Daily Dose: Braun ruins Hanson's debut

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Tommy Hanson’s much-anticipated MLB debut was a bust Sunday as
Milwaukee got to the 22-year-old right-hander for seven runs, including
three homers. Ryan Braun took Hanson deep twice, as the NL’s top
pitching prospect discovered that big-league hitters can do plenty of
damage on 95-mph fastballs. Despite the poor outing, Hanson actually
looked impressive between the long balls.

He struck out five and walked one in six innings, regularly working
at 93-95 miles per hour with his fastball and throwing his breaking
ball for strikes quite a bit. His pitches also had far more movement
than most mid-90s fastballs, although that got Hanson into trouble a
few times when the ball sliced back over the plate. His debut obviously
didn’t go as planned, but Hanson remains an ace in waiting.

Prior to being called up he posted a 1.50 ERA and 90/17 K/BB ratio
in 66 innings at Triple-A, and Hanson had a 2.41 ERA and 163/53 K/BB
ratio over 138 innings between high Single-A and Double-A last season.
Put it together and he’s racked up 253 strikeouts while allowing just
125 hits over 204 innings since the start of 2008, with the only real
blemish being–as shown Sunday–a high fly-ball rate.

While the Brewers and Braun welcome Hanson to the show, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* San Diego and Arizona played a crazy game Sunday afternoon, as the
Padres forced extra innings by scoring five runs in the bottom of the
ninth only to see the Diamondbacks’ bullpen toss a no-hitter for nine
innings during extra frames. San Diego eventually turned to utility
infielder Josh Wilson to pitch the 18th and Mark Reynolds took him deep
for a three-run homer as Arizona prevailed 9-6.

Amusingly, Wilson pitched for Arizona in a blowout earlier this year
before being claimed off waivers by San Diego. “When he pitched for us
he threw all fastballs, so you figure he has some kind of wrinkle,”
Reynolds said. “He threw a curveball up there and I laid off some high
fastballs, and he left one out over the plate and I was able to barrel
it up.”

* Vince Mazzaro debuted last week with 6.1 shutout innings against
Chicago and followed that up by holding Baltimore scoreless for 7.1
innings Sunday. Mazzaro used some smoke and mirrors in his debut,
managing just one strikeout with four walks, but totaled five
strikeouts with zero walks Sunday. Despite his great start, I’m still
skeptical about his missing enough bats to be a mixed-league asset now.

* Ricky Nolasco rejoined the Marlins’ rotation Sunday after a brief
demotion to Triple-A and pitched well versus the Giants, allowing three
runs in seven innings. He earned the trip back to the minors by going
2-5 with a hideous 9.07 ERA over nine starts, but with a 37/13 K/BB
ratio he pitched much better than that and was hurt by some awful
defense behind him. That may not change, but he’ll be solid.

AL Quick Hits: Roy Halladay improved to 10-1 with his third
complete-game win of the season Sunday … J.D. Drew missed both weekend
games with a shoulder injury that required a cortisone shot … Miguel
Cabrera left Sunday’s game after aggravating his hamstring injury and
replacement Clete Thomas ended up hitting a game-winning grand slam …
Kevin Slowey served up three homers Sunday to snap his streak of five
straight Quality Starts … Nelson Cruz missed the cycle by a single
Sunday and is now tied for the AL lead with 17 homers … Rich Hill had
seven shutout innings in his last start, but failed to make it out of
the first inning Sunday while walking four … Marcus Thames (ribs) came
off the disabled list Sunday and should get regular starts … Evan
Longoria (hamstring) pinch-hit Sunday with a game-ending ground out off
Mariano Rivera.

NL Quick Hits: Chipper Jones went 4-for-4 with a pair of homers
Sunday, driving in five runs … Livan Hernandez shut out the Nationals
for seven innings Sunday and is now 5-1 with a 3.88 ERA after last
season’s 6.05 mark … Ubaldo Jimenez had eight innings of two-run ball
Sunday, whiffing nine and walking one … Casey Kotchman (shin) went on
the disabled list Sunday, leaving Martin Prado to start at first base …
Rich Harden (back) was scratched from Sunday’s rehab start due to a
stomach virus … Stephen Drew had four hits Sunday and has boosted his
batting average from .190 to .248 over the past 11 games … Tim Lincecum
took a one-hitter into the eighth inning Sunday before giving up two
runs … Andrew McCutchen notched three hits Sunday, making him 6-for-16
with four RBIs …Out since Wednesday with a strained hamstring, Willy
Taveras pinch-hit Sunday and then stayed in the game defensively.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

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Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.