And That Happened: Thursday's Scores and Highlights

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Braves blue jerseys.jpgBraves 6, Padres 2: Throwback uniform day at Petco. San Diego’s throwbacks were fairly hideous. Many people lump all of their yellow and brown uniforms together, but there were many variates working off that color scheme. Some were pretty sweet, actually. Yesterday’s, not so much. As for Atlanta, I like their current classic home duds the best, but these powder blues were a nice jolt of nostalgia for me, as that’s what they were wearing when I first encountered them back in the day. As for the game itself, there was some swift defense at second base as both Jerry Hairston and Martin Prado made awesome grabs. Tim Hudson labored for Atlanta, but the bullpen held firm and Jason Heyward’s two RBI doubles padded the lead.

Astros 5, Cardinals 1: Somewhere in Maryland the 1988 Baltimore Orioles are gathering together to open up special bottles of champagne with which they will celebrate their historic season-opening losing streak record lasting yet another year.  Wait, that’s not 100% accurate. They don’t gather; they drink alone. And it’s not champagne, it’s Cold Duck. Warm Cold Duck.

Mets 5, Rockies 0: Seven innings of five-hit shutout ball from Mike Pelfrey, and then two scoreless innings from the pen give the Mets a much needed win. The runs scored on a wild pitch, two fielder’s choices and a couple of singles, but that hardly matters when the other guys can’t score to save their lives.

Twins 8, Red Sox 0: Francisco Liriano is back, my friends. Eight strikeouts, four hits, two walks and a big goose egg for the Sox while throwing an utter economy of pitches. David Ortiz sat for Boston and with the way Liriano was dealing, that was probably a good idea.

Indians 3, Rangers 2: Like I said yesterday, this one was done in a minute and a Huff. Or at least it seemed like it. Tough luck loss for Matt Harrison, who had a shutout going into the eighth before his defense betrayed him, with errors by Michael Young and Elvis Andrus allowing the baserunners who scored when Choo hit his three-run bomb.

Nationals 7, Phillies 5: A day after the Phillies pen saved the day with nearly a full game’s worth of work, it should be expected that they would run out of gas (though maybe we don’t get to the pen so early if J.A. Happ doesn’t walk six batters). The Phillies led 4-1 after six, but the Nats chipped away with homers from Adam Dunn and a pinch-hitting Ryan Zimmerman and RBI singles from Ian Desmond and Ivan Rodriguez.

Marlins 10, Reds 2: The story on Aaron Harang this year is that after a couple of years of injuries, he was supposed to be all healthy again and ready to be the workhorse again. Right now he looks ready for the glue factory (4 IP, 10 H, 8 ER). Jorge Cantu had both a hit and an RBI for the tenth straight game. I’m sure I’ll one day tell my grandkids about where I was and what I was doing when it happened.  Ten strikeouts for Josh Johnson.

Blue Jays 7, White Sox 3: Dana Eveland allowed two runs and three hits in six innings.  He also truly entered my consciousness for, I think, the first time. I mean, on some level I knew he was an A’s starter last year, but if you had asked me really quickly who “Dana Eveland” was this morning, I would have been just as likely to guess that it was an actress from back in the 40s who used to play second banana in musicals and light comedies. Maybe she was with Warner Brothers but was loaned out to MGM on occasion. That sort of thing.  This is what happens when you rarely watch west coast games.

Brewers 8, Cubs 6: Ryan Braun went 4-5 with a homer and three RBI on a day when the Wrigley wind was blowing out at 18 m.p.h.

Yankees 6, Angels 2: Phil Hughes gave up two runs over five innings and picked up the win in his 2010 debut. Two homers for Cano, two triples for Granderson and a more or less unnecessary save for Mariano Rivera. Oh, and the Yankees fans did the wave during this game, which pretty much undercuts all of their protestations about how savvy and knowledgeable they were in the wake of the Vazquez booing criticism. The wave. In Yankee Stadium. Inexcusable.

Athletics
6, Orioles 2
: Ben Sheets has been ailing, but the Orioles are the
sort of team that can cure what ails you. Six shutout innings for
Sheets, who gets his first win since 2008. The Orioles kick of a ten
game road trip with this loss. The way they’re playing it’s going to
feel even longer than that.

Dodgers 6, Diamondbacks 5: Chad Qualls with his second straight blown save, though this time his defense let him down, with Stephen Drew throwing away what would have been out number three (and I mean really throwing it away). Don Newcombe threw out the first pitch. Yesterday I linked to what I thought was the worst baseball song of all time. It’s worth noting that one of the better ones is called  “Strike One.” It’s a jump blues number by Teddy Reynolds. Another one is “Newk’s Fadeaway” by Sonny Rollins. Both can be found on the most excellent baseball episode of Bob Dylan’s “Theme Time Radio Hour,” which you can get on CD if you’re so inclined. Tons of non-Creed baseball songs there.

Blame Baseball’s copycat behavior for its lack of diversity in the executive ranks

Rob Manfred
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Following on yesterday’s stuff about baseball’s marked lack of diversity in the executive ranks comes a Ken Rosenthal column which digs into it a bit.

