And That Happened: Thursday scores and recaps

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Braves 7, Reds 0: Tommy Hanson shuts out the Reds over six
innings. Not that he was brilliant or anything. He threw a lot of
pitches, got into jams and all of the kind of stuff you see young kids
do. But it’s all good, because even when he’s been getting lit up like
a pinball machine, he has continued to play this game with fear and
ignorance. No wait, arrogance.

Padres 4, Mariners 3: The Padres jump on Adrian Gonzalez’s back
(4-4, 2B, HR, 2 RBI) and finally win an interleague game. Don Wakamatsu
on pitching to Gonzalez: “He ends up hitting a home run and a double
when we are trying to pitch around him. That is the most frustrating
part.” Chris Jakubauskas on pitching to Gonzalez: “I wasn’t trying to
pitch around him.” OK, someone’s lying and no one is leaving this room
until we find out who it is.

Rockies 4, Rays 3: Jim Tracy on Ubaldo Jiminez: “Ubaldo is a guy
who is beginning to find his niche. I still believe there’s still
another step on the ladder that he aspires to take and that is to
become a bona fide ace-stopper type starting pitcher in the Rockies
rotation.” That was his real postgame quote? It sounds like a book
blurb or a marketing statement or something. I think the “in the
Rockies’ rotation” is what sealed it. It just sounds weird. Does Tracy
really talk like that?

Astros 5, Rangers 3: I was trying to make a funny yesterday when
I said that the loser of this series wins the State of Texas. I guess
it wasn’t too funny, though, because someone emailed me to tell me that
I was being both ignorant and disrespectful. That’s nothing new, but at
least the emailer educated me a bit. The winner of this series wins “The Silver Boot.”
It’s a a 30-inch tall, size-15 cowboy boot cast in silver, complete
with a custom, hand-made spur. How very college football of them. I
wonder if the Rangers, who once again won the Silver Boot, came running
out of the dugout after the game, grabbed the boot and started whooping
it up like Wisconsin does with that axe after they beat Minnesota and vice-versa.

Tigers 6, Cardinals 3: Magglio rode the pine, and will continue to do so “indefinitely” according to Jim Leyland.
His replacement, Ryan Rayburn, was 0-3 and struck out twice. Game
story: “Albert Pujols grounded out as a pinch hitter for hot-hitting
rookie Colby Rasmus in the seventh and played first base the rest of
the game and flied out in the ninth. La Russa wanted to get him a day
off, plus he has a sore ankle.” Two at bats and a couple of innings in
the field doesn’t sound like much of a day off to me, but then again,
I’m not a genius like Tony La Russa.

Twins 5, Pirates 1: Nick Blackburn (CG, 6 H, 1 ER) was the man,
as he basically has been in the Twins rotation all year. After the
game, pitching coach Rick Anderson said “He’s basically been the
stabilizer.” So, is Blackburn’s new nickname “gelatin” or
“carrageenan?” That’s a little food additive humor for ya. Additives —
NOT preservatives.

Nationals 3, Yankees 0: A five and a half hour rain delay?
Really? Waiting around for this game to start lasted longer than the
travel and suit-up time a makeup game would have taken. This is fun too
“about 10,000 people were sprinkled around the ballpark for the first
pitch. When the Yankees announced fans could move down, there was a
stampede toward the $2,625 seats in the front row. By the end, the
upper deck and bleachers were virtually empty.” Part of me hopes that
the peasants ransacked the manor houses while their owners were away.

Blue Jays 8, Phillies 7: Rod Barajas hits the game winning home
run in the ninth. Apparently Barajas is hated in Philly despite having
played there for only one season and despite being Rod Barajas. Anyone
care to educate me as to the reason for the ire? Because from where I’m
sitting, this is the equivalent of Braves fans hating Paul Bako or
Charlie O’Brien or someone. How can the response to a guy like Barajas
— who played all of 48 games for the Phillies — be anything other
than slightly peeved indifference?

