And That Happened: Tuesday's Scores and Highlights

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R.A. Dickey crazy looking.jpgMets 8, Phillies 0: In light the Phillies’ struggles against Tim Wakefied and R.A. Dickey (6 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 7K), the Mets are rumored to have offered contracts to Charlie Hough and Steve Sparks, the Braves are trying to persuade Phil Niekro to come out of retirement , the Nationals have been in communication with Tom Candiotti’s agent and the Marlins are mulling an offer to the ghost of Hoyt Wilhelm.

Marlins 6, Braves 4: Kenshin Kawakami continues to get crap run support. Line of the game story: “[Hanley] Ramirez lost control of his bat and it sailed into seats along the
third-base side in the eighth, hitting a few of the 63,000 or so empty
seats in Sun Life Stadium.”

Red Sox 2, Rays 0: Jon Lester threw six innings of one-hit ball for the Bosox’s latest fabulous starting pitching performance. Big Papi’s two-run double was the only scoring in the game.  If I was one of those hack sports writers who like to spout cliches I’d say something like “the Red Sox are making a statement!” or “the Rays’ were exposed against a tough lefty,” but  I’m not one of those guys, so I won’t.

Cubs 3, Dodgers 0: Ryan Dempster outdueld Clayton Kershaw with a scoreless eight inning performance in which he allowed three measly singles.

Pirates 2, Reds 1: Strong starts from both Paul Maholm and Mike Leake, but neither figured in the decision. Ryan Doumit’s homer in the ninth was his second game-winner in three days.

Giants 4, Nationals 2: Four days after I write off Todd Wellemeyer and say he needs to be drummed out of the rotation he throws six decent innings and even gets a hit to help a severely slumping Giants offense. None of us know nothin’, really.

Padres 1, Cardinals 0: You know, I’m beginning to think that all of these teams that can’t score against the Padres aren’t just hitting offensive skids as a matter of coincidence. Jon Garland had seven shutout innings with seven strikeouts.

Mariners 5, Tigers 3: Milton Bradley homered and then drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth
inning off Verlander. Then, during the pitching change Bradley — who was on first base — ran into the dugout and gave everyone a round of jubilant high fives before running out and returning to the bag.  You can’t spell “manic depression” without “Milton!” Um, at least if you leave out the L and the T.

Rockies 3, Diamondbacks 2: Three in a row for Colorado, aided by three hits by Todd Helton.  Have the Rockies finally gotten it out of neutral?

Angels 8, Blues Jays 3: Ervin Santana pitched a four-hit complete game with ten Ks. Three of the four hits were first-pitch homers by
Jose Bautista, Aaron Hill and Jeremy Reed, though, which is kind of odd.  Are there any Three True Outcome pitchers?

Brewers 6, Astros 1: Randy Wolf threw seven scoreless, giving Milwaukee its first effective outing from a starting pitcher since Pete Vukovich retired.  Well, at least it seems that way.

Rangers 8, Royals 7: I’m beginning to think that the Vlad Guerrero signing was a wise one (3 for 5, 2 HR, 2B, 5 RBI).  His double came on a pitch that, according to the game story “few batters would be able to handle.”  When the writers are back to describing Vlad’s awful plate discipline like that, you know he’s humming.

Indians 7, White Sox 3: The Tribe chased Jake Peavy after jumping out to a 6-0 lead on eight hits after six innings.  For the record, Peavy also gave up six runs on eight hits in his last start, against the Angels, last Thursday. But hey, at least he’s consistent.

Orioles 5, Athletics 1: Three of the O’s five runs came without hits: two on sac flies and one on a fielder’s choice + error.  Dallas Braden left this one early with a sore ankle.  Remember how Mark Buehrle scuffled a good deal after his perfect game last year? Braden seems to be doing the same. Coincidence? Yeah, I think so.

Yankees 0, Twins 0: SUSPENDED:  The umps suspended this one after a 1-hour,
23-minute rain delay with the score 0-0 after five innings. The game will resume in the top of the sixth today at 4:10 p.m., though obviously not with Scott Baker or A.J. Burnett — who were cruising — on the mound.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been sigbned. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.