And That Happened: Monday's Scores and Highlights

9 Comments

Braves 5, Nationals 0: You can throw all the fire in the world, but if your defense isn’t any good, you’re not going to go very far. That’s a lesson Stephen Strasburg learned last night as the Nats’ defense did a Marx Brothers’ routine behind him in the seventh inning, allowing the Braves to score a zillion times.  Wait, that’s not fair: the Marx Brothers were nothing if not competent. Hell, they were a well-oiled machine, really. The Nats were more like the Stooges. Like, post-Curly and Shemp-era Stooges. With Ian Desmond as Joe Besser.

Reds 7, Phillies 3: Johnny Cueto gave up only one run in eight innings despite not striking anyone out. Don’t see that every day. Scott Rolen hit his 300th career homer. Chase Utley left the game after jamming his thumb stretching a single into a double.

Cardinals 6, Diamondbacks 5: The Cards keep pace thanks to the latest in a series of late game catastrophes for Arizona this year. This one was less a bullpen problem than a defense problem, as two key throwing errors allowed multiple Cardinals runs to score. Of course one of the throwing errors was on reliever Aaron Heilman, so maybe you do count it as a bullpen problem. And interesting ettickal question.

Marlins 10, Mets 3: R.A. Dickey reverts to old form in Puerto Rico (5 IP, 5 H, 5 ER) and the Mets pen doesn’t do much better. A three run homer for Mike Stanton tops off Edwin Rodriguez’s homecoming game in style.  Though I’m happy for him that he got to manage in his homeland, I’d still like to know what happened with that Bobby V. thing. Unless someone tells me otherwise I’m going to assume that he had, like, three bartenders quit on him at his sports bar in Stamford and now he has to hustle back and forth between pulling extra shifts there and his night job on Baseball Tonight up in Bristol.

Pirates 2, Cubs 1: The Buccos win their first road game in 18 tries behind eight innings of one-run ball from Paul Maholm. An RBI double from Jose Tabata in the ninth inning was der differencemacher.

Tigers 7, Twins 5: The Tigers take possession of first place in the AL Central, but Joel Zumaya left the game with an obviously painful arm injury after throwing a pitch in the eighth. All of that pales, however, compared to the fact that Jim Thome hit a triple. The last time he had a triple that didn’t have the words “decker cheeseburger” after it was in 2004.

Indians 2, Blue Jays 1: No one comes around and tells me that I disrespect the Blue Jays anymore. That’s kind of sad, really. Not as sad as getting held to one run by the Indians’ staff, but pretty sad all the same.

Royals 3, White Sox 1: The Chisox loaded the bases with nobody out in the ninth but couldn’t plate a single run and were retired on a strikeout and a couple of infield popups. Anthony Larew got his first major league win. Which seems wacky to me because, as is the case with a lot of guys who came up with the Braves, I feel like Larew has been around forever. I bet fans of every team have a few guys like this.

Astros 9, Brewers 5: The Astros fell into a 4-0 deficit in the early
going but roared back. Michael Bourn had a good game: four hits,
including a solo home run in the third and an RBI
single in the sixth. He also struck out once after stepping out of the
box while asking for a time out that was never granted. That’s always
fun.

Dodgers 4, Giants 2: The Giants hit into five double plays.
One of them came off the bat of Edgar Renteria in the fifth. Renteria
was first-pitch swinging with Pablo Sandoval on first base after he
walked on four straight pitches. Repeat: Pablo “I’ll swing at anything
south of the bridge and north of the airport” Sandoval walked on four
straight pitches, and Renteria thought it wise to immediate hack at the
first pitch right afterward. Mercy.

Rockies 10, Padres 6: Ubaldo Jiminez hadn’t allowed a hit into the
sixth inning. The wheels fell off for him then, however, allowing three
singles a homer, a walk and four runs. Lucky for him he had an 8-0 lead
at the time.

Indians sign reliever Tommy Hunter to $2 million deal

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Tommy Hunter throws to the Miami Marlins during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Miami, Friday, May 22, 2015. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
Leave a comment

Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that right-hander Tommy Hunter has agreed to a one-year, $2 million contract with the Indians. It’s a major-league deal, so Hunter gets a spot on the 40-man roster and will be in the Opening Day bullpen if he’s fully recovered from core muscle surgery.

Hunter split last season between the Orioles and Cubs, totaling 60 innings with a 4.18 ERA and 47/14 K/BB ratio. He had a sub-3.00 ERA in both 2013 and 2014, and has generally been a setup-caliber reliever since shifting to the bullpen full time.

He has good control and a mid-90s fastball, but Hunter has never missed many bats despite the big-time velocity and often struggles to keep the ball in the ballpark. He’ll likely fill a middle relief role in Cleveland initially.

“YER OUT!” Jenrry Mejia permanently suspended for a third positive PED test

Jenrry Mejia
14 Comments

You knew someone would be dumb enough to do this eventually, you just didn’t know who. Now we do: MLB just announced that reliever Jenrry Mejia has been permanently suspended after testing positive for Boldenone. That was his third positive test and under the Joint Drug Agreement that means his career is more or less over.

