And That Happened: Tuesday's scores and highlights

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Nationals 4, Mets 0: Not to take too much away from John Lannan
(CG, SHO, 7 H, 1K 0 BB), but David Wright was the only player in the
Mets’ lineup who has any business starting for a Major League team, let
alone one that still pretends that it’s contending.

Indians 2, Blue Jays 1: Cliff Lee’s starts are beginning to take on the air of street sale rather than a baseball game:

Live from 47th Street between Broadway and 6th Avenue-you can’t miss
it!-it’s SABRA PRICE IS RIGHT! Alright so let’s go with the game then.
Here is the host, URI SHURINSON!

Uri: Alright-alright-alright! Good-good-good! Yes-yes,
welcome-welcome to Sabra Price Is Right! I am Uri! Okay so we show you
beautiful merchandise; and you people, you guess price. So okay let’s
look at first merchandise!

[Shot: 30 year-old lefthander]

Harvey: Alright is Cliff Lee! Is pitcher from Cleveland. Is good! (CG, 7 H, 1 ER, 4 K 0 BB)

Uri: Okay-okay now who can tell me the correct price for the Cliff Lee?

Brewers 2, Pirates 0: Milwaukee blanks the Pirates. And Braden Looper beaned five guys because Kevin Young hit a homer off of Doug Jones back in May of 1998. Maybe you think that’s extreme, but that’s just how the Brew Crew rolls.

Angels 8, Royals 5: You’re not going to believe this, but Sidney
Ponson got rocked (5 IP, 8 H, 6 ER). Jose Guillen drove in two. It’s
amazing what you can do when you take ownership over your problems.

Yankees 6, Orioles 4: Neyer yesterday:

The Yankees are probably good enough to get into the playoffs with
Sergio Mitre in their rotation … but is it really worth the risk? And
I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe it must take a month to get Hughes
conditioned for 100 pitches. Anyway, why is that the threshold for
acceptability? How many times do the Yankees think that Mitre’s going
to last for 100 pitches?

Last night’s results: 91 pitches, even when pitching with a four-run
lead. It’s great that he won and everything, but is there any doubt
that Phil Hughes could do at least that and maybe save the bullpen some
innings?

Braves 8, Giants 1: It’s amazing what ridding your lineup of
automatic outs can do. With Jordan Schafer, Kelly Johnson and Jeff
Francoeur gone, the Braves have been on an offensive tear. In this one,
Martin Prado had three hits and scored three runs and Brian McCann hit
a three-run homer and drove in four. Now if only the Phillies would
lose a game . . .

Phillies 4, Cubs 1: Damn. Jayson Werth with a walkoff three-run homer in the bottom of the 13th.

Tigers 9, Mariners 7: Not a lot of pitching in this one, as
seven homers were hit, two by Jack Hannahan of the Ms and one grand
slam by Magglio Ordonez. Franklin Gutierrez slammed into the wall and
had to leave the game, but x-rays were negative. Which, strangely
enough, is a positive thing.

Rangers 4, Red Sox 2: Losing four of five out the gate in the
second half is probably not what the Sox had in mind, but that’s what
happens when you can’t figure out rookies with names like Tommy Hunter.
They should trade him to the Braves to team up with Hanson. Both
“Hunter & Hanson” and “Tommy and Tommy” sound like 1980s
action/adventure shows that I totally would have watched back then. It
would air right before “Riptide” and right after “The A-Team.”

Rays 3, White Sox 2: Bobby Jenks loaded the bases in the ninth
but got out of it on Monday night, but last night he wasn’t so lucky.
Coming in with a one run lead, Jenks allowed
single-HBP-single-walk-sacrifice-hit-walk before getting out of it.
Spoiled a nice Clayton Richard start too (8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 7K).

Astros 11, Cardinals 6: This has to have been Todd Wellemeyer’s
last start for the Cardinals, no? That one nice start against the
Giants back on July 2nd didn’t buy him a mile of rope, did it? Wandy
Rodriguez (7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER), Carlos Lee (grand slam) and Miguel Tejada
(2-3, 3 RBI) lead the charge for the Astros.

Angels 10, Royals 2: Erik Aybar was a beast in this
doubleheader, smacking seven hits between the two games. He’s also 24
for his last 43. Kansas City used nine pitchers in yesterday’s games.

