And That Happened: Thursday's scores and highlights

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Astros 7, Padres 2;
Look, between my two bloggy spaces and the water cooler at work I have
probably talked about Manny Ramirez more than anyone in the past couple
of weeks. And I’ll admit, my reasons for bringing him up are often
tenuous at best. But nothing I’ve written about the guy is as tenuous
as this bit from the game story, describing how a swarm of bees
descended on Petco Park in the ninth inning: “The bees arrived more
than 24 hours before Manny Ramirez makes his comeback from a 50-game
suspension for violating baseball’s drug policy, when the Los Angeles
Dodgers open a three-game series against San Diego on Friday night.”
Did anyone get Manny’s comment on the bees? Where does Plaschke stand
on all of this? I WANT TO KNOW, DAMMIT!

Mets 9, Pirates 8:
In town for a makeup game, the Mets overcome Tim Redding getting
shelled (2.1 IP, 6 H, 5 ER), and then overcome K-Rod blowing the save
in the ninth (though he did vulture the win). Jerry Manuel: “We could
have just said, `Let’s pack up and head to Philly, it’s a short flight,
let’s get this out of the way.'” “They chose to fight and I thought
that was what was most impressive.” I don’t much like Jerry Manuel so I
appreciate that maybe I’m being too hard on him here, but really, could
your team have chosen to just pack it in, Jerry? Is that a potential
option in the current Mets universe such that their choice not to do so
is laudable?

Reds 3, Diamondbacks 2:
Joey Votto was the hero, going 4 for 6 and hitting the game winning
single in the 10th. The Dbacks have lost ten of twelve. They dead? Yep, they’re dead.

Cardinals 5, Giants 2:
Are we sure this was only a four game series? It feels like they’ve
been playing for two solid weeks. Anyway, Todd Wellemeyer offers a bit
of an F.U. to everyone in St. Louis who has been screaming for him to
be sent down or disappeared or shot or whatever (7.1 IP, 7 H, 2 ER,
6K). A couple of RBI for Ryan Ludwick who, according to Rick Sutcliffe
on Wednesday, needs to start hitting before Albert Pujols can expect to
start seeing anything to hit. It was a moderately useful insight the
first seven times he made it, but it declined in utility over the next
dozen or so times it was repeated.

Braves 5, Phillies 2:
The Bravos sweep the phirst place Phils, bringing them within two games
of first themselves. Or, put differently, making them three games more
likely to do some stupid deal to try and contend this year instead of
loading for bear in 2010. My view of things is that if they can contend
with what they have, wonderful, I’ll enjoy it. But any deal apart from
unloading Jeff Francoeur is probably a bad move. As for this game,
someone better check Bobby Cox for banned stimulants. He used 18
players in this one, and I don’t think he’s done that since Clinton’s
first term.

Mariners 8, Yankees 4:
Ichiro, Branyan and Chris Woodward of all people join in the Mariner
hit parade, ending the Yanks’ seven game winning streak.

Cubs 9, Brewers 5:
Derek Lee bangs in seven runs on a three run homer and a grand slam, as
the Cubs shell Greenbrier East alum Seth McClung. Stupid Greenbrier
East. Woodrow owns you, Spartans! Hells yeah!

Angels 5, Orioles 2:
Bobby Abreu flashes back several years and shows that yes, he is
capable of hitting home runs. Two actually. Meanwhile, John Lackey
flashes back to the non-2009 portions of his career to show that he can
still pitch like an ace (8 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 7K). Nothin’ much doin’ for
Baltimore outside of a Luke Scott home run. Game story: “Orioles’ 3B Ty
Wigginton replaced Melvin Mora in the lineup. Mora asked for the night
off after the trip to the West Coast.” OK. For what it’s worth, even my
old man sucks it up and plays through jet lag when he visits my brother
in San Diego, and he’s 65 and flies coach. What, Mora couldn’t have
gotten a few winks on the plane?

White Sox 4, Royals 1:
Bruce Chen? Really? In the same season the Royals ran Horacio Ramirez
out there? What, was Terrell Wade not available? Jung Bong won’t return
your calls, Dayton? Aw, don’t look at me like that, whaddaya gonna do,
ban me or someth—-

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.