And That Happened: Wednesday's Scores and Highlights

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Rockies 6, Mets 2: Two outs, runners on second and third, a base open
and Troy Tulowitzski at the plate. I hate intentional walks, but I
understand that a lot of managers would walk Tulowtizki in that spot.
Especially to bring up Melvin Mora. Boy did that ever bite Jerry Manuel
in the ass! Grand slam for Mora, game basically over.

Padres 8, Pirates 5:
Sometimes I wonder if, on a road trip, Pirates players ever consider
walking away from the team hotel and defecting like they were Soviet
ballet dancers or something. I’m pretty sure there’s a U.N. resolution
somewhere that covers the dire situation in which they find themselves
and would counsel that the home team provide them asylum.

Diamondbacks 8, Brewers 2:
Adam LaRoche, Miguel Montero, Mark Reynolds and Stephen Drew went back
to back to back to back in the fourth inning.  All four came off Dave
Bush, by the way, who apparently is unaware of certain settled concepts.

Phillies 2, Dodgers 0: Matt Kemp was on the bench again because, according to Joe
Torre, he wanted to run out the lineup that had scored 15 runs the night
before. Maybe he would have been better off somehow finding a way to bench Roy Oswalt, because I think the opposing pitcher had a lot more to do with it.

Yankees 7, Rangers 6:
The Yankees got to Cliff Lee enough to keep it close, but then they
really got to Frank Francisco and Neftali Feliz to secure a comeback win
after being down 6-1. Good to see Mariano Rivera close it down a day
after a blown save. Fragile young closers like him need to get right
back on that horse after falling off, you know, lest they get all
erratic and nervous.

Marlins 9, Nationals 5:
Mike Stanton went 5 for 5 with two doubles a homer and four RBI.  OK,
now that that’s out of the way, allow me to observe that between
Washington, Miami and Atlanta, the NL East has to be the most humid
and disgusting division in baseball, weather-wise. I can’t think of any division that — in the
aggregate — plays in more oppressive, swampy heat. Baltimore gets ugly,
of course, but they’re offset by a couple of domes and northern teams in their
division. Same with Kansas City. Texas sucks, but lovely Anaheim,
Oakland and Seattle temperatures more than offset it. Philly and New
York don’t nearly outweigh the awfulness of D.C.-to-Miami weather. These are the things I think about when I’m on the 1,356th straight day of sitting in air conditioning.

Braves 8, Astros 2: My Mets and Phillies friends told me “beware of late-season Billy Wagner!” They kinda have a point. Still, the Braves gotta score more than two runs in regulation before they can really start worrying about their closer blowing one here or there. And hey, if Wagner had locked this one down then Brian McCann wouldn’t have had that grand slam, and the grand slam was great fun.

Cardinals 6, Reds 1: Hit this one up as it ended yesterday. The Reds, ironically, were the ones who ended up gettin’ told.

Athletics 5, Mariners 1: Dallas Braden turns in his second best performance of the year, going the distance and allowing a single run. Three doubles and three RBI for Mark Ellis, who hit into a triple play on Monday. This is important. This means something.

White Sox 6, Twins 1: John Danks has been pretty incredible lately. Last night: 8 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 7K. The dogfight in the AL Central continues.

Red Sox 10, Blue Jays 1: Two homers for Bill Hall and bombs from J.D. Drew and Adrian Beltre as well.

Orioles 3, Indians 1: Buck Showalter is The Doormat Whisperer. Brad Bergesen with a complete game two-hitter.  Only complaint: with thirteen hits and three walks, the O’s really should have scored more than three runs.

Angels 2, Royals 1: Bobby Abreu walks off with a bomb off Jesse Chavez who, for reasons known only to Ned Yost, was pitching in a critical situation. Great starts by both Zack Greinke and Jered Weaver, each allowing only one run on six hits in eight innings.

Tigers 3, Rays 2: Detroit salvages one as Matt Garza, sadly, does not no-hit the Tigers again.

Giants 5, Cubs 4: Pat Burrell had a couple of big hits and a nice defensive play on a relay throw from left field. At this point he should probably petition to have his time in Tampa Bay just expunged from his record, no?

Programming Note: I’m going to be gone tomorrow for what is, as far as you know, some important business. As such, there won’t be any “And That Happened.” Please try to find a way to muddle through the day . . . somehow.

Willie Mays gets a cable car named after him

Major League Baseball hall of famer  Willie Mays, who spent the majority of his career as a center fielder with the New York and San Francisco Giants, smiles as President Barack Obama honors the 2012 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants baseball team, Monday, July 29, 2013, during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. The team beat the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 World Series, their second championship since the franchise moved to San Francisco from New York in 1958. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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This is not exactly stunning news, but it’s Willie Mays’ 85th birthday today and any excuse to talk about Willie Mays is a good one. Happy Birthday, Willie!

The pretext is a story in the San Francisco Chronicle about how The Greatest Baseball Player of All Time (my view anyway) is getting an iconic cable car named after him. An icon named after an icon, I guess. The cable car is, appropriately, number 24.

Next month I’m taking my kids on vacation to California and we’re spending a few days in San Francisco. It’ll be a shame when I tell them we have to cancel half of a day’s plans while I make them wait for one particular cable car to come by so they can take my picture with it, but that’s just what they have to deal with given that I’m their dad.