Dodgers 12, Reds 3: I think the Homer Bailey experiment is
nearing its end as he has a 14.53 ERA over his past two starts and
isn’t fooling anyone. And I’d like to think that this Dusty Baker quote
was meant as a dig at Joe Torre, though it probably wasn’t: “You know
you’ve got a good lineup when your eighth hitter’s hitting
.320-something. I don’t know If I’ve seen that ever.” He’s referring to
Matt Kemp, of course, who has no business hitting eighth. Not that it’s
hurting the Dodgers at the moment or anything.

Twins 3, A’s 2: Runs were a bit more scarce in this one. And,
unlike yesterday, Mike Muchlinski called Michael Cuddyer safe when it
mattered, this time on his 10th inning RBI triple.

Marlins 3, Padres 2: I have absolutely nothing interesting to
say about this game, so I’ll just note that “Stripes” was on AMC last
night. It’s been years since I’ve seen it, and yes, it holds up. Lee
Harvey, you are a madman. When you stole that cow, and your friend
tried to make it with the cow. I want to party with you, cowboy. If the
two of us together, forget it.

Diamondbacks 6, Rockies 5: Same here, really. Sorry, I guess
last nights west coast games just aren’t speaking to me like Monday
night’s did. C’mon, it’s Czechoslovakia. We zip in, we pick ’em up, we
zip right out again. We’re not going to Moscow. It’s Czechoslovakia.
It’s like going into Wisconsin.

How The Players Union Got Into This Mess

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Earlier today, in the pitch clock post, I took some shots at the Players Union and its priorities. Earlier this afternoon I tweeted something about how, for all practical purposes, the luxury tax is a salary cap, with the implication that the union had, through either negligence or obliviousness, allowed the owners to impose the sort of payroll restrictions that past union leadership and membership had fought against, tooth and nail. The same can be said for other things depressing the free agency market like qualifying offers.

In the wake of those sentiments, voiced both today and in the past, people have asked me whether I think the union can or will do anything to push back in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. Whether I think they’ll snap back to the footing they had in the 1980s and 1990s when they didn’t allow themselves to get outflanked on both the bedrock pocketbook issues in the game and on the smaller stuff, like the pitch clock. My gut answer: I doubt that the union can do so. At least not quickly.

First off, it’s worth pointing out that the owners beating the players in the last few CBA negotiations is not due to some sudden change in tactics or some stroke of strategic genius. It’s been gradual, with a couple of factors at work.

One factor is that, over the past several CBAs — going back to back to 2002 or so — conditions have been pretty darn good. Money has been flowing into the game and the attendant labor peace has been nice an pleasant. No one wants to spend all of their time on a war footing, and with general financial prosperity prevailing, the vigilance of the union and its membership on bedrock pocketbook issues has understandably waned.

At the same time, the owners have gotten a lot more sophisticated in the way they’ve advanced their agenda. They used to try to do pretty dramatic things in one fell swoop, such as their efforts to implement a salary cap in the mid-90s or their over-the-top threats of contracting teams in the early 2000s. The collusion on the late 1980s was some pretty amateur-level and obvious Bond villain stuff too. All of those things caused the MLBPA to go to Defcon 1, unite and fight. The owners stopped doing that stuff in the 2000s, coincidentally or not, around the time Rob Manfred’s star rose as baseball’s chief negotiator. He’s a smart dude and he and the rest of baseball’s top brass have worked incrementally and subtly to chip away at the players’ share of baseball’s bounty.

As the players have, in the aggregate, and certainly at the top of the scale, grown richer, and as the threats presented by the owners have appeared to be less existential, they’ve lowered their defenses. Part of the lowering of defenses is that they’ve moved away from wartime consiglieres, as it were. Marvin Miller and Don Fehr were blunt instruments. The sorts of blunt instruments you need when your very existence is on the line. When wars end, however, blunt instruments aren’t always welcome. As it is, one wonders how players relate, on a day-to-day basis, to a labor lawyers who are wired like those guys were wired. When you get the sense that, maybe, you don’t really need blunt instruments like them, you look to someone like Tony Clark.

I like Tony Clark. I’ve spoken with him a couple of times and interviewed him once and came away with a good feeling about him. I know some people who know him better and who have worked with him and, obviously, I’ve read a lot about him. He’s an impressive man and you can see what the players see in him. He’s smart and he has a presence and a charisma about him. You’d leave your kids with him or trust him to watch over your business affairs if need be.

