And That Happened: Sunday's Scores and Highlights

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Pujols homer.jpgBrewers 8, Cardinals 7: I’m in the tri-state area today meeting NBC folks, planning for the future, talking about the State of the Blog, but mostly just convincing them that they’re entrusting their baseball coverage to a real person and not an android or one kid standing on another kid’s shoulders wearing a long overcoat or something. I missed the beginning of this one due to my flight and the ride up to where I’m staying (more on this below), but I caught the bulk of it while sucking down beers and eating a wrap* and stuff at Bobby Valentine’s bar.

Not a big crowd — you’ll be shocked to know that Stamford, Connecticut doesn’t exactly hop on a Sunday night — but it was fun watching a wild one in a (mostly) baseball bar with a bunch of baseball fans. For the record: the crowd seemed to feel more bad for Trevor Hoffman’s meltdown in the ninth than they were impressed by Pujols’ and Holliday’s dingers. When Casey McGhee hit his walkoff winner there was much rejoicing, despite the fact not a person in the place was a Brewers’ fan.

*Bobby Valentine claims he invented the wrap. I’m highly dubious, but I felt obligated to order one anyway. It was an OK wrap. Nothin’ special, but I’ll give it a guarded thumbs-up based on the arguable historic value of it all and the good overall juju of the evening.

Diamondbacks 15, Pirates 6: The Dbacks pull the old “score 13 runs in the fourth inning trick.” One of the oldest ones in the book, really, but it almost always works. The Pirates’ Daniel McCutchen was responsible for most of the damage. “That’s probably the worst [inning] I’ve had,” he said after the game. Probably? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it was.  What else say you, Mr. McCutchen? “I wish I would have been more mentally strong and stayed within myself a
little more.”  I’m going to go out on another limb here and say that getting shellacked like that probably takes some physical deficiencies too (i.e. throwing pure garbage), so McCutcheon should probably take it easy on his staywithinhimselfability.

Phillies 2, Astros 1: A dominating outing from Roy Halladay (CG 7 H, 0 ER, 8K, 0 BB). But two minor caveats here: (1) The Astros couldn’t hit the water if they fell out of a boat (on the season they’ve scored as many runs as the Dbacks did in the fourth inning yesterday); and (2) The fact that the unearned run Halladay gave up was unearned because of his own damn error shows you just how ridiculous the earned/unearned rules are. In a fair and just world Halladay and any other pitcher who does that should be charged with the run.

Tigers 9, Indians 8: The Tigers had no business winning this game. They trailed by four heading into their half of the eighth and they stranded eighteen (18) runners, but with the Indians’ bullpen all things are possible. In this case, a bases loaded walk and then a wild pitch by Chris Perez is what was possible. Gerald Laird snapped his 0-17 to start the season, which if it had happened in Boston the city would be on lockdown. Justin Verlander said this after the game: “The Indians have a great team, and you have to make good pitches to get
them out.” Justin. We are men of action. Lies do not become us.

Giants 6, Braves 3: Rain delay: four hours, nine minutes. Game time: two hours, twenty minutes. I haven’t seen so many people being paid to just sit around all afternoon since I left my job at the state last November.  Jason Heyward hit a home run for the second game in a row, but his errant throw home in the sixth — which bounced off Pablo Sandoval’s generous thigh and ricocheted halfway to Bakersfield allowing two to score — basically canceled it out. Tim Lincecum struck out ten and walked one. I think there was an elderly woman floating in a raft somewhere near the Oceanic pole of inaccessibility who had not yet been convinced of his greatness, but when she received news of this game via ham radio she just threw up her arms and said “Screw it. That boy is something else.”

Blue Jays 5, Orioles 2: The good news: Mike Gonzalez did not blow this game for the Orioles. The bad news: Miguel Tejada’s o-lay job in the eighth basically did, allowing the Jays to hit lead-forfeiting back-to-back homers when they should have been out on defense. Of course, in Tejada’s defense, Millwood still hung those breaking balls to give up the homers, so the mere fact that three of the four runs he gave up were “unearned” doesn’t totally absolve him of all sin.

