Roy Halladay, Carlos Ruiz

Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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The Phillies tightened their grip on the top spot by taking two of three from the Red Sox. What else that could have shifted the fundamental balance of power in the baseball universe went down in the last week?

As always, last week’s rankings are in parenthesis. Thought about going with those fancy-looking bracket things once — {  } — but I grew up in West Virginia, and that’s too hoity-toity for me.

1. Phillies (1): Two of three from the Sox, two of three from the Jays and now the chance to smack down both Florida and Atlanta before the break. Everything is coming up red pinstripes right now. Just imagine if they truly did have four aces as advertised before the season began.

2. Yankees (2): 14-4 without Jeter. And now he’s back. Let’s count the wins for the next 18 games, shall we?

3. Red Sox (3): The Astros showed up at just the right time. They cruise into the break with Toronto and Baltimore.

4. Braves (7): I actually want to be harder on my Braves than this — like I said last week, they are hard to take at times and seem to play worse than their record suggests — but they have both the fourth best record in baseball and the fourth best run-differential. The pitching remains fantastic and there are signs — small ones — that there could actually be some offense hanging around this team in the second half. Really, I looked, and I am having a hard time ranking anyone besides those top three ahead of them here.

5. Rays (5): A mezzo-mezzo week, but it came against some good competition in the Cardinals and Reds.

6. Giants (6): They have a half game up overall on the Rays, but their run differential is not as good and their own mezzo-mezzo week was against worse teams.

7. Indians (10): There is a very decent chance Cleveland finishes the first half in first place. I didn’t think that was possible even after they had been in first place for a while.  Query: how much does this tell us about the Indians and how much does this tell us about the AL Central as a whole?

8. Cardinals (12): I’d probably hate being a fan of a Cardinals division rival. Everything always seems to break right for them. Cy Young pitcher goes down? They find decent replacements. Outfield has holes? They stick Lance Berkman into the juvenation machine and, just as always seems to happen in St. Louis and hardly anyplace else, it works.  Albert Pujols goes down until sometime in mid-to-late August and … he ends up coming back a good month early.  NL Central foes have to think there’s a certain unfairness to this.

9. Brewers (4): Getting swept by the Yankees in New York is not the worst thing that has ever happened to a contender, but losing two of three to Minnesota is not cool.

10. Diamondbacks (9): Getting beat by Rich Harden, like they did on Friday, has to be the baseball equivalent of getting struck by lighting. I mean, you know that if lightning is on its game, it can totally lay you out. But you just figure the odds of ever meeting up with it are too damn low to worry about.

11. Rangers (11): I have them a notch ahead of the Angels, with whom they’re tied and against whom they’ve split six games this year. The reason? Eh, no good ones other than the cut-of-their jib and my sense that they’ll eventually pull away. But then again, I’ve been thinking they’d do that for a while now and they haven’t done it.

12. Angels (20): They were not impressed with either the new-look Nationals nor the bankrupt Dodgers last week.  A really strange and streaky team.

13. Tigers (8): Anyone remember the last team that fired a pitching coach mid-season and then saw a sudden and dramatic turnaround? I can’t. This seems like a deck chairs move.

14. Pirates (18): One and a half games out of first place. The Pittsburgh Pirates. Do you believe it?  A fun team to watch too. At least they would be if I wasn’t blacked out of watching Pirates games by MLB.tv for some damn reason. Middle of Ohio is supposed to be Pirates territory, Major League Baseball? Really?

15. Reds (14): Only two games back, but the Reds feel like the team that is wasting more of its potential than anyone this year.

16. Mets (17): If Joel Sherman’s report about the Mets offering Jose Reyes a big deal is true, will that be the biggest victory of the season for them?

17. Rockies (16): Crushed by the Royals yesterday and, as an added bonus, Carlos Gonzalez got wheeled off the field after crashing into a wall. Not a banner day.

18. Blue Jays (15): They dropped four of six to the Pirates and Phillies last week. I think they’re happy to be done with Pennsylvania for the year.

19. White Sox (19): For as bad as it has been in the first half, they are still only 3.5 out and head into the break with series against the totally hap-free Royals and Twins. See the above comment about the AL Central, which is pretty darn hapless as a whole itself.

20. Nationals (13): They’re 4-6 since Jim Rigglemen called it quitsies. I have this feeling they’d be around 4-6 no matter what happened, but Washington either taking off or falling off a cliff would certainly help us writers with our narratives, you know?

21. Mariners (21): Only 11 runs were scored in the entire M’s-Padres series over the weekend. But hey, nine of them were from the M’s, so that’s something.

