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.

Columnist calls for Sammy Sosa to “come clean.” He probably shouldn’t.

15 Sep 1998:  A silhouette portrait of Sammy Sosa #21of the Chicago Cubs taken in the dug-out as he looks across the field during the game against the San Diego Padres at Qualcomm Park in San Diego, California. The Cubs defeated the Padres 4-2
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Yesterday Sammy Sosa — quite ridiculously — compared himself to Jesus Christ. The idea: he has suffered greatly since retirement, having been shunned by the Cubs and disparaged by the baseball establishment and . . . well, I don’t know how that makes him Jesus, but forget it, he’s rolling.

Today, predictably, a Chicago columnist does what columnists have been doing for years with respect to guys suspected of PED use: argues that Sosa should “come clean” if he wants to come in from the cold. Here’s David Haugh of the Tribune:

The game welcomed back Barry Bonds and McGwire from steroid exile after both separately acknowledged their involvement with performance-enhancing drugs. Fox Sports employs Alex Rodriguez, who admitted to PED use during his career. The door back to baseball is open for Sosa, but only if he follows the same path his contemporaries from the steroid era did. The Cubs have made this clear to Sosa, in no uncertain terms, yet he continues to paint himself as the victim.

This is not accurate. Bonds has never “come clean” about his PED use. He was in litigation over it until 2015 and wasn’t giving any confessionals about it. When the Marlins hired him he said nothing. He made allusions to being “an idiot” in an interview last summer, but that was clearly focused on his cagey attitude, not his drug use. There was no deal with the Marlins that his job was prefaced on his “coming clean,” and he never did.

The same can be said for McGwire. Big Mac was hired by the Cardinals as a hitting coach on October 26, 2009. His acknowledgment of PED use came months later, just before spring training in January 2010. While it may be plausible that the Cardinals told McGwire that they would not hire him absent a confession of PED use, that’s not how it tracked in real time. At his hiring, John Mozeliak and Bill DeWitt each said there was no set blueprint for how McGwire would proceed as far as his public statements went and they allowed him to control the timeline. His confession seemed to be very much a function of heading off spring training distractions and questions from the press which would have access to him everyday, not some precondition of his employment.

But even if we grant the apparently erroneous premise that Bonds and McGwire “came clean” to return to baseball’s good graces, such a road map is of no use to Sosa. He’s not looking to coach or, as far as we know, even be employed by a club. If the study we talked about four years ago remains accurate, coming clean about PED use makes an athlete look worse in the eyes of the public than those who deny. Ask David Ortiz how that works. It likewise will do nothing for his Hall of Fame vote totals. Ask McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro how that works.

Sosa may be engaging in some unfortunate hyperbole, but as far as can be determined, he’s not asking for a whole hell of a lot. He’s not asking for a coaching job or to have his number retired or for them to rename Wrigley Field after him. He’s asking to be acknowledged as a part of Cubs history. He’s asking for the same kind of treatment other retired greats receive from time to time. A first pitch? A public appearance or two? Some minor role as a team ambassador? The bar for that isn’t very high.

The Cubs, who benefited greatly from Sosa’s production — and, necessarily, by whatever juicing Sosa did to achieve it — aren’t being asked to do much. Just to be decent to a person who is an important part of their history. That should not require that Sosa give a weepy interview about steroids which will serve no one’s purpose but the tut-tutting media. A media which, if McGwire’s example is any guide, will still slam Sosa if he comes clean and claim that his confession wasn’t good enough and his contrition wasn’t genuine. If he does confess, bank on that reaction. Bet the mortgage on it.

All of which makes me wonder if it’s the media, and not the Cubs who are the ones who really want to see such a thing.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.