Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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1. Yankees:  If they’re at the top of baseball with a half dozen problems at any given time, how good will they be when things really start clicking? I just feel like they’ve been playing the season with one hand tied behind their back and that pretty soon they’ll rip off like 14 wins in a row or something crazy.

2. Rangers: I was tempted to move them to the top slot for a minute, but the big recent push has come mostly against cupcakes. Not that it hasn’t been a nice push.

3. Red Sox: Banged up as all hell, but they have been all year, right?

4. Padres:  We’ve waited for them to turn into a pumpkin all year, and they just won’t. They’ve been the most consistent team in baseball. In this they remind me a lot of the 1991 Braves. A lot of people are gonna wake up in September and say “Jesus, the Padres clinched?”

5. Braves: No shame in getting beat up by the White Sox, but let’s be clear: they’re not playing great baseball at the moment. Heyward’s injury is bothersome, but let’s be honest: he has been only moderately effective for the bulk of the team’s turnaround. The real concern has been Troy Glaus’ recent slump and the sudden ineffectiveness of Tommy Hanson.

6. Mets: Every day they don’t trade for Cliff Lee is a day the Braves and Phillies breathe a bit easier. If and when they do pull that trigger, Phillies and Braves fans will freak the hell out.
 
7. Rays: They were bound to come down from their early season highs, but I wasn’t guessing it would be this far down.  Nothin’ is working right at the moment.

8. Reds: The Reds sign Gary Matthews Jr. and then surge back into first place. Coincidence? Why yes, yes it is.

9. White Sox: I try to keep some sort of connection to the reality of the standings, but I’m sorry, just because they’re a game and a half behind the Twins doesn’t mean I can’t put the White Sox here. They’re surging right now and it just feels right.

10. Phillies: Their recent bounceback has them looking a lot like the beast that roamed near the top of the Power Rankings earlier in the season.

11. Cardinals: The reason they can’t hold on to first place? Too many holes in the lineup.

12. Twins: Gleeman’s take on the current blah of the Twins: “Had the timing of the good and bad stretches been flipped, with the
Twins starting 10-14 and then playing well for two months, the
perception of their current situation would be different.” And if wishes were fishes we’d all have a fry. Not that Aaron’s wrong or anything. I mean, we can’t expect that the White Sox will continue to win just about every game they play, right?

13. Tigers: How Miguel Cabrera isn’t leading the league in All-Star voting at first base is beyond me.  Well, it’s not totally beyond me — I get that there are more Yankees fans than Tigers fans — but it’s pretty telling all the same.

14. Angels: The pitching has come around nicely. If they pick up a bat and the Rangers fall back to Earth as they must, we’re gonna have a good race.

15. Giants: Pablo Sandoval: .273/.331/.415. Vald Guerrero can get away with swinging at everything. Panda can’t.  I’d hate to see him not learn that lesson the way Jeff Francoeur didn’t learn that lesson.

16. Blue Jays: Time to think about dealing. Bautista? Overbay? Five years ago teams would jump at guys like that. Now I’m having a hard time seeing them bring back any value.

17. Rockies: They ought to do something with Manny Corpas, what with the laws against keeping dead bodies lying around and everything.

18. Dodgers: There were a lot of storms in the Midwest this past week. Must have blocked the V Energy from flowing from Boston.

19. Brewers: Nice week for the Brewers. I doubt they’ll be doing more this year than fighting the Cubs for third place, but unlike the Cubs, they’re approaching what has turned into a bummer of a season with dignity and some fight.

20. Athletics: If it makes anyone feel better, there were way more votes for contracting the Yankees than contracting the A’s in my little contraction post this morning.

21. Marlins: This ranking reflects the on-the-field product. If it reflected front office chaos, they’d be at 156.

22. Cubs: The only silver lining of the Carlos Zambrano insanity is that between his past history and their year of living with Milton Bradley, the Cubs have a handbook on how to deal with this kind of jazz.

23. Royals: Outside of the 1985 World Series it probably hasn’t ever counted as a true rivalry, but the Royals have to have enjoyed taking two of three from the Cardinals.