Orioles 5, Mets 4: Francisco Rodriguez and his tired act came
into the game to lock things down in the ninth, except they didn’t get
locked down. Matt Wieters doubled to kick things off. Dave Trembley
then sent in a pinch runner for him, and was amazingly allowed to live.
The pinch runner scored, so maybe it was all willed by Wieters that way
to begin with. In any event, an Adam Jones bases-loaded walk followed
by an Aubrey Huff liner ended the proceedings.

Cubs 6, White Sox 5: A wild come from behind win by the Cubbies.
Down 5-1 in the eighth, Derek Lee hit a three-run homer followed by a
solo shot from Geovany Soto to tie things up. In the ninth it was
Alfonso Soriano with an RBI single. If he didn’t get that, I wouldn’t
have been surprised to see Piniella give him the Magglio Ordonez
treatment.

Marlins 2, Red Sox 1: They called this one early due to rain.
Because it was the Red Sox, however, the game still took three hours
and twenty-six minutes.

Diamondbacks 12, Royals 5: After two great starts following his
second callup, Luke Hochevar reverted to May form, giving up seven runs
on nine hits in four innings. Danny Haren, meanwhile, held the Royals
to two runs on seven hits, struck out six and didn’t issue a walk in
seven innings.

Dodgers 3, A’s 2: Randy Wolf pitched well but got another
no-decision. Pfun Pfact: Vin Mazzaro is the first A’s pitcher with two
sacrifices in one game since Ken Holtzman on Aug. 27, 1972. I hate the
DH.

Indians sign reliever Tommy Hunter to $2 million deal

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Tommy Hunter throws to the Miami Marlins during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Miami, Friday, May 22, 2015. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
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Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that right-hander Tommy Hunter has agreed to a one-year, $2 million contract with the Indians. It’s a major-league deal, so Hunter gets a spot on the 40-man roster and will be in the Opening Day bullpen if he’s fully recovered from core muscle surgery.

Hunter split last season between the Orioles and Cubs, totaling 60 innings with a 4.18 ERA and 47/14 K/BB ratio. He had a sub-3.00 ERA in both 2013 and 2014, and has generally been a setup-caliber reliever since shifting to the bullpen full time.

He has good control and a mid-90s fastball, but Hunter has never missed many bats despite the big-time velocity and often struggles to keep the ball in the ballpark. He’ll likely fill a middle relief role in Cleveland initially.

“YER OUT!” Jenrry Mejia permanently suspended for a third positive PED test

Jenrry Mejia
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You knew someone would be dumb enough to do this eventually, you just didn’t know who. Now we do: MLB just announced that reliever Jenrry Mejia has been permanently suspended after testing positive for Boldenone. That was his third positive test and under the Joint Drug Agreement that means his career is more or less over.

Mejia’s three strikes came in pretty rapid succession. On April 11, 2015 it was announced that Mejía had been suspended for 80 games after testing positive for use of stanozolol. On July 28, 2015 it was announced that Mejia had failed a test for Stanozolol again and Boldenone to boot, giving him a 162-game suspension, which he’d still be serving at the beggining of the season. Now this third test.

Mejia has played five seasons in the big. He started with so much promise, looking like a great prospect coming up. His performance only matched the promise in fits and starts, however, resulting in a 9-14 record with a 3.68 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 162/76 in 183.1 innings, all with the Mets.

Per the rules of the Joint Drug Agreement, Mejia can apply for reinstatement after being banned for two years. But it would obviously require him to spend two years doing a lot of smart things he hasn’t been doing in the past year. And it would also represent a near-unprecedented comeback. It could happen, I suppose, but it’s a far safer bet that his career is over.

I’m going to break it to you: some teams will stink this year. Like every year.

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There’s an AP story out today talking about how — brace yourself — some teams are going to be bad this year. It’s true. There are some teams, such as Atlanta, Philly, Colorado, Cincinnati and probably Milwaukee who seem certain to lose a lot of games.  The article’s author notes that, while a lot of money was spent in free agency this winter, not everyone was spending. He says “for some clubs, 2016 is basically over before it starts when it comes to contending.”

