And That Happened: Thursday's Scores and Highlights

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Rays 10, Yankees 3: In 1974, Dock Ellis hit three Cincinnati Reds players in a row to start a game. He tried to hit a fourth — Tony Perez — but ended up walking him because Perez kept dodging pitches. He then tried to hit Johnny Bench, but before he could, Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh took him out. The plunkings were intentional, by the way: before the game, Ellis told his teammates that he wanted to make a statement. His exact quote in the locker room: “We gonna get down. We gonna do the do. I’m going to hit these motherf——.”

I’d like to think Javier Vazquez was cool and brash enough to do that before he hit three Rays in a row last night, but we know better. He’s just lost. And this could have been the last time he ever pitches for the Yankees.  Fitting it came in such an ugly game. Both of his stints in New York have been nightmares, more or less.

As for what this disaster of a game means: the season series between these two is over, and the Yankees have a half-game lead. But they also have to play six games against the Red Sox and three against the Jays.  Tampa Bay, on the other hand, plays the Mariners, Orioles and Royals. And the Rays possess the tiebreaker. I like the Rays’ chances, don’t you?

Giants 13, Cubs 0: I did a radio hit last night. Instead of watching any baseball or surfin’ the web before I went on, I read a book. I had been reading baseball stuff and writing all day, so I figured I was prepared.  The host asked me about the Giants, and I said something about how they’ve had trouble scoring runs.  As soon as I got off the phone I checked the scores and saw this.  I would like to thank the host — who I know had the current scores up in front of him at the time — for not totally slamming me with the “well, they’re not having trouble scoring runs tonight!” line, which would have totally thrown me off my game.  Oh, and in case you missed it, Juan Uribe hit a grand slam and a two-run homer in the second.

Dodgers 3, Padres 1: And this one puts the Giants alone back up in first place. This is the first time the Dodgers have beat San Diego in seven games. Rod Barajas: “It’s not like we have nothing to play for. We have pride. You don’t want to be the punching bag.” Took awhile for L.A. to begin to feel this way, but at least they got there.

Diamondbacks 10, Rockies 9: Like watching a stock car run out of gas on the final lap. Carlos Gonzalez did everything he could to get out and push — a grand slam and a two run single while trying to come back from an 8-2 deficit — but he wasn’t getting any help from his bullpen. And the starter — Jeff Francis — had nothing either. Three and a half games back in both the division and the wild card seems awfully large right now, but at least they’re home this weekend against the Giants. The only question now is can anyone around here pitch?

Athletics 5, Rangers 0: Ruh-roh. Dallas Braden one-hit Texas over eight innings and Cliff Lee looked extremely mortal (5 IP, 6 H, 4 ER). The “ruh-roh” is not because I think the A’s can make up seven games with ten to go — that would be beyond nuts — but because the Rangers are looking really, really bad as this thing winds down. You think the Rays and Yankees wouldn’t rather play them than the Twins right now? Think again.

Blue Jays 1, Mariners 0: Felix Hernandez (8 IP, 2 H, 1 ER) just doesn’t know how to win.

Nationals 7, Astros 2: No Dunn, No Zimmerman, no problem: Mike Morse homered, doubled and drove in three runs and Roger Bernadina and Danny Espinosa each hit two-run jacks.

Cardinals 9, Pirates 2: Hit this one up yesterday. But again — for completeness sake — let me say: poopy pants.

Royals 4, Indians 2: I’m not going to go back and check because I have a pretty good memory for these things, but I’m going to say that the Royals and Indians have played each other 346 times this season. With this win, the Royals assured themselves of no worse than 99 losses. The Indians still need one more win in order to do that.

Brewers 8, Marlins 3: Sandy Rosario made his big league debut in the seventh inning of this one. His first pitch resulted in a Rickie Weeks home run to left. His second pitch was a strike. His third pitch was a Prince Fielder home run to right field. Then he gave up a double and a couple of singles. You know what they call a pitcher whose debut goes as bad as that?  A major league pitcher. And even if this is the only game he ever plays in the bigs, no one will ever be able to take that away from Sandy Rosario, no matter how nightmarish it was.

Unprecedented sanctions: MLB bans former Braves GM for life, makes 12 signees free agents

Associated Press
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Major League Baseball has slammed the hammer down on the Atlanta Braves as the result of their violations of rules on the international free agent market.

