And That Happened: Sunday's Scores and Highlights

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Padres 8, Giants 2: So much for Jonathan Sanchez’s big prediction. The Padres take two of three from San Francisco and run their lead to 3.5 games. Another distressingly bad start from Tim Lincecum (3.2 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 5 ER). The scary question of the day: is he just lost, or is he attempting to pitch through an injury?

Twins 4, Athletics 2: David Pinto at Baseball Musings coined the term “short shutout” for a pitcher who didn’t go the distance but who didn’t allow any runs. I guess Kevin Slowey gets a “short no-hitter,” then, after being pulled following seven innings of no-hit ball. The fans booed Ron Gardenhire when he pulled Slowey. Gardenhire: “I’d boo me too.”  But he made the right call.

Reds 2, Marlins 0: Homer Bailey with six shutout innings, but the star
of this game was Reds’ radio color man Jeff Brantley who, during the
broadcast, was asked by a listener if he preferred Texas, Carolina, or
Kansas City barbecue. I was on the road and missed it, but my good
friend and former co-worker Mark was listening and he gives us a very
close-to-verbatim transcript:

“Debate?  The debate is I like all of them.  How bout that.  The thing
that you have to realize is that if you’re from Texas, or Kansas City,
or Carolina, well, obviously you think your barbecue is the best.  If
you are a barbecue connoisseur as I claim to be and I know that I am,
they’re all good.  That’s why you have different types of barbecue – so
you don’t have to eat the same thing every day.  Monday you’ll have
Kansas City, Tuesday you’ll have Carolina, Wednesday you’ll have Texas. 
Then you go from those three days of ribs into the Boston Butt and into
the pulled pork.  Then you spend the weekend with the roasted chicken.”

Jeff Brantley really brings the game to life.

Royals 1, Yankees 0: Brian Bullington, bitches, you better aks someone (8 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 5K).

Braves
13, Dodgers 1
: No Chipper? No Heyward? No problem. Now, if Rick Ankiel
will just walk twice a game and if Alex Gonzalez will just drive in four every
day, the Bravos will be sitting pretty. OK, that’s jocularity. The
reality: for all the hand wringing over the injuries and the concerns
over people going cold in the lineup, Atlanta is going to live or die
based on the rotation. They can carry through if Jurrjens, Hanson and
Hudson stay solid. If not, forget it.

Indians 9, Mariners 1: Improbable: Travis Hafner comes off the DL to hit a grand slam off King Felix. More improbable: Hernandez gave up six runs, but none of them were earned. Even more improbable: Justin Masterson gave up only one hit, but walked six dudes and threw six shutout innings.

Rays 3, Orioles 2: I think we can all agree that Jeremy Hellickson is pretty good (6 IP, 3 H 1 ER, 5K). The Rays move on to face the Rangers now, which should be fun.

Tigers 13, White Sox 8: Chicago came back from being down 5-1 to take the lead and then the Tigers stepped on the accelerator. The Chisox are spinning out of control.

Nationals 5, Diamondbacks 3: A better start than last time for Strasburg (5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 7K), but a no-decision on the day. The two unearned runs were his fault, by the way, thanks to a throwing error. A bunch of dumbass fans ran onto the field to protest the Arizona immigration law. I don’t care what your issue is. I don’t care if I subscribe to it or not. Don’t interrupt friggin’ baseball games OK? Because if you do, I will totally change my view on one issue, and that’s on whether or not trespassing fans should be tased.

Astros 8, Pirates 2: Seven straight losses for Pittsburgh. Which is good, because I had a September series at PNC in mind for a little road trip, and frankly, I didn’t want to have to fight for tickets.

Cubs 9, Cardinals 7: The Cards follow up the big emotional sweep of the Reds by dropping two of three to the DOA Cubs at home, surrendering the division lead to Cincy. Derrek Lee hit two bombs, giving him four in three games. Too bad the whole “take a couple days off due to bereavement leave and come back and rake” thing isn’t the kind of routine anyone wants to follow.

Rangers 7, Red Sox 3: Texas is now 3-2 in the eight game Yankees-Red Sox-Rays gauntlet through which they’re running. Of course, I don’t suppose it will be 103 degrees in Arlington in October, so we may only be able to learn so much from this test.

Rockies 6, Brewers 5: A walkoff RBI single for Troy Tulowitzki in the latest  act of the “Trevor Hoffman is done” play.

Blue Jays 4, Angels 1: Rickey Romero celebrates his contract extension with a spiffy day on the mound (7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER). No homers for Jose Bautistia this series, which is a rarity these days.

Phillies 3, Mets 1: New York scored nine runs during their six game homestand. The only good thing that happened for them was when Angel Pagan thew out Kyle Kendrick out 9-3 on what should have been a single to right. By several steps. And that’s less good than freaky and mercifully game-shortening.

