AP Writer: Cliff Lee should be ashamed that his salary isn’t going to starving children in Africa

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I’m with the Associated Press’ Tim Dahlberg to the extent he’s critical of those who are lauding Cliff Lee for making some sort of financial sacrifice to go to the Phillies. Sure, there’s a bit less guaranteed money, but we’re not in sainthood territory here.

Dahlberg completely loses me, however, when he goes off on a jag about how the money going to Lee could be better used for charities benefiting children in Africa. After listing several examples of how far the money Cliff Lee will make for a single game can go if spent for humanitarian purposes, Dahlberg writes:

I’m not picking on Lee, who is simply the latest poster player for what ails sports. It’s a seller’s market in baseball and anyone who can sell themselves for $120 million certainly has the right to do so.

But I’m also not going to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize for leaving behind a pile of money (much less than $30 million, actually, after agent fees and taxes). His salary is still so far out of whack with that of paying fans, even Lee had to acknowledge that much.

I agree that, as a society, we have some pretty skewed priorities. I also agree that there is no better time to think about these sort of things than around Christmastime. I was out doing my shopping last night and was struck, as I am every time I venture out into retail land, at how much waste and karma is floating around.

But why are we singling out Cliff Lee and “poster players” here?  Where is the outrage for the ownership group who parlayed a $30 million investment in the Phillies 30 years ago into a $500 million+ business today? Where is the outrage for baseball as a whole, which is now a $7 billion industry?  Why are their revenues not too much to take? Why doesn’t Dahlberg write an editorial saying that Bill Giles’  income is “out of whack,” and calculating how many mosquito nets the Phillies’ annual revenues could supply to a village in west Africa?

The fact is that baseball is a huge business and the players with elite talents are the biggest reason for it. Why shouldn’t they reap financial rewards for it? Why are they singled out as greedy when the owners and executives are making even more?  For that matter, isn’t it the case that everyone who makes a living off of a game is taking money that could, ideally, be better spent feeding starving children?  I make my living as a result of baseball. I bought a Blu-Ray player last night. That was nowhere near as productive a use of my money as providing malnourished children with specially formulated peanut paste.  I’m guessing Dahlberg has used his salary for a few things besides charity as well.

Yes, it is mind-boggling and a bit depressing that our society values entertainment so highly and humanitarian efforts so little by comparison. But neither Cliff Lee’s salary nor any other individual player’s salary was the tipping point on that. Nor is he the proper target for complaints like Dahlberg’s. Even if one is going to limit his targets to professional sports figures, there are bigger fish to fry than Lee.

Dahlberg’s failure to acknowledge that suggests that he’s less concerned about our priorities as a society and more interested in using emotionally-manipulative examples to make a tired old “ballplayers make too much damn money for playing a kids game!” argument, the likes we’ve heard for decades, and I find that to be pretty shameful.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Nationals 15, Brewers 2: What a bloodbath. As we noted yesterday, the Nats hit a lot of homers here. Five in the third inning alone, eight in all. Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman each hit two of them, with the former going 3-for-5 with four driven in and the latter going 2-for-5 with three RBI. Max Scherzer didn’t need all that run support — he allowed one run over six innings, striking out nine — but he’ll take it.

Indians 2, Angels 1: A lower scoring affair. Trevor Bauer pitched his best game of the season, allowing one run over eight, scattering seven hits and striking out six. Carlos Santana homered for the first Indians run, Francisco Lindor singled in the second. That’s seven straight wins for Cleveland. They’ve needed every one of them as second place Kansas City has won eight in a row.

Blue Jays 8, Athletics 4: We talked about the ump show in this one yesterday. Later it was the Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce show, with Morales hitting a solo homer in the ninth to tie it and Pearce hitting a grand slam in the tenth inning to give Toronto their second walkoff win in as many days. It was the first Blue Jays walkoff grand slam in nine years — Greg Zaun did it then — but the second walkoff grand slam in baseball this week, as Edwin Encarnacion did it on Tuesday.

Yankees 6, Rays 5: Brett Gardner was the catalyst and hero late in this one. He hit a triple in the ninth and then scored on a weird play in which the Rays infielders — Adeiny Hechavarria and Tim Beckham — let a grounder go through because they were shifted and didn’t know whose responsibility it was. Then in the 11th Gardner hit a walkoff homer for the win. The celebration was so intense Aaron Judge broke a tooth. Biggest hit he’s had in a while. That’s four wins in a row for the Yankees who are a half game behind Boston.

Marlins 4, Reds 1:  Chris O’Grady pitched seven scoreless innings for Miami as third baseman Derek Dietrich did most of the damage on offense. He homered, walked in a run and singled in a run. The Marlins have won five of seven, the Reds have lost seven of eight. This happened before the game:

I could find no followup suggesting that it was a real problem. I assume, however, that this will happen soon:

Cubs 6, White Sox 3: Kyle Schwarber has stunk up the joint all year, but maybe he’s coming around. Here he homered twice and drove in four runs as he Cubs won their third in a row and are now 11-2 since the All-Star break. Anthony Rizzo went deep too and Jon Lester allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings.

Diamondbacks 4, Cardinals 0Zack Godley — 65% of all pitchers in baseball are now named Zack, by the way — tossed seven shutout innings striking out seven and the relievers took it the rest of the way. J.D. Martinez continues to swing a hot bat since his acquisition by the Dbacks, hitting a fourth inning grand slam for all of the game’s scoring. He’s only 5-for-20 since the deal, but four of those five hits have been homers and he’s driven in 11 in his six games in the NL.

Padres 7, Mets 5Manuel Margot hit a homer, double and a single, driving in three and Dusty Coleman hit a three-run homer. There are not a lot of Manuel Margots in baseball, but about 65% of Impressionist painters had that name. About 47% of cowboys were named Dusty Coleman.

Francisco Rodriguez is being sued by his former landlord

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John Wisely of the Detroit Free Press reports that current free agent reliever Francisco Rodriguez is being sued by his former landlord for damage to the rented property as well as missing artwork. The landlord is asking for $80,000 after having kept Rodriguez’s $15,000 security deposit.

The lawsuit says that Rodriguez damaged a bedroom TV, a crystal floor lamp, glass shelves in the bar, glass tiles in the master bath, and a Moroccan mirror in the powder room. Additionally, the suit claims that the bedding is stained and paint has chipped, as well as other damages. And the piece of art that is allegedly missing, which depicts a tiger, is valued at more than $10,000.

Rodriguez has not yet been served with the suit, but the landlord has been speaking to his managers.

The Nationals released Rodriguez, 35, two weeks ago after having signed him to a minor league contract in late June. He started the season with the Tigers, but struggled to a 7.82 ERA over 25 1/3 innings before being released.