Mejia’s three strikes came in pretty rapid succession. On April 11, 2015 it was announced that Mejía had been suspended for 80 games after testing positive for use of stanozolol. On July 28, 2015 it was announced that Mejia had failed a test for Stanozolol again and Boldenone to boot, giving him a 162-game suspension, which he’d still be serving at the beggining of the season. Now this third test.

Mejia has played five seasons in the big. He started with so much promise, looking like a great prospect coming up. His performance only matched the promise in fits and starts, however, resulting in a 9-14 record with a 3.68 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 162/76 in 183.1 innings, all with the Mets.

Per the rules of the Joint Drug Agreement, Mejia can apply for reinstatement after being banned for two years. But it would obviously require him to spend two years doing a lot of smart things he hasn’t been doing in the past year. And it would also represent a near-unprecedented comeback. It could happen, I suppose, but it’s a far safer bet that his career is over.

I’m going to break it to you: some teams will stink this year. Like every year.

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 4.45.53 PM
Leave a comment

There’s an AP story out today talking about how — brace yourself — some teams are going to be bad this year. It’s true. There are some teams, such as Atlanta, Philly, Colorado, Cincinnati and probably Milwaukee who seem certain to lose a lot of games.  The article’s author notes that, while a lot of money was spent in free agency this winter, not everyone was spending. He says “for some clubs, 2016 is basically over before it starts when it comes to contending.”

That sort of framing sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it? Isn’t it exactly the sort of thing we heard back in the early 2000s when people were still stumping for salary caps? Boston and New York were outspending everyone, the low money teams couldn’t keep up and, as spring training dawned, the season was over before it even began for half the league at least. There were scads of articles like that written 10-15 years ago. Bud Selig and others even used that exact construction — teams going to spring training already knowing they couldn’t compete — as points of rhetoric in the leadup to the 2002 labor battle with the players. Indeed, here’s the exact language from the 2000 Blue Ribbon economic report that Bud Selig commissioned which, by the way, should be read as a piece of labor propaganda, not as an actually useful or illuminative report:

What has made baseball’s recent seasons disturbing, and what makes its current economic structure untenable in the long run, is that, year after year, too many clubs know in spring training that they have no realistic prospect of reaching postseason play. Too many clubs in low-revenue markets can only expect to compete for postseason berths if ownership is willing to incur staggering operating losses to subsidize a competitive player payroll.

Different circumstances, obviously, but the same general bogeyman: some teams have no chance to compete!

Using that as the concern for whatever ails baseball has never made much sense to me as there will always be teams that are bad. Really, go look at any year’s league standings going back to the 19th century and there will be bad teams. It’s sort of the other side of the coin of good teams. Hard to have one without the other. And it’s probably a good thing to have some good and some and teams. Who wants a total crapshoot every year? What is this, Lake Woebegone, where every team is above .500? God, how boring.

The real issue is not that some teams will be good and some will be bad. It’s why they’ll be good and why they’ll be bad and whether the dynamic which creates good and bad teams is itself positive or negative for the game.

In the 40s and 50s, almost the entire American League knew that it had no chance to compete with the Yankees but they kind of liked that because they were making a lot of money not fielding competitive clubs. That was bad. In the late 1990s maybe some felt the same way too and it was because of no revenue sharing or incompetent management. Not great, and a lot of tweaks were made. Now a small handful of teams can’t compete because they’re doing wholesale rebuilds which some people call “tanking” and others think is not an issue.

As I recently wrote, to the extent people do think “tanking” is a problem, it’s important to (a) put it in perspective; and (b) look at the incentives teams have to tank and talk about whether they should be adjusted. As far as the perspective part goes, I’d say that only having five or six out of 30 teams with no realistic shot is actually pretty good compared to other points in baseball history. There’s a lot more parity now than there used to be. As far as the incentives: look at the dumb draft rules which were imposed to save owners a buck when it came to paying amateurs but which GREATLY increases the importance of picking high and thus losing.

The AP article touches on that, but it’s buried fairly deep down, well after the hand-wringing about teams entering spring training with no chance to win. As spring training progresses, there will likely be a lot of talk of just how bad some of these rebuilding teams will be as well. Most of that analysis will stop at the current state of the team and the hopelessness the fan bases are supposed to be feeling.

As a critically-minded fan, don’t let it stop there. If your team stinks, think about why it does and why it’s pursuing the course it is. Twenty years ago you could probably be safe in saying “well, my team’s GM is dumb and the owner is cheap.” That’s not really the case for most teams now. Now, I think, it’s far more about the incentives in play which make putting a lousy product on the field in the short term preferable to not doing so. Call it tanking, call it whatever you want, but if this is concern for you — and if this is a problem for Major League Baseball — the focus needs to be on the incentives.  Not on the fact that some teams are going to stink. Because teams will always stink. The important question is why.

Marlins sign left-hander Craig Breslow

Craig Breslow
Leave a comment

After spending the past four seasons in the Red Sox’s bullpen left-hander Craig Breslow has signed with the Marlins on a minor-league deal.

Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports that the contract comes with an invitation to spring training and will pay $1.5 million if Breslow makes the Opening Day roster.

Brewslow has struggled in back-to-back seasons, posting a 5.96 ERA in 2014 and a 4.15 ERA last year. At age 35 he’s not a great bet to bounce back in a huge way, but Breslow posted a 1.81 ERA as recently as 2013 and is certainly still capable of being a useful middle reliever.