And That Happened: Thursday's Scores and Highlights

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Pirates foam fingers.jpgBrewers 20, Pirates 0: I think the most remarkable thing about this game is that the Brewers were set down 1-2-3 in the first inning.

Phillies 8, Braves 3: This series began with the Phillies bullpen breaking down, but that ended up being a fluke. The real story of the series was that the Phillies got great starting pitching in all three games, and between that, their patience at the plate and their excellent defense they clearly showed that they are the better team right now. And Derek Lowe showed something too: he has nothing left.

Rockies 2, Nationals 0: When Ubaldo Jiminez gave up the double to Willie Harris in the first inning, Johnny Vander Meer — as has become his tradition — opened up the bottle of champagne he’s been saving, celebrating and savoring the fact that he remains the only man to pitch back-to-back no hitters. Wait, what? Johnny Vander Meer died in 1997? Oh, never mind.

Athletics 4, Yankees 2: The Yankees turned a triple play and pissed off Dallas Braden something fierce, but they lost the game. My thought on the Braden thing: I’ve never heard of the unwritten rule about not walking on the mound, but I want to think less of A-Rod for it all the same if that makes any sense. Mostly I just want someone to recut the video of Braden jawing at Rodriguez with the audio from the “get off my f—— obstacle” scene from “Full Metal Jacket” because that would be cool.

Reds 8, Dodgers 5: Manny left in the sixth after straining his right calf.  When the season started I thought oblique injuries would be all the rage, but it turns out that calf injuries are really where it’s at. Just goes to show that you can’t predict fashion.

Mets 5, Cubs 2: Johan Santana blanked the Cubs for six innings and ended up giving up only one run, Ike Davis had three hits and K-Rod came into a jam in the 8th and put out the fire, earning his first save of the year. Those things together make this a very satisfying win for Mets fans.

Indians 8, Twins 1: A nice win for the Indians, but the big story coming out of Cleveland yesterday is that the Indians have invited me to the Tribe Social Deck for the game against the Tigers on May 7th. This gesture of taste and goodwill no doubt led to their fine performance.

Rangers 3, Red Sox 0: C.J. Wilson gets his first career win as a starter. He was matched by Clay Buchholz for most of the game, but things unraveled in the 7th as, after one run was already in, a stolen base put Nelson Cruz into position to score on a David Murphy double and a throwing error by Buchholz allowed Murphy to score.

Rays 10, White Sox 2: The rays outscored the White Sox 22-2 over the past two games to take the series. Tampa Bay completed a 9-1 road trip. Given the home field advantage they’ve come to expect in the Trop, this bodes well. Seven walks, seven hits and seven earned runs for Jake Peavy who, even if he can’t be happy about his game, has to at least appreciate the symmetry of his performance on an aesthetic level.

Tigers 5, Angels 4: Great moments in efficiency: Justin Verlander threw 125 pitches in five innings. He got the win, however, after he was bailed out by a Tigers’ bullpen which has thrown 15.2 consecutive scoreless innings. And here I thought that would be the team’s weakness this year.  In other news, Torri Hunter was presented with his Gold Glove before the game. He then proceeded to bat from the DH slot. There’s got to be some kind of lesson in there somewhere, but I just can’t tease it out.

Marlins 5, Astros 1: Jorge Cantu extends his hitting streak to 20 games.  Know what? I think baseball history needs a little shaking up and something as random as Jorge Cantu hitting in 57 straight games would totally do the trick. Viva chaos and all of that.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the exception because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.

Report: Yankees sign Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million deal

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Update (12:02 AM EST): Rosenthal adds that Chapman’s contract includes an opt-out clause after three seasons, a full no-trade clause for the first three years of the contract, and a limited no-trade clause for the final two years.

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees have signed closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. Mark Melancon recently set the record for a contract earned by a reliever at $62 million over four years. Chapman blew that out of the water and many are surprised he didn’t fetch more.

Chapman, 28, began the 2016 season with the Yankees but he was traded to the Cubs near the end of July in exchange for four prospects. The Cubs, of course, would go on to win the World Series in large part due to Chapman. The lefty finished the regular season with a 1.55 ERA, 36 saves, and a 90/18 K/BB ratio in 58 innings between the two teams.

Chapman was the best reliever on the free agent market and, because he was traded midseason, he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached to him.

The Yankees don’t seem to be deterred by Chapman’s domestic violence issue from last offseason, resulting in a 30-game suspension to begin the 2016 regular season.