (Overall: No. 5)
2. San Antonio Spurs (Overall: No. 9)
3. New Orleans Hornets (Overall: No. 12)
4. Houston Rockets (Overall: No. 17)
5. Orlando Magic (Overall: No. 18)

Take part in the 2010 NHL survey
2009 NHL Ultimate Standings
1. Carolina Hurricanes (Overall: No. 2)
2. Detroit Red Wings (Overall: No. 4)
3. Washington Capitals (Overall: No. 6)
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (Overall: No. 8)
5. St. Louis Blues (Overall: No. 10)

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