22. Athletics (25): The bright spots of the season are (1) Gio Gonzalez taking great strides forward; (2) Jemile Weeks impressive debut; and (3) Firing the manager? Really, is there a third here that I’m missing?

23. Padres (23): See the Mariners’ comment above and reverse it.

24. Marlins (26): A 4-2 week. Seems like the ship has been righted. The mast is still broken and they’re out of emergency flares, but at least the ship has been righted.

25. Orioles (22): Zach Britton’s offensive numbers: 5 for 8, 2B, HR 2 RBI, 1.750 OPS.  Vlad Guerrero: .277/.307/.377.  Sample size, schmample size, let’s make Britton the DH!

26. Dodgers (24): The team went 2-4 and bankrupt. Frank McCourt is still in control and could be for a while.  Hey, at least there wasn’t a major earthquake or anything.

27. Twins (28): There has been more talk about a closer controversy on this team than I can recall for any sucky team in recent years. It’s like everyone up in Minnesota forgot that no one really cares when a sucky team’s closer situation isn’t solidified.

28. Cubs (29): They really don’t deserve to move up because I truly think they’re the second to the worst team in baseball overall, but let’s acknowledge that they had a better week than Kansas City and give them a little something other than misery and doom. Congrats: you’re 28th. Don’t get used to it.

29. Royals (27): A 1 -5 week, but it ends with a monster game by Eric Hosmer. Such is the essence of a team on a promising rebuild.

30. Astros (30): I’m guessing that, if there was a panel who voted on these Power Rankings rather than it just being me pulling them out of my keister,  Philly at number one and Houston at 30 would be the only unanimous choices.

Indians sign Brandon Guyer to a two-year extension

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Brandon Guyer #6 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates Rajai Davis #20 two-run home run during the eighth inning to tie the game 6-6 against the Chicago Cubs in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The Cleveland Indians and outfielder Brandon Guyer avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $5 million contract with a club option for 2019.

The Indians acquired Guyer from the Rays at last year’s trade deadline. After coming to Cleveland he posted a line of .333/.438/.469 in 38 games. He’s a .262/.349/.402 hitter over 344 games in five seasons in the bigs. He has led the league in being hit by pitches for the past two seasons, getting plunked 24 times in 2015 and 31 times in 2016. He went 6-for-18 with four walks and two HBPs in the playoffs for Cleveland. The man will work to get on base, my friends. And he can play all three outfield positions.

Nice signing.

Sarasota County to build the Braves a new spring training facility

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The Braves have trained at Walt Disney World for several years. The lease is up, however, and they’ve been on the hunt for a new facility for some time. Disney is just too geographically remote from most of the Grapefruit League facilities so they’ve looked on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts for some time.

Their search appears to be over, however, as they have reached an agreement to move to Sarasota:

The Atlanta Braves formally plan to move the team’s spring training home to North Port in 2019, the team and Sarasota County announced Tuesday afternoon.

The announcement set the stage for final negotiations this spring on a contract to bring the Major League Baseball team to a new complex in the West Villages district just south of West Villages Parkway and U.S. 41, near the State College of Florida campus in North Port.

It’ll be a $75-$80 million complex on 70 acres. The story says it’s envisioned to anchor a “town center” commercial and residential district. If anyone has ever been to a spring training facility, however, one knows how ridiculous such an idea is. There is nothing more geographically un-centered and dispersed than a spring training facility. It’s a sea of open fields which private citizens generally cannot access and large parking lots. These facilities typically require major arteries, not quaint town streets, for reasonable access. The best any facilities do to integrate with surrounding communities can be seen in Fort Myers with the Twins and in Surprise, Arizona with the Rangers and Royals, where the facilities are part of larger community parks and recreation centers. That’s OK, and certainly better than nothing, but they’re not the anchors of the vibrant live/work/shop developments like the Braves and Sarasota are describing here.

But of course everyone involved has to say that, because selling such facilities as the engine of pie-in-the-sky development is a key part of making the large expenditure of public funds seem more palatable. And yes, there will be a big expenditure of public funds here: the Braves will be getting $56 million in taxpayer subsidies for the new place, some from the state, some from the county. The amount from the county, by the way, is calculated to fall just below the threshold required for a public vote on the expenditure. The Braves have always been blessed with the ability to avoid public votes for their corporate welfare, of course.

One wonders how many other wealthy private businesses owned by multinational corporations get tens of millions in tax dollars to build employee training centers. Not many, I’m sure. The Braves always seem to luck out in this regard, however.