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.

Braves promote Alex Anthopoulos, extend Brian Snitker

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The Atlanta Braves announced this morning that they have promoted general manager Alex Anthopoulos to President, Baseball Operations and General Manager and have extended his contract through 2024. They have likewise extended the contracts of manager Brian Snitker and his coaching staff through the 2021 season.

Anthopoulos’ promotion will not likely change his duties very much, as it’s become increasingly common for top baseball operations executives to be given the title of “president” as opposed to “GM.” Part of this is some expansion of the role of said executives. Some of it is simple title inflation. Some of it is to prevent other teams from being able to interview and potentially poach top executives without permission under the guise of promotion.

Anthopoulos was hired following the 2017 season, replacing former GM John Coppolella, who resigned and was subsequently permanently banned from baseball following his involvement in a scandal in which he breached rules in connection with signings of international players and obstructed Major League Baseball’s investigation into it all. Before that Antopoulos served as the Blue Jays’ GM for seven years.

Snitker took over as interim manager when the Braves fired Fredi Gonzalez in the middle of the 2016 season. He and Coppolella did not get along and there were strong suggestions that he would never lose the interim tag, but he has been on far steadier ground since Anthopoulos took over. Winning helps, of course, and under the leadership of Anthopoulos and Snitker, the Braves have won the last two NL East titles, going 187-137 in the past two seasons.