And That Happened: Wednesday's Scores and Highlights

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Velez jersey.jpgGiants 10, Astros 4: Edgar Renteria and Aaron Rowand combine to go 9 for 11 with four RBI. Nineteen hits in all for San Francisco, who pretty much abused the Astros for the past three days. And they didn’t care how they looked doing it, as infielder Eugenio Velez took the field wearing a jersey that read “San Francicso”

Yankees 3, Red Sox 1: The Bosox got a great start from John Lackey (6
IP, 3 H, 0 ER), but he was nearly matched by Andy Pettitte. Der DifferenceMacher, however, was Chan Ho Park, who pitched three
scoreless innings in relief and was the pitcher of record when Curtis
Granderson hit a homer off John Papelbon in the 10th. No errors. Good
pitching. A game that, had it ended in regulation, would have come in
just under the three hour wire. I call this progress. Oh, and David
Ortiz had an RBI single, so the Boston press corps can go make up a new
drama du jour. May I suggest beating up on Jonathan Papelbon for a few
days or perhaps running a multi-part series about whether it’s time to
start freaking out that Kevin Youkilis went hitless last night.

Blue Jays 7, Rangers 4: You know, if Vernon Wells keeps up his
.714/.778/2.000 line all year he may just make that contract
into a winner for the Blue Jays yet.  Wells hit his second and third
home run of the season in this one. Rich Harden was pretty atrocious for the
Rangers, leaving the game after two straight bases loaded walks. Ninety
pitches in less than four innings for The Man Who Would be Millwood.

Marlins 7, Mets 6: The Mets were down 6-1, but battled back in the
seventh and eighth to tie it at six. But they could have been ahead by
then if it wasn’t for a Fernando Tatis brain fart. In the seventh the Mets were rallying and loaded the
bases with two out for David Wright. Tatis was on third. The
first pitch to Wright went wild and Tatis broke for home. Not wild
enough, however, as John Baker recovered, tossed the ball to Veras covering home and tagged Tatis out, ending the
rally and the inning. If anyone is curious to see how that is going over
with Mets fans this morning, I suggest you get on Twitter and search
for “Tatis.”  Guy may want to enroll in the witness protection program
today.

Rays 4, Orioles 3: Matt Garza was pretty stingy, allowing only two runs
over eight innings, striking out nine and giving up only four hits. Evan
Longoria homered and drove in three. Rafael Soriano was shaky again but
got the save. But he wasn’t the only former Braves closer that had
problems last night: word on the street is that Joe Boever got into a
fistfight while dining at Citizen
Kane’s Steakhouse in Kirkwood, Missouri
. Seems each time he asked
the waiter how much the Chicken Xanadu would set him back, the guy
responded by saying “Cost?! NO MAN CAN SAY!”  Frankly, I’m taking
Boever’s side on this one, because that kind of garbage gets old really
quick.

Braves 3, Cubs 2: With the exception of an RBI double Jason Heyward absolutely ripped down the right field line in the second, Ryan Dempster and Sean Marshall handcuffed the Braves for seven innings, striking out 11 and keeping just about anyone else from hitting the ball with anything even resembling authority. That changed when John Grabow came in for the eighth and gave up a double to Martin Prado followed by a bomb on a 3-1 pitch to Chipper Jones. Billy Wagner came in for the ninth throwing pure gas, some totally unfair sliders and striking out the side for his first save since June of 2008. This was so totally a game the 2006-2009 Braves would have lost.

Cardinals 6, Reds 3: Johnny Cueto didn’t let Albert Pujols hurt him — gave up a walk, struck him out and induced a fly ball — but the bullpen wasn’t as lucky. Pujols hit an RBI single off something called Logan Ondrusek in the seventh, followed by an RBI double from Matt Holliday and an RBI single from David Freese, breaking a 2-2 tie and giving Adam Wainwright the victory. The Reds, obviously still stinging over the fact that they don’t get the season’s first game anymore, billed this one as “Opening Night” and ran multiple promotions for it. Not sure what’s sadder: that they felt the need to do this or that it actually worked, drawing a pretty big crowd for a Wednesday night in the Queen City.

Phillies 8, Nationals 4: That’s the thing about Jason Marquis: he takes the ball every fifth day, dadgummit, and that’s what pros do. Sure, he gets lit up most of those days, but you can’t question the heart of a competitor! Six runs on eight hits with three walks thrown in for flavor in the space of four innings last night, with the big blow being Ryan Howard’s two-run homer in the fifth that should be due to clear Mongolian air space within the hour.  The Nats’ rightfielder Mike Morse left the game with a leg injury in this one. Time to flash the Elijah Dukes signal, Commissioner Rizzo?

Pirates 4, Dodgers 3: Russ and Ramon Ortiz both pitched in this one for L.A. which is rather disorienting if you merely read the box scores like I do. Until I read more closely I had figured the Dodgers had cloned Russ for some reason. Ramon gets the loss here, though, giving up an RBI single to Ronny Cedeno in the bottom of the 10th. Five innings of shutout relief for the Buccos bullpen, by the way.

Indians 5, White Sox 3: Walking six guys in as many innings is no way to go through life, Fausto Carmona, but I suppose if you only give up one hit we’ll let you off the hook. “Effectively wild?” “Lucky as hell?”  Doesn’t matter. The Tribe won.

Brewers 5, Rockies 4: With the exception of some late pinch hitting, Todd Helton, Brad Hawpe and Chris Iannetta all got the day off. On day three of the season. And the Rockies lost by one. Someone tell me if we’re still supposed to pretend that Jim Tracy is genius or if that was limited to last season. For Milwaukee, Jim Edmonds started again and went 2 for 4 with a double and a couple of runs and the bullpen — which is an obvious strength for the Brewers — held Colorado scoreless for five innings.

Royals 3, Tigers 2: I’m sure most Royals fans figured it was over when Kyle Farnsworth gave up a run in the top of the 11th to make it 2-1 Detroit, but Kansas City roared back in the bottom of the inning, scoring two off Jose Valverde on an Alberto Callaspo home run and a Rick Ankiel double (with the run scoring on a Scott Sizemore error). Farnsworth still gets the win, of course. Because he’s a winner. And knows how to win. If Bert Blyleven had Farnsworth’s kind of winnerness about him, he’d be in the Hall of Fame right now.

Diamondbacks 5, Padres 3: Kelly Johnson pays early dividends on the Dbacks’ investment in him with two long home runs. “That happens sometimes when you’re not thinking about trying to hit a
homer,” Johnson said after the game. Kind of like messin’ around and gettin’ a triple double. Chris Young and Justin Upton also went deep. Another newcomer — Ian Kennedy — had some trouble in the second inning, giving up three runs, but struck out eight and allowed no runs in any of his other four innings.

Athletics 6, Mariners 5: This was the third nail-biter in a row for these two teams, with the score tied at five heading into the ninth before Kurt Suzuki’s walkoff RBI double. Suzuki had also tied the game in the seventh with another RBI double. If he had one more he would have messed around and gotten a triple double. Um, OK, not as funny the second time, I realize that.  Justin Duchscherer made his first start since 2008, allowing five runs in five and two-thirds, but the A’s bullpen blanked the M’s over the rest of the game.

Twins 4, Angels 2: Carl Pavano was sharp (7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 6K) and made his way out of a couple of jams in the second and fourth innings. J.J. Harday and Morneau each went deep for the second straight night. Jon Rauch gave up a run and two hits in a save situation, but he has wicked neck tattoos, so it’s all good.

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

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.