I might observe that, while, Rosenthal is right on all of the facts, there is a whiff of pushback in the story. As if MLB folks were hearing the criticisms Murray Chass and others have leveled in recent days about the lack of women, minorities and other candidates who don’t fit the “30-something MBA from an Ivy League school” mold of so many of today’s top execs and wanted to get some points out there. The league’s search firm is examined and there is a bit of “well, here is an exception; and here are a few more . . .” to it. Which, hey, that’s fair. Like I said, Rosenthal has his facts right and treats the issue seriously.

I think Rosenthal’s best bit, however, is the point he hits on at the end, when he says “homogeneity is dangerous in any industry, particularly when bright people are excluded.” That’s probably the key word to think about when you think about baseball’s hiring practices. “Homegeneity.” Baseball has a distinct lack of women and minorities in key positions, but I don’t think it’s because baseball is maliciously racist or sexist. Rather, it’s because baseball is acutely prone to copycat behavior that breeds homogeneity.

Everything about baseball culture, from the first day of a player’s minor league career-on and from the first day an intern is hired to get coffee for an assistant general manager is about not being different. About not sticking out. About emulating successes. You may mess up or you may fail, but if you do it while going about your business the way other, successful people went about theirs, you’ll be way better off than if you did things differently or stuck out.

This is true of all industries to some degree, but it seems far more prevalent in baseball. It’s a smaller world with fewer opportunities than business at large. It’s a more conservative world in terms of temperament. It’s one where you’re far more likely to have a reporter ask you about why you did something than, say, the accounting industry. It makes people afraid to take chances and makes people far more likely to do what that last successful guy did than to go out on even the shortest of limbs.

Not that things don’t change. Indeed, today’s preference for 30-something MBAs is radically different than the old model of hiring some old “baseball man” to run baseball operations. But it only came to the fore after the sabermetric and analytical model forced its way into the conversation with success and/or efficiencies that were impossible for even the crustiest old baseball man to ignore. That said, it was a transformation that was so difficult and radical that it was literally turned into a book and a movie and led to a decade and a half of arguing. A philosophical change which may have been casually noted in another business and then quickly emulated played out like some sort of cultural civil war in baseball circles. Change came, yes, but it wasn’t easy.

But here we are again, with the old baseball men replaced by the “Moneyball” disciples, who have become the new normal. A normal which one deviates from at great risk in baseball’s conservative world. I don’t believe that baseball’s homogeneity in the executive ranks is a function of bad people who believe bad things making bad decisions. I think it’s about fear and conformity more than anything else. Now there is a fear that not hiring that Ivy League MBA is the radical and perilous move. And if that Ivy League MBA was one who worked under another Ivy League MBA with another, all the better. And the easier we can sell him to fans as “the next Theo Epstein,” well, the better. And it sure would be easier to do that if he looked like Theo Epstein! Comps are the lingua franca of old baseball scouts. They’re the lingua franca of baseball decision makers too.

Whatever the causes, the net effect of all of this is no different than if there were virulent racism and sexism in the hearts and minds of baseball’s decision makers. It’s the same rich white boys club that maliciousness and bigotry could’ve created, even if it was created via more benign means. If baseball’s leaders truly believe that diversity in their leadership ranks is important — and I believe them when they say they do — they need to attack the problem of its homogeneity in the same manner they would if there was something malicious afoot. They need to stop throwing up their hands and saying “well, that’s what clubs do” or “that’s what our search firm gave us” and make achieving diversity a goal with an action plan, not just a goal which is merely stated.

Chris Archer could lose his 20th game tonight

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 10:  Chris Archer #22 of the Tampa Bay Rays looks on from the mound after surrendering a home run in the sixth inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on September 10, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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That’s a pretty negative way to put a headline, but the fact is, a starting pitcher losing 20 games is a rare and notable feat these days. But Tampa Bay Rays starter Chris Archer could pull it off against the White Sox this evening. He’s 8-19 with a 4.02 ERA in 194.2 innings across 32 starts in 2016.

That’s a big fall from 2015, when he was considered one of the rising aces in the game. Archer was an All-Star last year, and finished fifth in the Cy Young voting, finishing fifth in pitcher WAR, sixth in ERA, second in strikeouts, second in strikeouts per nine innings, fourth in fielding independent pitching and allowing the fourth lowest number of hits per nine innings pitched among AL starters.

To be fair, he still should be considered one of the best pitchers in the game. Yes, it has been a bad year for Archer, but he still strikes out a lot of guys. Overall, it takes a pretty good pitcher to lose 20 games in the big leagues. You don’t get the opportunities to do such a dubious thing unless you’re healthy and you have the confidence of your manager to take the ball every fifth day. And to be fair to Archer, he’s had bad defense and awful run support this year. Make no mistake, he has pitched worse than he did a year ago, but not so much worse that he deserves to reach a milestone no one has reached since 2003.

The guy who did that in 2003: Mike Maroth of a 119-loss Tigers team. Maroth won nine games that year and now gets referenced every time someone approaches 20 losses. If Archer avoids his 20th loss, he might match Maroth’s 2003 win total himself tonight. If not, well, everyone will cite Archer’s name, and not Maroth’s, whenever someone get to 19 losses in a season.