And That Happened: Wednesday's Scores and Highlights

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Phillies 7, Indians 6: Walkoff jack for Jimmy Rollins gives the Phillies a
come-from-behind victory.  Gentlemen, you may commence the “the
Phillies’ swoon was all about missing Jimmy Rollins” narrative . . .
now.

Rockies 8, Red Sox 6: We can’t be terribly surprised at ninth inning rallies off the Indians’ pen, but two homers off Johnathan Papelbon in the ninth inning? Oy!  And let’s put it this way: if you score six runs on ten hits off Ubaldo Jimenez you have no business losing that ballgame.

Yankees 6, Diamondbacks 5: Another rule: if you walk seven times in two and a third innings against the other team’s starter, you should score more than two runs off him and thus not be required to rely on a tenth inning home run from Curtis Granderson in order to win the game.

Royals 1, Nationals 0: They could barely touch him and they owe the game’s outcome to their own pitching staff and the Nats’ offensive ineptitude, but the Royals’ batters can say with 100% accuracy that they handed Stephen Strasburg his first major league loss.

Cardinals 1, Blue Jays 0: Damn shame both starters couldn’t have won this one. Chris Carpenter gets the W after flinging eight scoreless innings while allowing only three hits. Rickey Romero was just about as good with eight shutout innings of his own.  A ninth inning RBI single by Matt Holliday — who no longer stinks, by the way — was the difference in the ballgame.

Mets 5, Tigers 0: My displeasure with the Mets’ win is more than outweighed by the fact that it was occasioned by the continuing excellence of R.A. Dickey (8 IP, 4 H, 0 ER). Viva knuckleballers.

Padres 5, Rays 4: The particular schedule I look at to track teams’ long term success lists “W”s in green and “Ls” in red.  For the Rays, as Lt. Al Giradello used to say on “Homicide,” there’s a lot of red up on that board! Well, he used to kind of mumble it, and he wasn’t talking about the Rays, but you know what I’m getting at. Wait, you don’t know, because you didn’t watch the show, which caused NBC to make the producers drop Jon Polito and Ned Beatty from the cast in order to try to make it appeal to a younger demographic, thus killing all that was great about it. Seriously, Michael Michele? Jon Seda? Who the hell ever would have bought them as murder police? Honestly! Uh, where was I?  Oh yeah, the Rays are 8-11 in June.

Marlins 7, Orioles 5: Edwin Rodriguez wins his debut as the Marlins’ manager. I wonder what bogus excuse Loria will use when they fire him in order to replace him with Bobby Valentine or whoever. Maybe “you know how I feel about wins! I really expected to win the rest of our ballgames and you lost one at the end of July!” Or how about “This has nothing to do with anything Hanley Ramirez said. In fact he communicated his displeasure and disrespect for you telepathically, so he never had to utter a single word!” Oh, and that’s 21 of 25 games denoted by little red “Ls” for the Orioles. Since both they and Giradello are from Baltimore, maybe I should have saved my “Homicide” rant for this one. Maybe not: a lot of those Ls are stone cold whodunnits, and no one gets worked up about those. The Rays’ losses are red balls.

Reds 3, Athletics 0: Speaking of red writing, the A’s are 6-16 in June. Speaking of the color red in general, the Reds have righted the ship quite nicely after that nightmare weekend in Seattle. Seven shutout innings for Johnny Cueto and a 3 for 3, 2 RBI night for Jay Bruce.

White Sox 4, Braves 2: The White Sox keep rolling and now the Braves are starting to skid. Two homers for Carlos Quentin.

Mariners 8, Cubs 1: That Cliff Lee fella is pretty good (CG 9 H, 1 ER, 9K, 0 BB). Maybe someone should think about trading for him.

Angels 2, Dodgers 1: This one ended on two base running screw ups: First Matt Kemp was picked off at second for out number two. Then, a couple batters later, Jamey Carroll hit a single that should have scored Reed Johnson easily from second. But Russell Martin was in his own world somewhere, rounded second too far and then got pegged at the bag trying to get back before Johnson could cross the plate. Martin out, no run, game over. I think I already used an “Oy” this morning, but extreme times call for additional “Oys” so Oy!