Athletics 9, Angels 4: Mark Ellis got the day off and Adam Rosales made the most of it, driving in four runs, one of which came on a solo dinger. Rosales is a rather amped-up kind of guy, and his teammates took notice of that fact after he finished what can only be called his home run sprint as opposed to a trot: “He’s someone who
probably needs to take a nap . . .
he plays like he hasn’t
slept in four days
. . . he doesn’t know any other speed.”  I wonder if Rosales is related to the guy who drove me from LaGuardia to my hotel last night. I don’t consider myself a timid soul when it comes to the roads, but at one point on I-95 near the Connecticut state line we passed what looked like a horrific accident in the southbound lane, which was followed by miles of gridlock. For the first time in my life I envied people stuck in gridlock. Seriously, this dude was like Captain Chaos or something.

Rangers 9, Mariners 2: Scott Feldman gave up one earned run in seven innings (not his error, though, so I don’t mind citing it), lowering the Rangers’ rotation’s ERA to 1.67, which is the best in baseball. This is obviously not your older brothers’ Rangers team.  Well, the part where they scored a bunch of runs is, anyway. Either way, the fact that, bullpen woes notwithstanding, the Rangers have maintained last year’s great leap forward in pitching is a good sign in the early going. As is the fact that Vladimir Guerrero is hitting .500.

Red Sox 8, Royals 6: Pedroia went 4 for 5 with a homer and the rest of the Sox joined in pounding Gil Meche (3.1 IP, 8 H, 7 ER). The offense was needed as Clay Buchholz labored, with his line (5 IP, 7 H, 2 ER) looking far more impressive than his actual pitching did. As Drew noted yesterday, Jacoby Ellsbury hurt his ribs when Adrian Beltre collided with them, but he looks like he’s going to be OK sooner rather than later.

Rockies 4, Padres 2: Ubaldo Jiminez allowed two runs and seven hits while striking out seven, the day after these two teams played 14 innings. Nice bounce back for Colorado, who clearly had better supplies of Red Bull or Mountain Dew whatever it the kids take these days now that the pep pills aren’t allowed.

White Sox 5, Twins 4: J.J. Hardy was thrown out at home to end it and the Twins twice gave up two-run leads, but no one is going to be thinking about this much today given that it’s Happy New Ballpark Day in Minnesota.

Yankees 7, Rays 3: I can’t decide if I hate the Tropicana roof more or if I hate the blue Rays’ blue Sunday jerseys more. They’re both pretty heinous, truth be told.  The Yankees got bent out of shape when Evan Longoria’s single bouncing off a catwalk, but given that they just went 4-2 on the road against the Rays and Red Sox in the first week of the season, I think they’ll chill out about it.

Reds 3, Cubs 1: Wild thing, I think you move me.  Mike Leake’s debut: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 7 BB.  Yes, seven, and a wild pitch on top of it. He somehow survived, and went 2 for 2 at the plate to boot. His biggest trouble came in the first inning. I’ll let Lou Piniella describe it for us: “We had the bases loaded and the meat part of our lineup coming up, and
the kid wiggled out of it.”  Meat part?

Nationals 5, Mets 2: I got a good view of Citi Field out the window of my plane as it landed yesterday. It was only slightly more lifeless at 8PM as it was earlier in the day. A grand slam and an RBI double for Josh Willingham took care of all the Nats’ offense. The homer was great, though. Because the umps initially said the ball was in play, Adam Dunn, who had been on first, came barreling into Rod Barajas at the plate. The call was overturned on review, which meant that Dunn barreled a guy over on a homer. He should just start doing that even on his own home runs. Know what else was cool? Seven shutout innings from Livan Hernandez. Of course whether you find that cool or not probably depends on how much you care for the Mets.

