Giants' Sanchez celebrates scoring a run next to Rangers' Lee during Game 1 of Major League Baseball's World Series in San Francisco

Rangers in trouble as Cliff Lee falls in Game 1 to Giants

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Cliff Lee was 7-0 in his first eight postseason starts.  He shut out the Yankees in the ALCS and struck out 21 Tampa Bay hitters in two ALDS starts before that.  He was supposed to be unbeatable in big games.  He was supposed to handle the Giants with ease.  He was supposed to lead the Rangers to the franchise’s first-ever World Series title.

So much for predeterminations.

The Giants tagged Lee for eight hits and seven runs on Wednesday night in San Francisco, chasing him from Game 1 of the World Series in the fifth inning while scoring an eventual 11-7 victory.  Lee displayed excellent control for most of the night, but he wasn’t able to hit the corners of the strike zone like he had in recent postseason starts and San Francisco poured on extra-base hit after extra-base hit.

Freddy Sanchez had three consecutive doubles, Juan Uribe homered and rookie phenom Buster Posey collected yet another RBI.

Sanchez hit just .292/.342/.397 during the regular season while battling shoulder and finger injuries, and he had just one extra-base hit in 40-plus postseason at-bats before Wednesday night.  And yet the second baseman played the hero.

The Giants caught heat from certain sections of the baseball universe for trotting out staff ace Tim Lincecum in Game 1 against Lee.  Some thought San Francisco should concede the loss to baseball’s best big-game pitcher and try to play catch-up on the back of “The Freak” in Game 2.  But Giants manager Bruce Bochy is smarter than that.  He’s smart enough to know that past success means very little in the game of baseball and that putting his club’s best foot forward in Game 1 made the most sense.

Bochy’s boys now have a 1-0 lead in the seven-game Fall Classic and have proven they can handle the best pitcher Texas has to offer.

Matt Cain will take the mound in Game 2 against Rangers starter C.J. Wilson and Jonathan Sanchez will go for the Giants in Game 3 against Colby Lewis.  Baseball is impossible to predict, especially during the playoffs, but it’s fact — not opinion — that San Francisco has better pitchers lined up in this series.

Cain, a righty, has not allowed a single earned run in two outings this postseason and features an active four-pitch arsenal that should minimize the danger of Texas’ sluggers.  Wilson, meanwhile, walked a league-high 93 batters during the regular season and was touched up for nine runs in 12 innings of work during the ALCS against New York.

Sanchez, a lefty, struck out 205 batters over 193.1 innings in 2010 and has been just as dominant so far in the playoffs.  Colby Lewis is a fighter with a great backstory, but he doesn’t have the raw stuff that Sanchez boasts and will enter Game 3 as a sure underdog, no matter what takes place on Thursday night in Game 2.

It’s odd to say, considering the many pundits that predicted the Rangers to ease through this 2010 World Series, but the Giants might actually be the favorite from here on out.

No, San Francisco doesn’t have the best offense.  And, no, it’s not going to be easy to win multiple games in what should be a rowdy Rangers Ballpark.  But all it takes is one Cody Ross or a few extra-base hits from a guy like Sanchez.  All it takes is one big inning for the ace-heavy Giants to put away a team like Texas — a team that relies so deeply on offensive production.

Bryce Harper reportedly wants a $400 million extension

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals reacts after hitting a single in the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game five of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 13, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports the Nationals are “balking at Bryce Harper’s demands in early talks about a long-term contract extension” and are thus prepared to let him walk when he becomes a free agent following the 2018 season.

What would make the Nationals balk? According to Nightengale’s source it’s a deal that “will exceed 10 years in length and likely pay him in excess of $400 million.”

That might seem crazy given historical norms and given that Harper is coming off a disappointing season, but if Harper returns to anything close to his 2015 form in which he won National League MVP honors while hitting .330/.460/.649 and hit 42 home runs, $400 million is going to seem quite reasonable. That sort of production was not some crazy fluke for a guy with Harper’s talent, after all. And he’ll be 26-years-old when he hits free agency, which is far, far younger than your typical free agent. Indeed, he’ll be entering what have, historically, been the prime years of most superstars’ careers.

The closest comp to star hitting free agency at that age was Alex Rodriguez, who was 25 when he signed his first $250 million deal following the 2000 season. Top big league deals going from $250 million to $400 million in the space of two decades is not really all that crazy when you think about it. Especially when you realize that, between 2001 and 2018, baseball revenues will have increased by a factor of three, assuming current growth holds.

