The State of the Races

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AL EAST

The spread: Both the Yankees and Red Sox win, the New York stays ahead of Boston by two and a half.

The skinny: All of the rain + the lack of remaining days off + the financial imperative to play all 162 games despite the fact that most of them are fairly meaningless now = a lot of tired Yankees players.

AL CENTRAL

The spread: The Tigers pound Cleveland, the White Sox win. The Tigers are eight ahead of Chicago, eight and a half ahead of Cleveland.

The skinny: Quite the destruction of the Indians.  My favorite take on their season so far comes from the Twitter feed of “Tripping Olney,” which is exactly what it sounds like: “I REPEAT: THE 2011 INDIANS SEASON IS BASICALLY “MAJOR LEAGUE” IN REVERSE.”  In just a couple of weeks Manny Acta can go back to selling that guy some whitewalls.

AL WEST

The spread: Rangers win, Halos lose, Texas’ lead is back to three and a half.

The skinny: Nelson Cruz is starting to ramp up from his hamstring injury and could be back soon.

NL EAST

The spread: The Phillies beat the Braves and are now nine and a half up on the Braves.

The skinny: The Braves bats are sleeping and two of the starters who led them to where they are over the first half of the season — Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson are hurt and/or ineffective.  Momentum from months past will carry them into the playoffs, but what will carry them through?

NL CENTRAL

The spread: Cards beat the Brewers and reduce the deficit to nine games.

The skinny: Too bad the Cardinals didn’t realize that Kyle Lohse on eight days rest was so deadly. They could have done that all year!

NL WEST

The spread: Diamondbacks lose, Giants win, and now six games separate them.

The skinny: The playoff probability column on the standings shows the Dbacks having the second worst odds of any division leader to actually make the playoffs. Their probability: 97.2%  That’s 2011 for ya, folks.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.