Former Braves General Manager John Coppolella has been placed on the permanently ineligible list — the same list Pete Rose is on — banning him from a job in baseball forever. His assistant, Gordon Blakeley, will be suspended for a period of one year. Each had already been dismissed by the Braves. Other Braves’ international baseball operations employees who participated in the misconduct could still be suspended as the league finishes its investigation.

As reported earlier, 12 of the clubs’ international signees are now free agents. The Braves will lose the following players, signed during the 2015-17 international free agent signing periods:

  • Juan Contreras;
  • Yefri del Rosario;
  • Abrahan Gutierrez;
  • Kevin Maitan;
  • Juan Carlos Negret;
  • Yenci Peña;
  • Yunior Severino;
  • Livan Soto;
  • Guillermo Zuniga;
  • Brandol Mezquita;
  • Angel Rojas; and
  • Antonio Sucre

As reported earlier, Maitan was the number one overall international prospect in 2016. The Braves have, for a few years now, had among the top international signee classes. Obviously that came by virtue of cheating the system, and obviously that will lead to a reevaluation of where the clubs’ minor league system stands, talent-wise.

The penalties are not limited to the loss of those players. Commissioner Manfred is imposing what amounts to punitive damages going forward. From Commissioner Manfred’s statement:

“While the remedies discussed above will deprive the Braves of the benefits of their circumvention, I believe that additional sanctions are warranted to penalize the Club for the violations committed by its employees. Accordingly, the Braves will be prohibited from signing any international player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period, which is the first signing period in which the Braves are not subject to any signing restrictions under our rules; and the Braves’ international signing bonus pool for the 2020-21 signing period will be reduced by 50 percent.”

There was also what appears to be an unrelated draft violation, imposing penalties along those lines as well:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves offered impermissible benefits, which were never provided, to a player they selected in the First-Year Player Draft in an attempt to convince him to sign for a lower bonus. As a penalty for the Club’s attempted circumvention involving a draft selection, the Braves will forfeit their third-round selection in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft.

The gist of the violations against the Braves involves the bundling of signing bonuses, in which the Braves got players — through their representatives in Latin America — to take lower than the amount typically allotted in one year in order to use the money to sign other, highly rated players in subsequent years, with money they wouldn’t have otherwise had. MLB’s statement describes the scheme thusly:

“The investigation established that the Braves circumvented international signing rules from 2015 through 2017. During the 2015-16 international signing period, the Braves signed five players subject to the Club’s signing bonus pool to contracts containing signing bonuses lower than the bonuses the Club had agreed to provide the players. The Club provided the additional bonus money to those players by inflating the signing bonus to another player who was exempt from their signing pool because he qualified as a ‘foreign professional’ under MLB rules.

“Consistent with the rules, the Braves could have signed all of the 2015-16 players for the full, actual signing bonus amounts. Had the Club signed the five players to contracts containing their actual bonuses, however, the Braves would have exceeded their signing bonus pool by more than five percent and would have been, under MLB rules, restricted from signing any players during the next two signing periods for contracts with bonuses greater than $300,000.

“As a result of the 2015-16 circumvention, the Braves were able to sign nine high-value players during the 2016-17 signing period who would have been unavailable to them had the Club accurately accounted for its signings during the 2015-16 signing period.”

The scheme continued like this:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves: (i) agreed to sign six players to inflated signing bonuses pursuant to an agreement with prospect Robert Puason’s agent in exchange for a commitment that Puason would sign with the Club in the 2019-20 signing period; and (ii) offered prospect Ji-Hwan Bae extra-contractual compensation. In order to remedy these violations, I am prohibiting the Club from signing Robert Puason when he becomes eligible to sign, and disapproving the contract between Bae and the Braves, which has not yet become effective.”

This is, by far, the most serious set of scouting, drafting and signing penalties ever imposed by Major League Baseball. It speaks to the sheer audacity of the Braves’ scheme to circumvent signing rules. It also sends a loud and clear signal to other teams — many which have been rumored to have engaged in similar conduct on a smaller scale — that MLB will not tolerate it.

The Braves lower minor league system has been decimated. It stands, essentially, as the head on the pike outside of Major League Baseball’s castle.