24. Nationals: I predict the Nats will score a half run in support of Stephen Strasburg tonight. Difficult, I know, but I think they have it in them.

25. Mariners: I may have lost count, but I think this marks the 23rd straight season in which a team has started the year thinking “sure, Casey Kotchman can handle first base for us,” only to cut bait before the trading deadline.

26. Diamondbacks: I was tweeting like crazy about this on Friday night, but I’ll reiterate here: I have no problem with Hinch leaving Edwin Jackson in to throw 150 pitches for a no-hitter. You don’t do it with some young franchise-quality pitching prospect, but you can do it with a solid, experienced contributor-type like Jackson. Odds are he’ll never win a Cy Young. The competitive part of the season truly is over for the Dbacks. You have to let him and the fans have this.

27. Indians: I’m surprised the Tribe found a taker for Russell Branyan so quickly. I figured they’d have to wait a few weeks for that kind of a deal to develop. Pure gravy for them that they could get that done, get some bodies in return and open up a slot for LaPorta to prove himself with so much of the season left to play.

28. Astros: Are Astros fans experiencing some delicious schadenfreude seeing Nolan Ryan — the man who many in Houston feel abandoned them twice — having so much trouble assuming ownership of the Rangers, or are they worried that all that difficulty is killing the market for Roy Oswalt and thereby preventing them from getting their hands on a prized Ranger prospect or two?

29. Orioles:  When you’re in as deep a hole as the O’s have been in all year it’s not likely that you’ll ever climb out, but they won some damn games this past week, and they at least deserve to be out of the cellar.

30. Pirates:  I saw some glimmers of faint hope as the season began. Now it’s like, how much more black could this be? and the answer is none.
None more black.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Tuesday’s action

New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey (33) delivers during the first inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Wednesday, April 27, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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We’re back to a full slate of games on Tuesday night. The game to watch tonight, especially if you’re a fan of mismatches, is Braves-Mets. The Mets easily handled the Braves on Monday night, winning 4-1. The club blasted three home runs in the first inning off of Mike Foltynewicz, which is nearly as many homers as the Braves have hit all season (five). The Mets went on cruise control from there. Bartolo Colon finished with seven strikeouts over eight shutout innings. Jeurys Familia gave up a run but was able to reach the finish line.

The Braves are now 6-19, a game ahead of the Astros and Twins for the worst record in baseball. It’s not particularly shocking since the Braves have embraced tanking in their final year at Turner Field. How low can they go? The Atlanta record for losses in a season is 106 by the 1988 club. The 1935 Boston Braves went 38-115. The Braves’ current .240 winning percentage would rank as the worst in franchise history — including Atlanta, Boston, and Milwaukee — if the season were to end today.

Tuesday’s pitching match-up features Matt Wisler for the Braves and Matt Harvey for the Mets. The two will square off at 7:10 PM EDT at Citi Field tonight.

The rest of Tuesday’s action…

Detroit Tigers (Justin Verlander) @ Cleveland Indians (Josh Tomlin), 6:10 PM EDT

Chicago Cubs (Jake Arrieta) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (Jon Niese), 7:05 PM EDT

New York Yankees (Luis Severino) @ Baltimore Orioles (Chris Tillman), 7:05 PM EDT

Texas Rangers (Martin Perez) @ Toronto Blue Jays (Marco Estrada), 7:07 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Patrick Corbin) @ Miami Marlins (Justin Nicolino), 7:10 PM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers (Scott Kazmir) @ Tampa Bay Rays (Matt Moore), 7:10 PM EDT

San Francisco Giants (Jeff Samardzija) @ Cincinnati Reds (Jon Moscot), 7:10 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (Steven Wright) @ Chicago White Sox (Jose Quintana), 8:10 PM EDT

Los Angeles Angels (Nick Tropeano) @ Milwaukee Brewers (Junior Guerra), 8:10 PM EDT

Minnesota Twins (Alex Meyer) @ Houston Astros (Collin McHugh), 8:10 PM EDT

Philadelphia Phillies (Aaron Nola) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Michael Wacha), 8:15 PM EDT