UPDATE: My first thought after reading all of this was “I wonder if the Nats leaked the $400 million thing, whether it was an actual demand or not, in order to turn the PR in their favor if they deal Harper?” Question answered:

At least one quarter of the Today’s Committee owed Bud Selig a solid

Bud Selig
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OXON HILL, MD — The 16-member committee that voted Bud Selig and John Schuerholz into the Hall of Fame — the “Today’s Game” Committee — consisted of the following members: Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar, Bobby Cox, Andre Dawson, Dennis Eckersley, Pat Gillick, Ozzie Smith, Don Sutton, and Frank Thomas, major league owners/executives Paul Beeston (Blue Jays), Bill DeWitt (Cardinals), David Glass (Royals), Andy MacPhail (Phillies) and Kevin Towers (Reds); and media members/historians Bill Center, Steve Hirdt and Tim Kurkjian.

That’s certainly a venerable list of names. A quarter of that electorate, however, could be characterized as having a pretty notable conflict of interest when it comes to Bud Selig. At least if anyone cared about things like conflict of interest when it comes to baseball.

Whatever the case, two of those 16 guys became owners — and even more wealthier as a result — due to his affirmatively choosing or approving them to join sports’ most exclusive club. Two others were personally chosen by Selig to assist him over the years, raising their profile and importance in the game and giving them resume pieces that will one day be part of their own Hall of Fame cases.

  • Royals owner David Glass: Became the Royals CEO and Chairman in 1993, right after Selig became the acting commissioner. Glass was a key ally for Selig’s efforts to impose a salary cap and take a financial hard line in negotiations with the union, which eventually led to the 1994-95 strike. In 1999-2000 he became the full owner of the Royals after Selig personally stepped in to stop a bid for the club by a competing ownership group and is thus widely refereed to as Selig’s handpicked man. Glass is on the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors, on which Selig served for decades.
  • Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr.: Bought his club in 1995, after Selig had taken over and thus would not be a baseball owner without Selig’s approval. DeWitt was a point man for Selig on a host of his pet projects, including the Wild Card and interleague play. He likewise led the charge for revenue sharing and other potentially divisive financial matters which tended to be in the interest of smaller market clubs, the sort of which Selig himself championed when he was a mere owner. DeWitt chaired the committee to find Selig’s successor, which eventually served to validate Selig’s desire to have his hand-picked choice, Rob Manfred, succeed him.
  • Phillies President Andy MacPhail: Selig’s handpicked choice for the labor negotiating committee in 2002 which, at the time, continued speculation that MacPhail would one day be on the short list to succeed Selig. A few years before that MacPhail was public in saying that Selig would be the right choice to become permanent commissioner at a time when many were concerned that a team owner assuming that role was a conflict of interest.
  • Former President of the Blue Jays, Paul Beeston: In the late 90s, Beeston resigned as president of the Toronto Blue Jays following a successful reign to accepted baseball’s newly created position of president and chief operating officer. The move was widely seen as a means of giving Selig a top lieutenant — a defacto deputy commissioner — which would help him smooth his transition from acting commissioner to permanent commissioner. Many thought at the time that if Beeston was not hired for that gig, Selig may have declined the full-time commissioner’s role. Selig was described in the press at the time as a strong admirer of Beeston’s. In 2014, Beeston reflected glowingly on Selig’s legacy, saying, “I absolutely admire him on this steroid thing.” Beeston is on the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors, on which Selig served.

Is there anything necessarily wrong with that? No. Baseball is a small world and Bud Selig existed in it for a long, long time, so having a relationship with Selig was pretty unavoidable for almost anyone with any sort of profile in the game. No technical rule or historical baseball norm was violated by virtue of this vote or the composition of the committee itself. Indeed, the old Veterans Committee to the Hall of Fame was widely seen as a group of good old boys voting their old friends. Worth noting, perhaps, that that iteration of the Veterans Committee was abolished precisely for that reason, but I suppose we’ll leave that go for now.

I wonder, however, what the vote totals would have been for some of the other candidates if 25% of their electorate consisted of people who owed personal and professional debts to them the way Selig’s electorate owed him. Maybe Barry Bonds’ agent could get a Hall of Fame vote? Roger Clemens’ mechanic? Mark McGwire’s interior designer?

I suppose we’ll never know.