Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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Last week’s ranking is in parenthesis.

1. Yankees (1): The deadline deals brought in all kinds of spare parts, but is Joe Girardi going to use them properly? Lots of platoons and rotations and substitutions and stuff are now possible for the Yankees. Which presents opportunities, but also presents many new chances to screw things up too.

2. Rays (2):  It’s damn close, and the Rays have the momentum, but I’m using Ric Flair rules here: to be the man, you gotta beat the man. The Rays can take over the top spot if and when they pass New York. Woo!

3. Padres (3): Ryan Ludwick would not be an improvement in the outfield for most contenders, but he is for San Diego. Nice debut yesterday too, running and sliding into home, showing no sign of the leg injury that has cost him some time this season.

4. Rangers (4): The Rangers’ additions at the deadline — Lee, Cantu, Guzman — were the sorts of things teams who are heading to the playoffs do. I like the depth moves.

5. Giants (6): The Giants made it pretty clear this weekend that the NL West is going to be a two-team race. Bye-bye L.A.

6. White Sox (8): The blessing and the curse that is Ozzie Guillen. He’s so oblivious to outside stuff that he has no real problem turning a slow starting team around. He’s also so oblivious to outside stuff that he has no real problem throwing some ethnic/racial bomb into a postgame interview.

7. Twins (10): Same Ric Flair logic applies to the Twins and Sox. Plus, even Ric Flair tempered his “woo!” a little bit when he merely beat up some jobber, and the Mariners are the baseball equivalent of George South.

8. Braves (5): They’ve been driving me nuts lately, stranding runners, making defensive miscues. Thank goodness the Mets come to town for three starting tonight. Of course, the way things have been going lately it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if Atlanta dropped two of three. There’s still a lot of 2006-09 in this team.
 
9. Phillies (11): At some point injuries become too much to overcome, no? How can a team lose Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco and Jimmy Rollins for stretches this year and still win it? If the Phillies do, Charlie Manuel has to win manager of the year, doesn’t he?

10. Red Sox (13): In a stretch of 17 days without a day off. This after coming back from a west coast road trip that felt like it lasted three weeks. Is it just me, or has the Red Sox’ season been really, really tiring?

11. Cardinals (7): I was confused by the Ludwick trade, and overall viewed it as a sideways kind of move for St. Louis that probably won’t make too much of a difference either way. I went on St. Louis radio this morning, however, and the coverage felt a lot like the stuff you hear after a national tragedy or a natural disaster occurs. It’s like everyone in Cardinals Nation (or whatever they are) is talking to everyone else in reassuring tones because, if they don’t, everyone will break down and bawl. To which I say: dudes: it’s just Ryan Ludwick.

12. Reds (9): A lot of nothin’ at the deadline, but calling up Aroldis Chapman to help the pen may trump the move St. Louis made.

13. Blue Jays (17): Big falloff from 12 to 13 this week. Basically, every team around 50-55 losses has been stinking lately. Not so bad that I’m going to elevate someone like the Astros above them, but between here and the true dreck at the bottom of the list, the specific order is rather meaningless. The Blue Jays have won six of ten, though, so I guess they’re the class of the 50-losers at the moment.

14. Rockies (15): I said the NL West is a two-team race. I suppose if the Rockies can take both games from an odd-for-this-time-of-year two game series with the Giants this week they can start working their way back into the conversation.

15. Athletics (16): Yeah, I know they’re behind the Angels, but Ric Flair rules don’t apply to battles for second place, jack! Woo!

16. Angels (20): Two of three from the Rangers is nice, but there’s still a great big chasm between those two teams.

17. Tigers (14): Amazingly, the acquisition of Jhonny Peralta hasn’t catapulted the Tigers back into the AL Central race.

18. Dodgers (12): No matter what has happened on the field this past week, it’s a sad, sad comment on the state of the Dodgers that a team with all of their financial potential is making little ticky-tack deals in which they’re getting money from teams like the Pirates rather than taking on salary and making bold moves in order to close the gap between themselves and the teams they’re pursuing. Teams that, had they been managed like the mega-market team that they are, they probably wouldn’t be pursuing in the first place.

19. Marlins (19): Dan Uggla became the Marlins all-time home run champ over the weekend, passing Mike Lowell. If Jeff Loria was smart he’d trade for Lowell right now and let them finish this thing off, Thunderdome-Style.

20. Mets (18): I’m listening to “Rust Never Sleeps” as I type this, and the narrator from “Powederfinger” seems less doomed than Jerry Manuel right now.

21. Brewers (21): Signing Corey Hart to an extension is the move of a general manager who doesn’t think a ton needs to happen to his team in order to be successful in 2011. The Brewers’ performance against the Astros this weekend made them look like a team who will not be successful until my kids are in college.

22. Nationals (25): They took the piss out of both the Phillies and the Braves in the last week and they held on to Adam Dunn.  That last bit may or may not have been the right move, but Nats fans have to feel pretty good about the past week, all things considered. Well, not the part in which the franchise pitcher goes on the DL, but the other stuff is nice.

23. Cubs (22): I like Ted Lilly trade more than I probably should, probably because I like Blake DeWitt more than I probably should.

24. Astros (26): A nice little run after losing Oswalt and Berkman. Of course like the man sang: funny how fallin’ feels like flyin’ for a little while.  Reality of the gutting of this team will set in soon enough. As it should, because that’s what rebuilding is all about.  Just too bad it took the Astros this long to figure it out.