Washington Nationals (Tanner Roark) @ Kansas City Royals (Chris Young), 8:15 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (Hisashi Iwakuma) @ Oakland Athletics (Sonny Gray), 10:05 PM EDT

Colorado Rockies (Eddie Butler) @ San Diego Padres (Andrew Cashner), 10:10 PM EDT

Bryce Harper signs the largest endorsement deal in MLB history

Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper pumps his fist as he takes a curtain call after he hit a grand slam during the third  inning of an baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Thursday, April 14, 2016, in Washington. This was Harper's 100th home run of his career. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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I figure it’s not that hard to sign the largest endorsement deal in baseball history. In the NBA? Sure. Those deals are insane. But in baseball? Man, we still have major leaguers doing quickie, video taped ads for local car dealerships and sandwich shops and stuff. It would mildly surprise me if I saw a third starter for a .500 team spinning and flipping one of those signs on a street corner near a new apartment complex some day, but I wouldn’t be utterly shocked. It’s just a different set of economics. You can’t really wear baseball shoes out around town. Cleats tend to scuff up the woodwork.

But Bryce Harper is different. He was barely in the league a year before I saw his giant underwear-clad butt in a big glossy ad while walking through the unmentionables department at Macy’s and his Under Armour ads are all over the place. Probably the closest thing we’ve seen to NBA-style shoe exposure in MLB, though it doesn’t quite compare.

It may one day, though: he has reportedly signed a 10-year extension with Under Armour that is believed to be the largest endorsement deal in history for a baseball player. Terms aren’t being disclosed, but they’re claiming that so it’s probably at least plausible.

Baseball players will still never be the kind of product-pushers other athletes are, but Harper is probably the closest thing it’ll get for a while. At the very least he can be the second or third banana in one of those commercials in which stars from various sports do things like shave, drink sports drinks and, I dunno, flex their quads while wearing compression gear. He can be Garfunkel to Steph Curry’s Simon. Or something.

Major League Baseball may cancel the upcoming Puerto Rico series due to Zika concerns

FILE - In this Jan. 27, 2016, file photo, Aedes aegypti mosquito larvae sit in a petri dish at the Fiocruz institute in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. Even before the Zika virus reached crisis levels early this year, Brazil had trouble maintaining routine eradication efforts. An Associated Press investigation found that cities and states in Brazil’s northeast ran out of larvicide for several months last year. The Aedes aegypti mosquito are a vector for the spread of Zika virus. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
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Last month we wrote about how the Pirates and the Marlins are scheduled to play a series in Puerto Rico at the end of May. And how, due to an outbreak of Zika on the island, Pirates and Marlins players have voiced serious concerns. For, among other reasons, Zika precautions are such that those exposed should not engage in procreative sex for several months due to birth defects concerns and baseball players are at an age when doing stuff like having kids is a pretty important thing.

This afternoon Yahoo’s Jeff Passan reports that, while the official line is that the series will still be played, multiple sources with knowledge of the situation are telling him that it’s on “the brink of cancellation.”

It’s understandable though, as Passan notes, it makes politics — both baseball politics and regular politics — with Puerto Rico kind of uncomfortable. And then there’s the concern that Zika could spread to Florida and is already in other countries, which means that the Pirates-Marlins thing is something of a case of first impression which could set precedents beyond just baseball.

That’s understandable, but it’s also a set of concerns that are above the pay grade of baseball players. Personally, it’s hard to blame them for being wary. And this seems like some reasonable wariness, not hysteria.

 

Tigers activate James McCann

Detroit Tigers catcher James McCann blows a bubble while warming up during a spring training baseball workout, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Lakeland, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
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The Tigers have activated catcher James McCann from the 15-day disabled list. He’s been out since April 11 with a sprained ankle.

Whether he has a position is an open question. In his absence Jarrod Saltalamacchia has put up a .947 OPS. That’s weighted somewhat heavily by slugging and some fluky power, but he’s done a good job. At the very least it will cause Brad Ausmus to ease McCann back into the lineup more slowly, possibly in a split role as opposed to a backup/starter relationship.