And That Happened: Sunday's Scores and Highlights

26 Comments

Ted Lilly pitching.jpgCubs 1, White Sox 0:  There were boatloads of home runs yesterday — with a ton of guys who had a pair each — but this one was all pitching.  Ted Lilly took a no-hitter into the ninth before pinch-hitting Juan Pierre hit a leadoff single to break it up.  Lou Piniella then took approximately an epoch to walk out to the mound to make the pitching change, Lilly left to an ovation, but then Carlos Marmol made it interesting by walking the first guy he faced, then balking the runners over. After a strikeout, another walk to load the bases and a fielder’s choice at the plate, Marmol got the save.  Not to be overlooked was Gavin Floyd’s excellent performance as well (8 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 9K).

Nationals 9, Cleveland 4: Mr. Strasburg gets plenty of coverage so I probably don’t need to add too much more about this game. I happened to attend this one, however, so I’ll have some more on it later this morning. For now, suffice it to say that even from seats atop the left field wall, you can tell how electric Strasburg’s stuff is, even if he didn’t necessarily have his best stuff. Which he didn’t, but like I said, more later this morning.

Mariners 4, Padres 2: The Mariners win the day after they had a
players-only meeting led by — and I am not making this up — Cliff Lee
and Milton Bradley. Apparently a pep talk by guys who (a) have one foot
out the door; and (b) are basically nuts was just what the doctor
ordered. Tony
Gwynn Jr. hit an inside the park home run
, which was mostly a
function of Franklin Gutierrez first misplaying the ball and then
dogging after it to the wall.  Best part: Milton Bradley hustling his
ass off to get the ball from left field. So, yeah, maybe he is the right
guy to give a pep talk.

Phillies 5, Red Sox 3: Your third place Philadelphia Phillies salvage
one after getting shellacked on Friday and Saturday. Charlie Manuel on
Cole Hamels’ performance:

“When he’s got a good
fastball, that’s when he’s good. He was good
today, man. He beat a good team. They really work the count on you, and
they’ll take the ball the other
way. They’re a good team. They’re very good.”

Say good
again! Good ain’t no country I ever heard of! Do they speak English in
good?!

Braves 7, Twins 3: Two homers for Troy Glaus. Even better: the Braves’ starting lineup was full of OBPs above .350. I haven’t seen that since Gary Sheffield played in Atlanta. You know, back before Chipper Jones died.

Angels 6, Dodgers 5: Jered Weaver struck out Jeff Weaver in this one. Unless Bob Horner had some pitching brother I’m not remembering this was easily the most laid back matchup of siblings in baseball history.  Oh, and the ceremonial first pitch was thrown by the Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World” guy, which I find quite amusing. He probably threw an eephus pitch or a gyroball or something.

Giants 6, Athletics 2: A sweep of the A’s courtesy of a pair of two-run homers by Aubrey Huff and seven innings of one-run ball from Matt Cain. Cain has been ridiculous over his past handful of starts. And the Giants have been, more or less, scoring runs for the past week or two, which is a novel way for them to try and win games.

Mets 11, Orioles 4: Lots of two-homer days yesterday. David Wright had
one too. Jason Bay was no slouch at the plate himself, going 4 for 4 as
the Mets open up a can of it on the O’s for their first road sweep of
the year. Which I guess is a big deal given that every game story I’ve
seen of this one mentions it, but I’ve noticed that when a New York team
is involved there are all kinds of weird milestones and notable marks
that no one ever cares about when other teams do it. All-time team
leaders in whatever. First shutout in a day game. Road sweep. These are
rather meaningless things that only seem to be reported about the Mets
and the Yankees.

Rockies 10, Blue Jays 3: Ryan Spilborghs was yet another two home
run dude yesterday.  I’ll admit, I had a lot of beers at the ballgame so I
may have forgotten, but would someone tell me if I hit two home runs?
Odds seem fairly decent that I did.

Diamondbacks 7, Cardinals 5: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: two homers, this time for Chris Young, the second of which was a walkoff job.

Marlins 6, Rays 1: Mike Stanton was 2 for 2 with two RBIs. That’s three multi-hit games in his first five. Carlos Pena’s home run streak ends at six. The Rays fall into a first place tie with the Yankees.