I suspect — based on what I’ve read about and observed from players over the years — that they liked Tony Clark ascending to the role because he can relate to them. He was a player. He spoke their language. While Don Fehr may have been who the players needed on that wall when the enemy attacked, Clark knows, way better, how the less life-or-death issues facing membership cut. Fehr will fight about financial matters which a lot of players may only understand on a superficial level. Clark makes players feel like one of their own is watching their back when it comes to stuff like days off during the season and how many bus trips veterans have to take during spring training or whatever.

There is not necessarily anything wrong with this. While I and some other looney lefties of the baseball writing world get pretty worked up about how the luxury tax operates or how qualifying offers impact a given free agent, it’s not our union. It’s the players’ union. If their priorities change with changing times, those are the priorities that the union has to address. If players are happy making the money they make, it is not our place to say that they shouldn’t give a crap about the more day-to-day issues about which Tony Clark may have more expertise and about which he can best speak with both union members and ownership.

The problem comes if and when the players do decide that the pendulum has swung too far in the owners’ favor on those big financial issues. How do you suddenly change tactics and fight back when you don’t have a blunt instrument at your disposal?

Ultimately, the players have a nuclear option: to strike. Or, at the very least, to pose a credible threat to strike. They have a seat at the table and are a part of every CBA negotiation, but striking or credibly threatening to strike is their ultimate card to play. It’s not a pleasant option. It turns the players into villains in the eyes of fans and the press, costs them money and keeps them from doing their favorite thing in the world, which is, duh, playing baseball. But that’s the power they have, and both using that power and threatening credibly to use that power has proved to be pretty dang effective for them over the years.

To pose a credible threat to strike, the union has to present a unified front. There has to be solidarity among membership with all of them, whether they relish the prospect of fighting with ownership or not, being willing to do so if certain pre-determined lines are crossed. It takes a LOT of work to create that level of solidarity and to forge that unified front. Marvin Miller worked his tail off for years, tirelessly and far-from-glamorously, to get all of the players on the same page — to get them willing to fight that nuclear war if necessary — before he could do the stuff he did in the 1970s and early 80s which made the MLBPA what it eventually became.

People who criticize Tony Clark say that he’s not a good union head because he’s not a labor lawyer and can’t fight like labor lawyers can fight. I get what they’re saying, but I don’t think that’s the real issue. Clark and the MLBPA have a lot of labor lawyers on the payroll, and all of them can fight with the best of them. What they cannot do is go into a fight without that nuclear missile in their back pocket. Without the solidarity of union membership and without that unified front that will, if need be, strike or make a credible threat to strike, those labor lawyers are fighting without ammunition. If the players decide to do something about the luxury tax or qualifying offers or anything else that fundamentally alters the financial agreements between players and owners, it’ll be a pretty major change of course for them. It’ll mean disrupting the (owner-friendly) consensus that has formed on these issues over the past 15 years. It’s going to take a big fight. And winning that fight is going to require that the union have its strongest weapon available.

Nothing I’ve seen from the Tony Clark suggests to me that he could immediately and effectively muster that sort of consensus and solidarity. Rather than push the players into positions that, however uncomfortable for them, may benefit them in the long run, Clark has listened to the players and worked to help them get what they want now. Which, as I said before, is totally fine, as a union head needs to listen to membership as much as he leads. He works for the players and they have not, recently, shown much in the way of urgency when it comes to stuff like the luxury tax or qualifying offers.

To get to a place where they can fight back effectively on those issues will require changing the overall mindset of union membership, and that’s going to take a lot of work. It’s going to take educating team union reps who, in turn, persuade their teammates of the importance of the issues. It’s going to take players who may not personally benefit from a change to the current rules — studs who will get paid regardless and journeyman for whom a qualifying offer would represent a life-changing payday — to be on the same page and work for a common cause. At the end of that process, everyone will have to agree that, if they can’t get what they want, they’ll threaten to strike. If they half-ass any of that work, ownership will see right through them and won’t take them seriously.

I have a lot of respect for Tony Clark, but nothing I’ve seen since he’s taken over as the Executive Director of the MLBPA suggests to me that he can do that in the next three years or so before the next CBA is to be negotiated. I suspect it will take a blunter instrument. Until he can show that he can be that blunt instrument or until the players decide to hire someone who can, the status quo is going to persist.