Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings: Playoffs edition

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This is not a predictions post, really. We’ll be doing previews of each of the first round series tomorrow and Wednesday. This is more of a snapshot of where the teams sit as we head into the madness that is playoff baseball. For example, I may have the Braves last, but I think they got a serious shot at taking down the Giants. We’ll save that for the previews. For now, just let my subjective judgments wash over you.

1. Phillies: I’m going to be on the “no one can beat Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels” train until someone beats them. No one has shown us that the big Russian can be cut yet.

2. Yankees: I know the Rays won the division. I really don’t care. A-Rod got healthy and hot at the right time. I refuse to believe that Rivera and Jeter and all of the rest won’t simply amp things up a bit now that the playoffs have started. Yes, they try to win every game, but if you asked Lance Armstrong if he felt winning those early sprints were important a few years ago he would have said yes too. Bull. He was saving it for the mountains. I think the Yankees are too, and I’d have a seriously difficult time betting on anyone else coming out of the AL.

3. Giants: In most years Lincecum-Cain-Sanchez would be called the big three of the playoffs. They suffer this year only by comparison. Their infield defense scares the crap out of me, though.

4. Rays: The best defense of any team in the playoffs, but can you depend on anyone in the rotation beyond David Price? I could see them mowing everyone down in the AL, or I can see them losing in the first round 3-1. How does it feel to have so much riding on Matt Garza, Rays fans?

5. Twins:  Say all you want about past playoff history between the Twins and the
Yankees not mattering as much as people say it should, but Minnesota is 18-54 against the Yankees since Ron Gardenhire took over the club and that’s hard to ignore.

6. Reds: The best offense in the NL, but so much of it came at the expense of a really weak NL Central. The thing I’m waiting to see in the first round more than anything else: close game, late innings, Aroldis Chapman coming in to face Utley and Howard.

7. Rangers: Texas was a combined 0-12 at Yankee Stadium, Target Field and Tropicana Field. That’s . . . troubling.

8. Braves: Bright side: Now that they’re in the playoffs they don’t need fourth and fifth starters, really, neutralizing a late-season weakness. Not so bright side: they still have to fill out their lineup card with two guys from the following group in every game: Melky Cabrera, Nate McLouth, Matt Diaz and Rick Ankiel. I’m approaching this like I approach my son’s soccer games: Hey everyone! Let’s just have some fun! There will be snacks afterward!

Giants closer Mark Melancon is heading to the disabled list once again

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The Giants have placed closer Mark Melancon on the 10-day disabled list with a right pronator strain.

This is the same injury that sent him to the disabled list last month. He came back from that quickly, but it can’t be great that this is happening again. You have to assume he’ll miss more time given the recurrence of trouble. He’s going to get an MRI too. Sam Dyson is expected to serve as the Giants’ closer while Melancon is sidelined.

Melancon has a 4.35 ERA and 11 saves in 22 appearances this year. He signed a four-year, $62 million deal with San Francisco last December.

The Cubs visited the White House. Again.

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Last January, the World Champion Chicago Cubs visited the White House. It was a bit unorthodox, as World Series winners typically wait until the following summer and make the trip during a road series in Washington or Baltimore.

They did it, however, because when the Cubs won the Series, then-President Obama asked the Cubs to visit before he left office. He’s a White Sox fan but a Chicago guy and said he was rooting for the Cubs. So the Cubs visited.

Today they’re back again. It’s been characterized as an “informal” visit. No suits and ties or big official photo-ops in front of the White House. It was even unclear until this afternoon if they’d even meet with President Trump. The visit was inspired in part by Maddon’s longtime friend, U.S. Congressman Lou Barletta, and partially by the Ricketts family’s ties to the Trump administration. The Ricketts are significant Republican donors and one of the Cubs’ co-owners, Todd Ricketts, is Trump’s deputy commerce secretary.

So to the White House the Cubs went. At least some of them. Many decided not to go for a number of reasons, ranging from “no-comment” to game preparation considerations (the visit just happened, much later in the day than usual White House visits). At least one vocal Trump supporter, Jake Arrieta, did not go. Another, John Lackey, did go, but declined to give any comment on it, expressing concern that his quote would be used for political purposes. I’ve yet to see anyone say they weren’t going specifically because they do not support Trump, though I presume some felt that way. The man isn’t exactly popular at the moment.

Nevertheless, the political overtones of all of this are hard to ignore. The Cubs already had their official White House visit, so a second one has to mean something, right? Teams don’t just get invited to the White House whenever they happen to be passing through town. Some of this is probably about the Trump administration smarting a bit over Obama swooping in for that visit in January. Some of it is probably about the Ricketts family either wanting to send the team for a non-Obama visit, to do a favor for Trump or some combination of those things.

Joe Maddon was defensive about it all yesterday, saying it wasn’t political. Trump obviously didn’t hear him as he used the time when the Cubs were standing next to him for photos to take questions about the health care legislation and slag on Obamacare:

Maybe Maddon and the Cubs wanted to keep out of politics, but politics makes no such agreement with anyone.