That sort of framing sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it? Isn’t it exactly the sort of thing we heard back in the early 2000s when people were still stumping for salary caps? Boston and New York were outspending everyone, the low money teams couldn’t keep up and, as spring training dawned, the season was over before it even began for half the league at least. There were scads of articles like that written 10-15 years ago. Bud Selig and others even used that exact construction — teams going to spring training already knowing they couldn’t compete — as points of rhetoric in the leadup to the 2002 labor battle with the players. Indeed, here’s the exact language from the 2000 Blue Ribbon economic report that Bud Selig commissioned which, by the way, should be read as a piece of labor propaganda, not as an actually useful or illuminative report:

What has made baseball’s recent seasons disturbing, and what makes its current economic structure untenable in the long run, is that, year after year, too many clubs know in spring training that they have no realistic prospect of reaching postseason play. Too many clubs in low-revenue markets can only expect to compete for postseason berths if ownership is willing to incur staggering operating losses to subsidize a competitive player payroll.

Different circumstances, obviously, but the same general bogeyman: some teams have no chance to compete!

Using that as the concern for whatever ails baseball has never made much sense to me as there will always be teams that are bad. Really, go look at any year’s league standings going back to the 19th century and there will be bad teams. It’s sort of the other side of the coin of good teams. Hard to have one without the other. And it’s probably a good thing to have some good and some and teams. Who wants a total crapshoot every year? What is this, Lake Woebegone, where every team is above .500? God, how boring.

The real issue is not that some teams will be good and some will be bad. It’s why they’ll be good and why they’ll be bad and whether the dynamic which creates good and bad teams is itself positive or negative for the game.

In the 40s and 50s, almost the entire American League knew that it had no chance to compete with the Yankees but they kind of liked that because they were making a lot of money not fielding competitive clubs. That was bad. In the late 1990s maybe some felt the same way too and it was because of no revenue sharing or incompetent management. Not great, and a lot of tweaks were made. Now a small handful of teams can’t compete because they’re doing wholesale rebuilds which some people call “tanking” and others think is not an issue.

As I recently wrote, to the extent people do think “tanking” is a problem, it’s important to (a) put it in perspective; and (b) look at the incentives teams have to tank and talk about whether they should be adjusted. As far as the perspective part goes, I’d say that only having five or six out of 30 teams with no realistic shot is actually pretty good compared to other points in baseball history. There’s a lot more parity now than there used to be. As far as the incentives: look at the dumb draft rules which were imposed to save owners a buck when it came to paying amateurs but which GREATLY increases the importance of picking high and thus losing.

The AP article touches on that, but it’s buried fairly deep down, well after the hand-wringing about teams entering spring training with no chance to win. As spring training progresses, there will likely be a lot of talk of just how bad some of these rebuilding teams will be as well. Most of that analysis will stop at the current state of the team and the hopelessness the fan bases are supposed to be feeling.

As a critically-minded fan, don’t let it stop there. If your team stinks, think about why it does and why it’s pursuing the course it is. Twenty years ago you could probably be safe in saying “well, my team’s GM is dumb and the owner is cheap.” That’s not really the case for most teams now. Now, I think, it’s far more about the incentives in play which make putting a lousy product on the field in the short term preferable to not doing so. Call it tanking, call it whatever you want, but if this is concern for you — and if this is a problem for Major League Baseball — the focus needs to be on the incentives.  Not on the fact that some teams are going to stink. Because teams will always stink. The important question is why.

Marlins sign left-hander Craig Breslow

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After spending the past four seasons in the Red Sox’s bullpen left-hander Craig Breslow has signed with the Marlins on a minor-league deal.

Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports that the contract comes with an invitation to spring training and will pay $1.5 million if Breslow makes the Opening Day roster.

Brewslow has struggled in back-to-back seasons, posting a 5.96 ERA in 2014 and a 4.15 ERA last year. At age 35 he’s not a great bet to bounce back in a huge way, but Breslow posted a 1.81 ERA as recently as 2013 and is certainly still capable of being a useful middle reliever.