And That Happened: Wednesday's scores and highlights

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Brewers 3, Cubs 2: Prince Fielder pads his stats with a homer
and a couple of RBI. It’s easy to forget in all of the Cub-drama that
Chicago is actually a few games ahead of Milwaukee in the standings.

Astros 3, Cardinals 0: And look! The Cubs are technically still
alive! If St. Louis just loses its last nine while the Cubs win their
remaining. . . er, well, let’s just never mind, shall we? According to
the game story, St. Louis “had 25 cases of champagne waiting in the
clubhouse, but the bottles will remain corked for at least another
day.” Twenty-five cases? They got, what, 38 guys on the roster
right now? Add in eight or ten coaches and trainers and such. This is a
road game, so figure that front office staff is light: the GM, an
assistant or two, random traveling secretary types. Being generous,
we’ll call it a complement of 60 people with the team, and then some
random media guys who don’t care if partying up with the team hurts
their credibility. Tops — absolute tops — you have 75 people that
could even hope to be shooting champagne over one another, though many
of these people would never touch a bottle in such a situation because,
really, it’s the players’ thing. Twenty-five cases of champagne makes
for 300 bottles. I love drinkin’ as much as the next guy, but ain’t
that overdoing it a bit? And that’s before the beer cans you always see
guys throwing into the celebratory shower. Oh, one more thing: The Cubs
play tomorrow and the Cardinals don’t, which means that they can clinch
on their day off if Chicago loses to San Francisco. What the hell
happens to those 300 bottles if they clinch while on a day off? Do soup
kitchens take booze?

Giants 5, Diamondbacks 2: Bruce Bochy: “We’re still breathing. There’s still hope.” Four games back.

Braves 5, Mets 2: The ghost ship that is the New York Mets
continues to drift aimlessly around the National League, its crew
having all but abandoned it, a lamentable calm having descended over
its decks. The Braves, like the Giants, sit four back of Colorado.

Tigers 11, Indians 3: Four RBI and two homers for Carlos Guillen keep the Tigers two and a half up on Minnesota.

Twins 8, White Sox 6: The lights went out in U.S. Cellular Field.
What’s worse, they hung my brother before I could say that the tracks
he saw while on his way to Andy’s house and back that night were mine.

Red Sox 9, Royals 2: Josh Beckett gave up 12 hits, but they weren’t as big as the ones Luke Hochevar gave up.

Marlins 7, Phillies 6: Brad Lidge in the playoffs is gonna be
something special to behold. Last year’s Mr. Automatic blows yet
another save, this one a one-run lead in the ninth. He was apparently
getting the calls too, because Fredi Gonzalez was ejected with two out
in the ninth for arguing balls and strikes. Lidge wouldn’t record
another one, however, and his legend continues to grow.

Rays 5, Mariners 4: B.J. Upton had three RBI and made a spiffy
catch to rob Bill Hall of extra bases to end the game. Game story:
“Seattle 1B Russell Branyan (back) took 35 swings off a tee.” Despite
this, his downswing is too steep, his swing path is too outside-in, and
his clubface is open. Mariners’ hitting coach Alan Cockrell is watching
him closely, but he’s still cutting across the ball and pull-slicing it.

Reds 12, Pirates 2: Homer Bailey is 4-1 with a 1.99 ERA over the
past month. It will be fun to see how many fantasy players key on this
strong finish to the season, declaring Bailey a sleeper, without
realizing that three of those wins came against Pittsburgh. And now,
Deep Thoughts, with your host, John Russell: “Obviously, when you don’t
score runs, it doesn’t look like you’re playing very good. That’s one
of the things that always looks bad — you don’t score and the other
team’s scoring a lot, then they look a whole lot better than you do.”

Blue Jays 7, Orioles 3: Thirty years ago this fall, the Orioles played the Pirates in the World Series. May as well have been a billion years ago.

Nationals 5, Dodgers 4: Andre Ethier dropped a fly ball in the
ninth, allowing the Nats to win the game. If they had won this one,
they would have clinched the west because . . .

Padres 6, Rockies 3: The Rockies lost in San Diego, who were powered by Will Venebale’s four RBI.

Yankees 3, Angels 2: The Angels struck out 15 times in this one.
Ian Kennedy loaded the bases and then slithered out of the jam in his
first work in over a year. The Yankees took two of three from their
potential ALCS foe.