25. Royals (24): Ned Yost’s contract extension and the unloading of Ankiel and Farnsworth are both the kinds of moves that smart franchises in the Royals’ current state make.

26. Indians (23): The Indians sending money to the Yankees along with Kerry Wood is not too far behind “The Decision” in recent Cleveland sports atrocities. If I was running the Tribe I would have kept Wood out of spite and issued a press release — in Comic Sans font — decrying the chutzpah of Brian Cashman for asking for cash in the deal.

27. Diamondbacks (28): They should probably be bumped up a few spots for dumping Edwin Jackson on the White Sox, but the Nationals probably deserve an assist for that one, what with the deke-job they pulled on Kenny Williams.

Last: Orioles (30), Pirates (29), Mariners (27): The convention for ties in rankings such as these is to give all teams the same number that would appear next, which in this case would be 28. I can’t rate any of them that high, however, because they’re all just playing awful and uninspired baseball. The Mariners look like they’re trying to get someone fired. The Pirates are sending money to the Los Angeles Dod
gers in deals. The Oiroles a
re, well, the Orioles.  They all get a “last” in my book.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Thursday’s action

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 16: Starting pitcher J.A. Happ #33 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers a pitch in the seventh inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on June 16, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
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Did you know J.A. Happ is in the thick of the American League Cy Young Award race? Of all the contenders, he may be the biggest surprise, even ahead of Drew Pomeranz. Happ leads the league with 17 wins and only has three losses to go with it. He’s holding a 3.05 ERA and a 133/44 K/BB ratio in 150 1/3 innings.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Happ was struggling to stay in a starting rotation. In 2011, his first full season with the Astros, he finished with a 5.35 ERA. In 2012, he put up a 4.79 ERA with the ‘stros and Blue Jays. The next year? 4.56 followed by 4.22, both with the Jays. Then, with the Mariners, he continued the mediocrity with a 4.64 ERA before he was traded to the Pirates.

Under the tutelage of Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage, Happ turned his career around. In 11 starts in Pittsburgh, the lefty had a microscopic 1.85 ERA. That came with significant improvements in his strikeout and walk rates. Even the ERA retrodictors like FIP and xFIP, which had so often agreed with his uninspiring ERA’s, agreed that he had thrown like an elite hurler. So that’s how we arrived at J.A. Happ, Cy Young Award contender.

Among AL starters, Happ is fifth-best in ERA behind Cole Hamels, Jose Quintana, Aaron Sanchez, and Steven Wright. However, his 17-3 record is equaled only by Rick Porcello. As there are still a significant number of voters in the Baseball Writers Association of America who consider won-lost record, Happ is sitting in a good position and will be even better if he can cross the coveted 20-win threshold. He’ll get a bit of a boost as well if he can help the Jays return to the postseason for a second consecutive season.

Happ’s Jays will host the hapless — and Happ-less — Angels on Thursday evening. He’ll take on veteran Jered Weaver in a 7:07 PM EDT start.

The rest of Thursday’s action…

Baltimore Orioles (Ubaldo Jimenez) @ Washington Nationals (Max Scherzer), 7:05 PM EDT

Kansas City Royals (Edinson Volquez) @ Miami Marlins (Tom Koehler), 7:10 PM EDT

New York Mets (Seth Lugo) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Adam Wainwright), 7:15 PM EDT

Cleveland Indians (Josh Tomlin) @ Texas Rangers (Cole Hamels), 8:05 PM EDT

Pittsburgh Pirates (Chad Kuhl) @ Milwaukee Brewers (Wily Peralta), 8:10 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (James Paxton) @ Chicago White Sox (Anthony Ranaudo), 8:10 PM EDT

Atlanta Braves (Matt Wisler) @ Arizona Diamondbacks (Robbie Ray), 9:40 PM EDT

San Francisco Giants (Matt Moore) @ Los Angeles Dodgers (Ross Stripling), 10:10 PM EDT

Let’s play the “how long has it been since the Cubs won the World Series?” game!

1908 Cubs
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It started with a no-good St. Louis Cardinals fan being a troublemaker. That no-good Cardinals fan was Drew Silva, who began things innocently enough, noting that, despite their dominance this season, any team can theoretically beat the Chicago Cubs in a short series because that’s just how baseball goes:

Cubs fans started giving him guff for that, so Drew gave some back:

And with that it was on like Donkey Kong (a super old video game which was not invented for another 73 years after the Cubs last won the World Series). I tweeted this:

And with that, my followers went crazy. Here’s a sampling of some of the best ones:

And, for that matter . . .

Too soon. Unlike the last Cubs World Series title.

Like I said, this was just a sampling. I’ve retweeted a ton more on my timeline and those I didn’t retweet can be seen in the replies here. My favorite one may have been “literally the invention of sliced bread,” which debuted in 1912, but I can’t find that tweet.

Please, Cubs fans, have a sense of humor about this. You have a wonderful ballpark that is not named after a third tier mortgage company, a grand history that is fantastic even if it hasn’t featured any championships and a future that is as bright or brighter than any other team out there. Maybe even come up with some of your own in the comments! History is fun! As is self-deprecation! What I’m saying is don’t be salty about this sort of thing. Salty is a bad look.

In other news, the Morton Salt Company was incorporated in 1910, two years after the Cubs last World Series victory.