Is Philly getting nervous?

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I was just sort of joking in the recaps this morning when I mused that the Braves could potentially overtake the Phillies for the division, but apparently some people in Philadelphia are a little uneasy. Maybe the Braves fan in me is reading too much into it, but is Charlie Manuel making excuses already?

“The schedule has been perfect for them. That’s definitely not an excuse, because I feel we have the best team in our league,” Manuel said. “But the schedule’s been good for them. [Bobby] Cox might have made that schedule up. He announced his retirement and they let him go ahead and make the schedule.”

Blaming the schedule. The last refuge of a scoundrel. And maybe a choker. But here’s a couple of things about the schedule: (1) Philly and Atlanta play in the same division, so they have basically the same schedule; (2) the only difference in interleague schedules is that rather than play the Rays like the Phillies did, the Braves were stuck with three extra games against Boston; and (3) if you really wanted to make this last week meaningless, Charlie, you should have done better than 8-10 head-to-head against Atlanta.

The upshot: If Philly somehow loses this thing — and the odds are still really stacked in the Phillies favor, I don’t deny it — they only have themselves to blame. 

In the meantime, here is some reading material to tide you over until tonight’s game.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.