Yankees 9, Astros 5: These Yankees. A grand slam for Jorge Posada — his second in two days — helped Phil Hughes overcome an otherwise “meh” day for him, helping him run his record to 9-1. The Yankees are now 8-1 all time against the Astros. No chance for the Astros to improve that record, as New York doesn’t play at Minute Maid Park this season. But, like the man said: “You tell that son of a b—- no Yankee is ever comin’ to
Houston. Not as long as you b——- are running things!”

Royals 7, Reds 3: Zach Greinke bounces back from a string of crappy-for-him starts (and the last one was just plain crappy) by striking out 12 Redlegs in a complete game down in Cincinnati. Which means that Stephen Strasburg wasn’t even the best pitcher in Ohio yesterday. Oh, and two homers for Joey Votto.

Tigers 4, Pirates 3: Jeff Karstens (7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER) deserved a better fate, but neither his offense nor his bullpen helped him out. Eight straight losses for the Buccos.

Rangers 7, Brewers 2: Hey, here’s something novel: Prince Fielder hit two home runs.  In other news, Colby Lewis pitched well (8 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 10K) and hit a bases loaded single, which he credited to his experience hitting while pitching in Japan’s Central League. If that’s not a great argument to ban the DH, expunge all DH records from the books and perform universal lobotomies on the populace in order to erase all memories of the DH, I don’t know what is.

There will be Under Armour logos on the front of baseball uniforms

screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-8-52-45-am
Under Armour
Leave a comment

Yesterday’s announcement that Under Armour will be taking over the MLB uniform business brought with it an added bit of news: for the first time, beginning in 2020, baseball uniforms will feature the maker’s logo on the front of the jersey. From Paul Lukas of UniWatch:

While the Majestic logo has appeared on MLB sleeves, the Under Armour logo will be appearing on the upper-right chest area.

Lukas has a bunch of Photoshopped images of MLB players wearing uniforms with UA logos on it to give us a sense of how it will likely look.

It’s certainly weird and in some cases even a bit jarring. It would be my preference not to see baseball uniforms go this route as I think they’re aesthetically pleasing parts of the game in and of themselves. But it’s inevitable. If there is a chance for leagues and sponsors to make money and if it doesn’t cause them to lose fans (i.e. lose money) they will take it. You can say you’ll give up baseball if they put corporate logos — including paid advertisements, not just the logos of the companies which make the gear — but you’re lying to yourself about that. You and I will complain and grumble and then we’ll get used to it. At some point, after a couple of years, we’ll start talking about which ads look better and which ones look worse and applaud particularly savvy and pleasing looking logos.

As I wrote back in April when the NBA approved ads on uniforms, there may even be a bright side to all of this.

Sports teams have had it both ways for a long time. They’ve worked to make a buck off of anything that isn’t nailed down all the while pretending to be something greater than any other business. They play on our nostalgia and our loyalty in order to portray themselves as something akin to a public trust or institution, entitling themselves to perks no other businesses get and the avoidance of regulation. By turning players into walking billboards, perhaps the four major North American sports will inadvertently make some folks realize that they are just businesses and that they aren’t deserving of such special treatment.

I’m not holding my breath about that, but anything that takes away even a bit of the faux public trust luster that sports leagues and teams use to manipulate their fans is a good thing. Maybe it’ll make, say, the Yankees or the Dodgers look less venerable and sharp. But maybe it’ll remind people that they’re just business units of a $10 billion industry, not some fourth branch of government or whatever.

Bud Selig is still, laughably, pleading ignorance about the Steroid Era

COOPERSTOWN, NY - JULY 27:  Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig speaks at Clark Sports Center during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony on July 27, 2014 in Cooperstown, New York.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Getty Images
5 Comments

Yesterday I raked Bud Selig and the Hall of Fame over the coals. Selig for his considerable responsibility for the prevalence of performing enhancing drugs in baseball during his tenure and his failure to take responsibility for it, the Hall of Fame for inducting Selig while continuing to bar the door to players who used PEDs.