Rangers 13, Pirates 3: The Rangers refuse to lose — that’s ten straight for them — and the Pirates refuse to even approach the appearance of a major league team. Michael Young was 3 for 4 with a double, a homer and four RBI.

Brewers 5, Twins 3: I guess maybe I shouldn’t have assumed Ken Macha was so foolish as to install Trevor Hoffman as the closer after all. I mean, if he’s not going to use Hoffman to close a game the night after John Axford gets a six out save, he may never do it. Pfun Pfact: Manny Parra had four wild pitches.

Astros 6, Giants 3: Brett Myers has been one of the few bright spots for Houston this year. Last night he gave up three runs — only one earned — in seven innings and even went 2 for 3 with an RBI.

Columnist calls for Sammy Sosa to “come clean.” He probably shouldn’t.

15 Sep 1998:  A silhouette portrait of Sammy Sosa #21of the Chicago Cubs taken in the dug-out as he looks across the field during the game against the San Diego Padres at Qualcomm Park in San Diego, California. The Cubs defeated the Padres 4-2
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Yesterday Sammy Sosa — quite ridiculously — compared himself to Jesus Christ. The idea: he has suffered greatly since retirement, having been shunned by the Cubs and disparaged by the baseball establishment and . . . well, I don’t know how that makes him Jesus, but forget it, he’s rolling.

Today, predictably, a Chicago columnist does what columnists have been doing for years with respect to guys suspected of PED use: argues that Sosa should “come clean” if he wants to come in from the cold. Here’s David Haugh of the Tribune:

The game welcomed back Barry Bonds and McGwire from steroid exile after both separately acknowledged their involvement with performance-enhancing drugs. Fox Sports employs Alex Rodriguez, who admitted to PED use during his career. The door back to baseball is open for Sosa, but only if he follows the same path his contemporaries from the steroid era did. The Cubs have made this clear to Sosa, in no uncertain terms, yet he continues to paint himself as the victim.

This is not accurate. Bonds has never “come clean” about his PED use. He was in litigation over it until 2015 and wasn’t giving any confessionals about it. When the Marlins hired him he said nothing. He made allusions to being “an idiot” in an interview last summer, but that was clearly focused on his cagey attitude, not his drug use. There was no deal with the Marlins that his job was prefaced on his “coming clean,” and he never did.

The same can be said for McGwire. Big Mac was hired by the Cardinals as a hitting coach on October 26, 2009. His acknowledgment of PED use came months later, just before spring training in January 2010. While it may be plausible that the Cardinals told McGwire that they would not hire him absent a confession of PED use, that’s not how it tracked in real time. At his hiring, John Mozeliak and Bill DeWitt each said there was no set blueprint for how McGwire would proceed as far as his public statements went and they allowed him to control the timeline. His confession seemed to be very much a function of heading off spring training distractions and questions from the press which would have access to him everyday, not some precondition of his employment.

But even if we grant the apparently erroneous premise that Bonds and McGwire “came clean” to return to baseball’s good graces, such a road map is of no use to Sosa. He’s not looking to coach or, as far as we know, even be employed by a club. If the study we talked about four years ago remains accurate, coming clean about PED use makes an athlete look worse in the eyes of the public than those who deny. Ask David Ortiz how that works. It likewise will do nothing for his Hall of Fame vote totals. Ask McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro how that works.

Sosa may be engaging in some unfortunate hyperbole, but as far as can be determined, he’s not asking for a whole hell of a lot. He’s not asking for a coaching job or to have his number retired or for them to rename Wrigley Field after him. He’s asking to be acknowledged as a part of Cubs history. He’s asking for the same kind of treatment other retired greats receive from time to time. A first pitch? A public appearance or two? Some minor role as a team ambassador? The bar for that isn’t very high.

The Cubs, who benefited greatly from Sosa’s production — and, necessarily, by whatever juicing Sosa did to achieve it — aren’t being asked to do much. Just to be decent to a person who is an important part of their history. That should not require that Sosa give a weepy interview about steroids which will serve no one’s purpose but the tut-tutting media. A media which, if McGwire’s example is any guide, will still slam Sosa if he comes clean and claim that his confession wasn’t good enough and his contrition wasn’t genuine. If he does confess, bank on that reaction. Bet the mortgage on it.

All of which makes me wonder if it’s the media, and not the Cubs who are the ones who really want to see such a thing.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.