And That Happened: Sunday's Scores and Highlights

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White Sox 12, Royals 6: K.C. had a 6-0 lead in the first and, thanks in part to Paul Konerko hitting a couple of two-run bombs . . . lost. I guess we have to just keep on trusting The Process.  Oh, and speaking of the process:  I make a religious point of not watching NFL football on Sundays when competitive baseball is being played (and a philosophical point of not watching NFL football on Sundays after baseball is over), but reader Levi Stahl alerted me to something that happened on the football field yesterday. Take it away Levi:

Fourth quarter, Lions-Bears: the Lions threw a heck of a touchdown pass from about midfield, the
receiver made a strong, leaping catch, was pulled down and rolled over,
in control of the ball the whole way, then, as he hit the ground, let
the ball go. It was obviously, in every way, from every angle, a
dramatic, game-winning TD 

But then it wasn’t. Apparently there’s new emphasis this
year on what the commentators (and a former head of officials back in
the studio) kept calling and calling and calling “the process.” The
receiver apparently has to maintain control of the ball throughout “the
process,” which, apparently now means not letting it go once you’re
down, successfully, in the end zone. It was bizarre: the announcers
weren’t horrified by this travesty of sports justice: they just kept
talking about “the process” and the fact that this was how the NFL was
going to be officiating this year, and that they’d warned everybody.
Very few bad calls in baseball that I’ve seen have
been anything like as bad as this was, and usually when we see a bad
call in baseball, it’s acknowledged as such, eventually. Here the
emphasis wasn’t on the way that fans had been robbed of what they’d seen
on the field, it was on the all-knowing, all-seeing NFL rulekeepers.

I don’t know enough about that rule or NFL officiating in general these days to say anything beyond what Levi said, but I totally buy the credulous announcers thing. Baseball can be messy sometimes, but I think of it as messy in the way democracy is messy. The NFL is like some authoritarian regime, in which fans and a healthy portion of the overly-compliant media just say “well, the NFL has decided it should be so, so it is.” Screw it. I’d rather argue all day over dumb baseball stuff than calmly accept dumb football stuff, and I don’t care how good the TV ratings are.

Oh, and if you think I mentioned all of that simply so I can take a potshot at the NFL on its opening weekend, let me be absolutely clear: you’re damn right. Being a baseball fan these past several days has been like belonging to some tiny religious sect that worships and exalts austerity at Christmas time. Everyone in America is celebrating the return of their gambling, beer drinking and fantasy sports pretext, and I couldn’t care less.

Giants 6, Padres 1: San Francisco takes three of four from the Padres in Petco and are now (kinda) tied for the NL West lead. They’re a game behind in the loss column. Lincecum allowed one run in seven with nine strikeouts. Sandoval had a great leaping catch. Buster Posey drove in a couple. Mat Latos had his worst start since April. The Padres and the Giants meet one more time: October 1st-3rd — closing weekend — at AT&T Park. Can we make it a round robin and throw the Rockies in too?

Rockies 4, Diamondbacks 2: Ten straight for the Rockies who, even if they don’t end up making the playoffs, have bought another two or three years of “well, we all know the Rockies are capable of going on amazing runs!” talk. Jason Giambi won it for Colorado on a two-run walkoff home run. Anyone who thought a couple of years ago that Jason Giambi would be hitting game-winning home runs in pennant races in 2010, raise your hand. You — with the hand up? I know you’re lyin’.

Blue Jays 5, Rays 4: I see my kiss-of-death endorsements continue to do their magic. Just the other day on HBT Daily I said that Rafael Soriano is the best closer pitching for a contender (non-Mariano Rivera division) and that I’d trust him with my life. I guess even the best ones blow a save once in a while. This one was blown in only five pitches: strike, single, strike, strike, Adam Lind home run, ballgame.

Tigers 6, Orioles 2: The Tigers scored five runs in the eighth, with the big blow being Miguel Cabrera’s bases loaded double. MVP! MVP! MVP! You can still chant that when your team is .500, can’t you?

Pirates 3, Reds 1: It’s been quite a sight to see Reds relievers not named Aroldis Chapman blowing games recently. Francisco Cordero allowed three runs in the ninth and it could have been more, actually, but for some dumb luck like comebackers with the bases loaded.

Twins 6, Indians 2: The Twins won their 4,000th game.  Not this season, though. That would be, like, a record or something. Since the franchise moved to Minnesota from Washington. The combined win total of the Twins and Senators is (I think) 4,080. The White Sox are all but put away at this point, but the Twins can put the stake in their heart this week, as they have a three-game series. Mmmmm . . . stake.

Angels 3, Mariners 0: Someone the other day — I think it was Keith Law — mentioned that the Mariners are on pace to have the worst AL offense since the advent of the DH. I haven’t looked at the numbers myself, but I’d buy it. Ray Oyler could probably DH for this team. And he’s been dead for nearly 30 years!

Phillies 3, Mets 0: Oswalt dominated the Mets, shutting them out on 113 pitches. Given that everyone on the Mets knows that they’re basically playing for nothing the rest of the way you can probably expect to see more of this sort of thing between now and October 3rd.

Brewers
2, Cubs 0
: Yovani Gallardo shut the Cubbies out for seven and the pen
took it the rest of the way in another listless performance from the
losing team. Maybe the Mets and Cubs really just wanted to watch the late NFL games?

Rangers 4, Yankees 1: Cliff Lee just sent a message to the Yankees that (a) they don’t want any part of him in a short playoff series; and (b) they’re going to have to unload the Brinks truck to sign him this winter. 8 IP, 2 H, 1 ER. The Rangers swept the Yankees, though New York somehow continues to hold on to their lead in the East. I reserve the right to change my mind between now and this afternoon, but I think for the first time this year we’re going to have our first non-AL East team leading the Power Rankings when they come out today.

Red Sox 5, Athletics 3: Beckett beats Braden, in a matchup of two guys who haven’t mattered a whole heck of a lot this season since, oh, mid-May.

Astros 7, Dodgers 4: Houston and L.A. split four. Oh, and John Lindsey got his first major league hit. A single to left, pinch hitting for Ronald Belisario. He’s the only reason to root for the Dodgers as the season winds down.

Marlins 6, Nationals 5: Mike Stanton bangs two out the yard as the Feesh sweep the Gnats. Their season series is over too, with Florida beating Washington 13-5.

Cardinals 7, Braves 3: This Pujols fella? Yeah, he can play a little bit (2 for 5, 2 HR). But hey, at least with dumb old football on opposite this one at least no one was watching it, right?

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.