Rangers 9, Athletics 8: Of all of the stuff that could be
mentioned about this game, this bit — the last thing in the little
notes section of the game story — is the most interesting: “The
Rangers stole four bases and moved past the Angels into second in the
AL with 143 steals.” I’ve said it many times this year, but this is not
your older brother’s Rangers team.

CC Sabathia won’t visit the White House if the Yankees win the World Series

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Over the past couple of days the subject of athlete activism, always present to some degree in American sports, but recently revived by Colin Kaepernick and a few other football players in the form of silent protests during the National Anthem, exploded into a headline dominating news story. Lighting the fuse: President Trump directly inserting himself into the controversy.

He did so during a speech on Friday night and during a series of tweets Saturday and continuing into this morning in which he urged NFL owners to “fire” or suspend players who do not stand for the national anthem. He also attempted to disinvite the NBA champion Golden State Warriors from their traditional White House visit because of their star player Stephen Curry’s public opposition to him, though Curry had already said he wouldn’t go.

As Ashley wrote last night, the silent anthem protests have now come to baseball, with A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell becoming the fist player to kneel during the National Anthem. Before that, at least one baseball executive, Orioles Vice President John P. Angelos, came out strongly on the side of players and against Trump. Joe Maddon said some less-than-enlightened words on the matter. Major League Baseball issued a statement on the matter. It was, not surprisingly, somewhat empty, taking something of a both-sides-have-good-points tack. It’s understandable, I suppose. I suspect Major League Baseball and its owners would prefer to not have to comment on this at all. The league does not do this sort of controversy well.

Ballplayers, however, will likely continue to speak up. The latest: Yankees starter CC Sabathia, who was asked yesterday whether he would visit the White House if the playoff-bound Yankees won the World Series. From the Daily News:

“Never. I just don’t believe in anything that is Trump. So there wouldn’t be any reason for me to go at all. I just think it’s stupid. I just think it’s dumb that he’s addressing players and stuff that he shouldn’t be. But it is what it is, and that’s the country we live in these days . . . I’m proud of the way that everybody has Steph’s back and just athletes in general these days, the way everybody has been stepping up has been great.”

Baseball players, as we’ve noted many times over the years, tend to be a more conservative bunch than football or basketball players. There are a lot more white players and a lot more players from southern, suburban and exurban areas. A significant number of racial-ethnic minority players were not born in the United States, so U.S. politics may not necessarily preoccupy them the way it may players from the United States. As such, political protest like we’ve seen in the NFL and NBA was never going to start in baseball in 2017.

But that does not mean that it was not going to come to baseball. Contrary to what so many fans seem to think, sports do not exist inside some bubble into which the real world does not intrude. Athletes are citizens just like you and me with social, political and personal concerns just like you and me. And, at the moment, a government official is demanding that they lose their jobs because he does not agree with their political views and the manner in which they are expressed. I suspect most of us would get upset by that if it happened to us. Certainly a lot of people I know on the conservative side of the political expression worried about government overreach and freedom of speech. At least before January of this year.

So I am not at all surprised that baseball players like Sabathia are beginning to speak out. He will not be the last. Others will join him. Others, as is their right, will push back and say they disagree with him. If and when people feel inspired to tell them to “stick to sports,” or “stay in their lane,” perhaps they should ask why the President of the United States decided not to do so himself. And ask why he thinks it’s appropriate for athletes to lose their jobs for their political views and why private entities like the NFL should be patriotic institutions rather than businesses which put on sporting events.

 

Bruce Maxwell first MLB player to kneel during National Anthem

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Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell did not stand for the National Anthem on Saturday night. He’s the first MLB player to do so and, like other professional athletes before him, used the moment to send a message — not just to shed light on the lack of racial equality in the United States, but to specifically protest President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire any of their players who elect to protest the anthem by sitting or kneeling.

“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable,” Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, relayed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Friday. He continued:

Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.

While Maxwell didn’t make his own statement to the media, he took to Instagram earlier in the day to express his frustration against the recent opposition to the protests, criticizing the President for endorsing “division of man and rights.”

Despite Trump’s profanity-laced directive to NFL owners on Friday, however, it’s clear the Athletics don’t share his sentiments. “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said in a statement released after Maxwell’s demonstration. “We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Whatever the fallout, kudos to Maxwell for taking a stand. He may be the first to do so in this particular arena, but he likely won’t be the last.