And That Happened: Monday's Scores and Highlights

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Braves 4, Mets 1: Johan Santana struck out 11 Braves, but they nickled
and dimed him for three runs in the first and then Chipper Jones knocked
one out off him in the seventh. Chipper’s career may be on death’s
door, but he could wake up in 2027 and hit a home run off the Mets. It’s
just what he does. And you bet your bippy I have this one first with a pic of Jones hitting the bomb because it will drive Mets fans nuts.

Rays 4, Twins 2: Jeremy Hellickson gets called up, makes his major
league debut, allows two runs on three hits over seven innings while
beating one of the hottest teams in baseball and then is promptly sent
right back down to Durham. I bet he’ll be on a bus this afternoon,
telling the other Durham Bulls about how you never handle your luggage
in the
show, somebody else carries your bags. About how you hit white
balls for batting practice, the ballparks are like cathedrals, the
hotels all have room service, and the women all have long legs and
brains.

Indians 6, Red Sox 5: I’m not linking to video of Carlos Santana’s knee injury, nor do I even want to think about it. I watched the play once — won’t watch it again — and I couldn’t tell based on my one viewing of it if Santana was out of position or messed up in the way he took that throw. All I can think is about how, as I watched him hit multiple times in Columbus this year and once in Cleveland, that the guy was born to have a bat in his hands but never looked quite right behind the plate. I hope he makes it back and proves me wrong next year.

Blue Jays 8, Yankees 6: An ineffective A.J. Burnett watched the Jays make like the Gashouse Gorillas and do a conga line around the bases in the fifth inning and Alex Rodriguez went 0 for 5, but I’m sure this was somehow Joba Chamberlain’s fault. Six doubles for the Jays in that 5th inning, by the way, two of which came off the bat of Travis Snider.

Reds 4, Pirates 0: Travis Wood toyed with the Buccos, shutting them out on two hits over seven innings. Miguel Cairo continues to play decidedly un-Miguel Cairolike baseball, getting two RBI and keeping his average at a cool .300 on the season.

Brewers 18, Cubs 1: I accidentally closed out of the page with the box score so I can’t be 100% certain, but I’m pretty sure this one ended with the mercy rule being applied in the fourth inning and Lou Piniella talking his players out for ice cream afterwards, telling them that the point of the game is to simply try your best.

Astros 9, Cardinals 4: I didn’t watch any of this game, but based only on the box score I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Tony La Russa overthought the matchups with his bullpen and once again pulled his best reliever out of the game in order to go with an inferior one that God Almighty himself wouldn’t put into the game in that situation. If that’s what happened, I’ll take it one step further and guess that La Russa did not accept any responsibility over this afterward and instead said something like “God Almighty doesn’t have access to my super secret pitching charts and assorted genius goodies.”  Welcome to St. Louis, Jake Westbrook (6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 7K).

Athletics 6, Royals 0: If you polled 100 casual baseball fans I wonder how many of them would be able to tell you the first thing about Trevor Cahill. Whether it’s because he’s on the west coast or because he’s an Athletic I’m not sure, but I’m guessing the number is small. A shame too, because the kid is something else. He three-hit the Royals last night, moving to 11-4 on the season and lowering his ERA to 2.72.

Padres 10, Dodgers 5: Chase Headley had four hits including a three-run bomb and Will Venable homered and drove in four. The Dodgers matched the Padres in the hit department with 14, but hit into double plays, stranded runners and generally played like a team that looked like it’s nine games out of first place. Which it is.

Nationals 3, Diamondbacks 1: I’m trying to think of anything more annoying for an opposing fanbase than to have the local nine get totally flummoxed by Livan Hernandez but I can’t think of a thing. He just throws his slop up there and — when the slop is working — you just can’t do anything with it despite it looking like you should be able to totally crush the guy. It was working last night (7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 5K).

The Chicago Cubs: Spring training games, regular season prices

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Craig Calcaterra
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MESA, AZ — I’ve been covering spring training for eight years, and in just those eight years a lot has changed in the Cactus and Grapefruit League experiences. The parks are bigger and fancier and the vibe is far more akin to a regular season major league one than the intimate and laid back atmosphere most people think of when they picture February and March baseball.

Just imagine, however, how much has changed if you’ve been coming to Florida or Arizona for a really long time.

“When we first started coming, you could bring your own beer in,” says Don Harper, a lifelong Cubs fan from Kennewick, Washington who spends his winters in Arizona. “You couldn’t bring a cooler, but you could bring a case of beer and a bag of ice and you just set it down in between you and you just put the ice on it and keep it cold.”

I asked Don if the beer vendors complained.

“They didn’t sell beer,” he said.

That was three decades and two ballparks ago. They certainly sell beer at the Cubs’ gleaming new facility, Sloan Park. Cups of the stuff cost more than a couple of cases did back when Don first started coming to spring training.

The price of beer is not the only thing that has changed, of course. The price of tickets is not what it used to be either. Don told me that when he started coming to Cubs spring training games tickets ran about seven dollars. If that. It’s a bit pricer now. Face value for a single lawn ticket, where you’ll be sitting on a blanker on the outfield berm — can be as high as $47 depending on the day of the week and the opponent. Infield box seats run as high as $85.

The thing is, though, you’re not getting face value seats for Cubs spring training games. Half of the home games sold out within a week of tickets going on sale in January. Since then just about every other game has sold out or soon will. That will force you to get tickets on the secondary market. According to TickPick, the average — average! — Cubs spring training ticket on the secondary market is $106.30. For a single ticket. It’s easily the highest price for spring training tickets in all of baseball, and is $26 higher than secondary market tickets for the next highest team, the Red Sox:

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That may be shocking or even appalling to some, but as the automatic sellouts at Sloan Park and those high secondary market prices suggest, there are at least 15,000 people or so for each Cubs home game who don’t seem to mind. Supply meet demand meet the defending World Series champions.

I spoke with two younger Cubs fans, Corey Hayden and Eleanor Meloul, who traveled here from Salt Lake City. On Sunday they lucked out and got a couple of lawn seats for $28. On Saturday, however, they paid $100 a piece on StubHub to get some seats just beyond third base. I asked them if there is some price point that would keep them from coming.

“There isn’t one,” Hayden said. “I paid $4,500 for a World Series ticket, so . . .”

Don Harper wouldn’t do that, but he doesn’t really mind the higher prices he’s paying for his spring tickets. Of course, he’s a longtime season ticket holder so he gets access to the face value seats. I asked him whether his spring training habit would end if those prices got jacked up higher, as the market would seem to bear, or if he had to resort to the secondary market.

Don paused and sighed, suggesting it was a tough question. As he considered it, I put a hard number on it, asking him if he’d still go if he had to pay $50 per ticket. “Yeah, probably,” he said. “$75?” I asked. He paused again.

“As long as I got enough money.”

Don is a diehard who, one senses, will always find a way to make it work. Corey spent a wad of cash on that once-in-a-lifetime World Series ticket, but he and Eleanor seem content to bargain hunt for the most part and splurge strategically. If you’re a Cubs fan — and if you’re not rich — that’s what you’ll have to do. The ticket it just too hot.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.