And That Happened: Monday's Scores and Highlights

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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.

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 signed. 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.