And That Happened: Thursday's Scores and Highlights

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Jon Niese.jpgMets 3, Padres 0: Jon Niese gave up a double to lead off the third. Otherwise: perfect.  Niese said after the game that he didn’t even realize it.  In related news, somewhere Oliver Perez told someone that his knee was feeling better, after which he was beaten with a pillowcase full of soda pop cans to ensure that there is no hope of his return.  Oh, there was a first game of the doubleheader too: Padres 4, Mets 2: Mat Latos outdueled Johan Santana to snap the Mets’ home win streak at nine. Twenty-two Mets went down in order to end the game after Henry Blanco’s home run in the second inning.

Marlins 2, Phillies 0:  Josh Johnson has been incredible lately. Last night he shut out the Phillies on three hits over eight.  He has gone six straight starts giving up either zero or one earned run.  Tough luck loss for Roy Halladay, who was almost as good (8 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 8K).  After the game Charlie Manuel was asked if he thought it was possible that the Phillies would be shut out seven times this early in the season. His response: “In this game there’s a whole lot of crap possible.”  God, I love Charlie.

Brewers 5, Cubs 4: Wow, that last play was something. Craig Counsell laid down a bunt with Carlos Gomez at first. Gomez goes with the pitch and doesn’t stop at second base, mostly because there is no one covering third. The Cubs try to get Counsell, and fail to. By then the catcher had made it down to third base for a play on Gomez. The throw to third is off the mark and Gomez comes in to score.

Orioles 4, Yankees 3: Jake Arrieta made his major league debut and gave up three runs on four hits over six, collecting his first win. Amazingly, when you adjust that pitching line for the strength of the Pirates’ lineup instead of the Yankees, it translates to 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 14K.

Indians 8, Red Sox 7: Wild, baby; wild.  The Sox jump out to a 5-0 lead, the Tribe battles back to go ahead 6-5 in the sixth, Adrian Beltre hits a two-run homer in the ninth to put Boston back on top 7-6, and then Cleveland rallies in the bottom of the ninth to win it. Awful loss for the Sox. Their only saving grace is that the whole city was likely watching the Celtics  beat the Lakers.

Braves 11, Diamondbacks 7: On the one hand I feel bad that Tommy Hanson didn’t get the win despite striking out ten guys in 5.1 innings and having left with a 7-2 lead. On the other hand, if he would figure out how to go 5.1 innings without throwing 121 pitches, maybe his record would be less dependent on the ups and downs of his bullpen. Dontrelle Willis only gave up two earned runs, but it was by dumb blind luck that he wasn’t beaten out of the building. He was pretty terrible, with poor control. The only reason he escaped with as little damage as he did was because the Braves stranded runners to beat the band in this series. 47 runners, to be precise. How they did that and split the four games is a testament to how bad the Dbacks’ pen is.

Rangers 12, Mariners 3: Not sure what the question is, but Ryan Rowland-Smith sure as hell ain’t the answer (5.2 IP, 11 H, 8 R, 4 ER). The Rangers put up 33 runs on the M’s in the series.

Blue Jays 3, Rays 2: Joe Maddon on why he kept Carl Crawford out of the game: “There’s nothing wrong. We just want to get him off his
feet, especially on the turf. He’s always had trouble with
this particular field.” Strange comment given that this was a home game. He plays half his games on that particular field, doesn’t he?

Nationals 4, Pirates 2: There’s no shame in getting dominated by Stephen Strasburg, but getting swept by the Nats is not exactly the Pirates’ finest hour.  Three straight games with a homer for Adam Dunn.

Reds 7, Giants 6: The Giants jumped out to a four-run lead, but the Reds clawed back, capping it with a eighth-inning rally featuring a two-run triple by Brandon Phillips and a Joey Votto single which plated Phillips for what would be the winning run. Dusty Baker after the game: “I don’t know if you expect it, but I know everybody believes, from the
players to the administrative assistants to the grounds crew.”  I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a major league manager give a shoutout to Helen in accounting.

Astros 5, Rockies 4: Roy Oswalt gets back on track after a couple of bumpy starts (7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 9K). Puts him squarely back in the “Strasburg trade bait” category, I’m assuming.

Athletics 6, Angels 1: Trevor Cahill allowed one run in eight innings to win his fourth in a row. The A’s did something really rare, too: beat up on Ervin Santana a little bit, who has absolutely owned them.

White Sox 3, Tigers 0: Omar Vizquel hit his annual home run (and bunted in a run on the old suicide squeeze). John Danks gave up a single hit in seven innings.

Royals 9, Twins 8: Hey look! Some of Dayton Moore’s former Braves projects are paying off. Bruce Chen gets the win and is now 3-0 (he’s the mini-Silva) and Wilson Betemit hit two home runs. Not that it was easy. The Royals frittered away much of their 8-1 lead and had to hold on for dear life in the ninth. Let’s let Ron Gardenhire assess the Twins’ performance: “Probably as sloppy as we’ve played in a long time. I don’t remember the last time we had a defensive
ballgame as bad as that one. Baserunning, pretty bad, too.”

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.