Marlins 6, Dodgers 5: A double and a home run led to five RBI for Jorge Cantu. The Dodgers led 4-0 at one point. Dodgers’ starter Charlie Haeger has 12 Ks in six innings. He’s also a knuckleballer. 2:1 K:IP ratios and knuckleballers are both pretty cool things, even in defeat.

Columnist calls for Sammy Sosa to “come clean.” He probably shouldn’t.

15 Sep 1998:  A silhouette portrait of Sammy Sosa #21of the Chicago Cubs taken in the dug-out as he looks across the field during the game against the San Diego Padres at Qualcomm Park in San Diego, California. The Cubs defeated the Padres 4-2
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Yesterday Sammy Sosa — quite ridiculously — compared himself to Jesus Christ. The idea: he has suffered greatly since retirement, having been shunned by the Cubs and disparaged by the baseball establishment and . . . well, I don’t know how that makes him Jesus, but forget it, he’s rolling.

Today, predictably, a Chicago columnist does what columnists have been doing for years with respect to guys suspected of PED use: argues that Sosa should “come clean” if he wants to come in from the cold. Here’s David Haugh of the Tribune:

The game welcomed back Barry Bonds and McGwire from steroid exile after both separately acknowledged their involvement with performance-enhancing drugs. Fox Sports employs Alex Rodriguez, who admitted to PED use during his career. The door back to baseball is open for Sosa, but only if he follows the same path his contemporaries from the steroid era did. The Cubs have made this clear to Sosa, in no uncertain terms, yet he continues to paint himself as the victim.

This is not accurate. Bonds has never “come clean” about his PED use. He was in litigation over it until 2015 and wasn’t giving any confessionals about it. When the Marlins hired him he said nothing. He made allusions to being “an idiot” in an interview last summer, but that was clearly focused on his cagey attitude, not his drug use. There was no deal with the Marlins that his job was prefaced on his “coming clean,” and he never did.

The same can be said for McGwire. Big Mac was hired by the Cardinals as a hitting coach on October 26, 2009. His acknowledgment of PED use came months later, just before spring training in January 2010. While it may be plausible that the Cardinals told McGwire that they would not hire him absent a confession of PED use, that’s not how it tracked in real time. At his hiring, John Mozeliak and Bill DeWitt each said there was no set blueprint for how McGwire would proceed as far as his public statements went and they allowed him to control the timeline. His confession seemed to be very much a function of heading off spring training distractions and questions from the press which would have access to him everyday, not some precondition of his employment.

But even if we grant the apparently erroneous premise that Bonds and McGwire “came clean” to return to baseball’s good graces, such a road map is of no use to Sosa. He’s not looking to coach or, as far as we know, even be employed by a club. If the study we talked about four years ago remains accurate, coming clean about PED use makes an athlete look worse in the eyes of the public than those who deny. Ask David Ortiz how that works. It likewise will do nothing for his Hall of Fame vote totals. Ask McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro how that works.

Sosa may be engaging in some unfortunate hyperbole, but as far as can be determined, he’s not asking for a whole hell of a lot. He’s not asking for a coaching job or to have his number retired or for them to rename Wrigley Field after him. He’s asking to be acknowledged as a part of Cubs history. He’s asking for the same kind of treatment other retired greats receive from time to time. A first pitch? A public appearance or two? Some minor role as a team ambassador? The bar for that isn’t very high.

The Cubs, who benefited greatly from Sosa’s production — and, necessarily, by whatever juicing Sosa did to achieve it — aren’t being asked to do much. Just to be decent to a person who is an important part of their history. That should not require that Sosa give a weepy interview about steroids which will serve no one’s purpose but the tut-tutting media. A media which, if McGwire’s example is any guide, will still slam Sosa if he comes clean and claim that his confession wasn’t good enough and his contrition wasn’t genuine. If he does confess, bank on that reaction. Bet the mortgage on it.

All of which makes me wonder if it’s the media, and not the Cubs who are the ones who really want to see such a thing.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.