The deeper implications of the A.J. Ellis trade

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 17:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers heads to the dugout at the end of the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Dodger Stadium on May 17, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The trade of a light-hitting backup catcher is normally about as inconsequential as it gets. The trade of A.J. Ellis by the Dodgers to the Phillies, however, is anything but that. Indeed, it may be the public manifestation of long-simmering, well, maybe “feud” is too strong a word, but a definite butting of heads between the team’s front office and its best player.

While almost all of the clubhouse drama in Los Angeles has surrounded a talented but aggravating corner outfielder currently toiling in the minors, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times wrote last night that the Ellis trade could very well be seen as the front office’s shot across Clayton Kershaw‘s bow:

Kershaw’s preference of Ellis was the subject of a longstanding tug-of-war between Kershaw and the front office, which wanted Yasmani Grandal behind the plate as much as possible . . . Some players interpreted the trade as a message from the front office.

This isn’t Kershaw’s team. It’s not Corey Seager’s team or Adrian Gonzalez’s, either.

It’s Friedman’s.

The notion that Kershaw likes to pitch to Ellis is pretty well-known, but the idea that it was so strong a preference that it created a dispute as to whether he has final say over a roster spot is news, at least to people who aren’t around the Dodgers all the time. Hernandez is a good columnist and is particularly well-plugged in to the Dodgers after many years of being their beat writer for the Times. He wouldn’t throw the notion of there being something of a power struggle in this regard out there all willy-nilly in order to stir the pot or something. I don’t doubt for a second that something bigger than most of us have seen is going on here.

As for the trade itself: yeah, it’s pretty debatable as to whether it makes any kind of sense. Carlos Ruiz is likely an upgrade over Ellis, but it’s a pretty marginal upgrade when you consider how few plate appearances the Dodgers backup catcher will make for the rest of the year. It’s especially marginal if you assume, as Hernandez and others assume, likely with reason, that the loss of Ellis is going to harm morale. At least in the short term before they get to know Ruiz well (worth noting, though, that he comes pretty highly recommended from Kershaw-caliber aces for all the same reasons Ellis does). I can see a lot of reasons not to make that deal even for an extra hit or two a week that Ruiz may give you over Ellis.

All of which speaks to what we don’t know. What we don’t know about the mind of Andrew Friedman and whether or not there is something more going on here than is immediately apparent. About the relationship between him and Kershaw and, for that matter, him and the rest of the team that would cause him to make a deal that plays as poorly with his own players as this one does. It could be something about Ellis. It could be something about Friedman’s relationship with Kershaw. It could be something totally unrelated to any of that, such as offseason plans and the roster in 2017 (Ruiz has a team option for next year, Ellis is a pending free agent). Unless or until Friedman speaks or a reporter gets someone to shed more light on this, there will continue to be questions.

In the meantime, I’ll grant that there are certainly different rules which apply to superstars than mere mortals, but veto power over a trade and/or playing time for other players isn’t typically one of them. If, as Hernandez suggests, there was a sense that Kershaw and Friedman didn’t see eye-to-eye on that and it wasn’t otherwise being resolved, it makes Friedman’s move somewhat more understandable.

World Baseball Classic pools, venues announced

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - MARCH 10:  Miguel Cabrera #24 of Venezuela gets a hit and drives in a run against Spain during the first round of the World Baseball Classic at Hiram Bithorn Stadium on March 10, 2013 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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Yesterday the folks who run the World Baseball Classic (i.e. the Rand Corporation, in conjunction with the saucer people, under the supervision of the reverse vampires, the Illuminati and the Trilateral Commission) announced the groupings and venues for next springs’s tournament. It breaks down thusly:

  • Pool A will play in Tokyo, featuring Australia, China, Cuba, and Japan;
  • Pool B will play in Seoul, featuring Chinese Taipei, Korea, the Netherlands, and either Brazil, Israel, Great Britain, or Pakistan (final participant to be determined at a qualifying tournament in New York next month);
  • Pool C will play in Miami, featuring Canada, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and the United States;
  • Pool D will play in Guadalajara, featuring Italy, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela.

A winner and a runner-up will advance from each pool following a round-robin competition. That will result in a second round robin made up of Pool A and B — which will be called Pool E, because it HAS to be complicated — and which will be played in Tokyo. Meanwhile, Pool C and D’s representatives will make up Pool F, who will play in San Diego at Petco Park.

The winner of Pool F will then take on the runner-up of Pool E in a semifinal at Dodger Stadium, while the winner of Pool E will face Pool F’s runner-up there as well. The winners of those matches will play in the WBC final, also at Dodger Stadium.

Got it? Good.

Now we wait. And listen to people tell us how much we should care about the World Baseball Classic between now and March.