Later in the day yesterday a remarkable story was written by Jayson Stark of ESPN. It was based on a one-on-one with Selig in which his legacy with respect to steroids was discussed. It was framed by Selig talking about how the students in the baseball in history seminar he teaches at The University of Wisconsin recently grilled him about what he knew and when he knew it with respect to PEDs and what could have been done to stop the proliferation of the stuff in the game.

What makes it remarkable is that, until yesterday’s interview, Selig believed that he had done everything he possibly could have done to deal with PEDs. It took Jayson Stark telling him that, maybe, he could’ve done more:

“Now let me ask you a question,” he said. “And I’m being serious. If you had been me then, what would you have done?”

Frankly, I was amazed that he asked . . . So that, I told him, was what I thought he could have done. He was the commissioner. So the one thing he could have done, without needing a bargaining table to do it, was raise this issue, speak about it more, admit to it earlier and bring it to the forefront.

And Selig, as if he had never considered the notion, agreed:

“That’s fair,” Selig replied. “That’s very fair.”

A moment later, he looked me right in the eye again. “Maybe you’re right,” he said. “Maybe I should have said more.”

It’s incredible that a man as honored and lauded as Selig has been — a man who has been praised for his savvy and effectiveness as a leader and, eventually, a negotiator — had never considered using the bully pulpit to deal with what he has claimed to be his most vexing problem as commissioner before yesterday. And when I say “incredible” I do not mean “amazing.” I mean “literally not credible.” As in, I believe he is simply lying when he implies that the thought never occurred to him.

Rather, I believe that he had little if any interest in speaking out about steroids until, years later, he had no choice but to thanks to Jose Canseco and BALCO and all of the rest. Steroids served baseball admirably. They increased offense and made big stars out of marketable men and helped everyone forget that, just a few years before, Selig and his fellow owners drove baseball off a cliff and cancelled a World Series because of it. The men who employed Bud Selig, baseball’s owners, made a lot of money off of that juice and, as such, Bud Selig standing up in, say, 1998 and saying that Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were cheaters and that PEDs were a scourge that must be addressed was simply never going to happen. Not because Selig was in the dark or at a loss, but because, as it was with the players who used the drugs, it was in Bud Selig’s own self-interest not to speak.

Selig’s mendacity in that interview yesterday was even more remarkable than that, actually. Indeed, in addition to claiming he had no idea how to act back then, he claimed that, back in 1998, he was totally in the dark about why Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were shattering Roger Maris’ home run record:

“I talked to the Cubs about Sammy,” Selig recalled. “The Cardinals were thrilled with McGwire. It was a big civic celebration.”

And no one on either team mentioned a word, he said, about what was really driving those two men toward the threshold of history. So Selig said he turned to his “baseball people” in the commissioner’s office.

He says he asked, “What’s causing this?” And they reeled off what we would now describe as the usual, everything-but-the-elephant-in-the-room, theories: Expansion. The dilution of pitching. Questions about whether there was something different about the baseball.

“They gave me a whole bunch of reasons,” Selig said. “And I kept asking about steroids.”

Why Selig was asking people about steroid use in 1998 is a mystery, because Selig knew damn well that Mark McGwire was using PEDS as early as 1993, several months after he took over from Fay Vincent and became acting commissioner.

We know this thanks to an interview with former FBI agent Greg Stejskal, who was extensively quoted about his investigations into steroids in the early 1990s. Investigations which revealed Mark McGwire’s drug use dating back to 1989, which Stejskal told Major League Baseball about:

Stejskal said federal authorities, through their undercover operation, learned of McGwire’s steroid usage by 1993. A year later, Stejskal recalled that he shared information from the investigation related to baseball players with Major League Baseball’s then security boss, Kevin Hallinan, though the sport had no drug testing program at the time.

That story was written nearly seven years ago, by the way. No one associated with Major League Baseball has ever explained how the league did not know that McGwire was using PEDs in 1998 as a result. They clearly knew for five years by then. Unless you think that an MLB security chief, when informed of player being caught up in an FBI drug probe, wasn’t going to tell anyone about it.

Despite all of this, Bud Selig is walking around the Winter Meetings this week, getting his attaboys for his Hall of Fame induction and spinning unadulterated bull crap about what he knew and when he knew it with respect to PEDs in baseball. He’s gotten away with doing so for so long, so why should he change course now?