Carlos Gomez calls out a hit piece-writing columnist

Houston Astros' Carlos Gomez (30) reacts after hitting a double in the second inning of a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
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Yesterday I wrote about a column written by Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle. It was about Astros outfielder Carlos Gomez, who has had a poor start to the year.

The column, as I noted, was a hatchet job, blaming Gomez for the Astros’ problems despite the fact that Gomez is by far from the biggest of the Astros’ problems. It was particularly bad in that it presented an unedited bit of broken English from Gomez which seemed calculated to cast Gomez in a bad light. Many journalists were critical of Smith in this regard, noting that he could’ve used a translator, could have paraphrased or could’ve done some mild correction via brackets, as is often done with quotes from non-native English speakers.

Last night Gomez took to Twitter to call out Smith himself:

It’s possible to write a column about how a player hasn’t lived up to expectations without being an insensitive jackass. It’s possible to do so even in the sharpest of ways. Smith didn’t do that, however, and didn’t make an effort to try, it seems. Gomez is right to take issue with it. And I suspect that Gomez’s teammates and organization take issue with it too. Which likely doesn’t bode well for Smith getting cooperation from others in the Astros family.

Reminder: athletes are not heroes

Zack Greinke
Associated Press
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This is something of a “greatest hits” piece and it’s topic I’ve talked about here before, but I’m reminded of it again because of Facebook’s memories thing which tells me I wrote about it seven years ago today back when I was still doing stuff at my old Shysterball blog at the Hardball Times.

The topic: ballplayers as heroes. The subject of the 2009 post on the matter was Zack Greinke, who was then beginning his breakout year with the Kansas City Royals. A columnist talked about how uplifting Greinke’s story was, what with him having overcome some struggles with anxiety disorder which had caused him to leave the game for a brief period. In early 2009 he was back, baby, and better than ever and many wanted to turn him into something larger than just a ballplayer excelling at his craft.

In the post I wrote about how, while such an impulse was understandable, it was a dangerous one as athletes have been made into heroes for years and years and, so often, they end up disappointing. Because we built them up so high, however, we don’t see such instances as the mere exhibition of human fallibility. We see them as some greater failure or even a betrayal, which is both ridiculous and unfair to these men and women, even if they have failed in certain ways. They have worked hard all of their lives to be good at a particular sport. They did not promise us glory or inspiration, yet we assume that they owe us those things. Their failures, however they are manifested, are matched by our failures at expectation management.

But it’s even more pernicious than that. Because, as I wrote at the time, when we create heroes, we necessarily create the need for villains and we will go out of our way to find those too, justified or otherwise:

“Hero” is too strong and baggage-laden a word anyway. As [Bill] James notes, it places a heavy burden on young men, and these guys are under such scrutiny day-in and day-out that they really don’t need it. What’s more, the term hero it necessarily assumes its opposite — villain — and demands that we search them out too. You know, to restore balance to the universe and everything. Often — as in the case of A-Rod and Gooden and Bonds and all of the others — they’re the same people, just older . . . Hero creation, worship, and subsequently, destruction has long been a part of baseball. But it’s not an essential part, and in my mind not a desirable part.

Seven years later we’re still doing this. As Bill James noted in his “Historical Baseball Abstract,” “When a young player comes to the major leagues and has success right away, writers will almost always write about what a fine young man he is as well as a supreme talent.” Many of them, like Zack Greinke, will prove to continue to be fine older men, just as they were fine young men. Some will not. Would it not be better if we didn’t get so invested in how fine a young man any one of them is? Or, short of that, if we didn’t act so betrayed and victimized if they turn out not to be such a fine young man?

I like to hear a good story about a baseball player who, by all outward appearances, seems like a good person. But I’m content to give such a story a smile and leave it at that. If we require heroism, there are people who do truly heroic things in the world beyond throw baseballs.

Andrew McCutchen apologies to an official scorer he said should be fired

Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) watches from the dugout during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Pittsburgh. Detroit won 7-3.(AP Photo/Don Wright)
Associated Press
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Andrew McCutchen made an error on Wednesday night. He thought he shouldn’t have been charged with one on the play, however, and afterward said “whoever scored that an error should be fired. That’s unbelievable. I did everything I could to catch it.”

It was a dumb comment for two reasons. First, a player “doing everything he can” on a play doesn’t make a misplay not a misplay. The “e” ain’t about effort, man. I realize scoring has gotten somewhat lax in recent years and players are routinely not given errors if it looks like they really, really tried, but there is not an intent element to the crime of making errors on the playing field. If you muff one, you muff one.

It was a dumb comment for another reason, and that’s that it was just not very nice. As we noted when David Ortiz or some others have made publicly disparaging comments about official scorers, it’s the ultimate punching down. These are people who have other jobs, aren’t public figures, don’t get paid a lot and really, really don’t have it in for anyone. Publicly criticizing them is bad enough, publicly demanding their jobs is pretty low.

Thankfully, with a day’s worth of reflection, McCutchen realized that this was the case and apologized. There aren’t public words from McCutchen available, but the club said that he reached out to the scorer and personally apologized. As he should’ve.