David Freese

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Cardinals 6, Giants 1: So both my kids came down with strep throat at the same time. Figures. And it figures it would happen on the first truly warm and nice day of the spring. Sunny, breezy, pushing 80 and, with the exception of the trip to the urgent care to get the throat swab and antibiotics prescription, we’re inside all day. Which is cool. Make the most of it. Turn on a baseball game. I turned on this one late in the afternoon. The kids are too sick to go out and play but not so sick to where they can’t watch the game over my shoulder, telling me which players they think are lame (i.e. all of them), that it’s funny how, given that my name is Craig Allen, that there’s a player named Allen Craig, and reminding me when they see Tim Lincecum in the dugout — the only player they really know by sight — that mommy thinks he’s cute like those sketchy skater boys she used to date before she met me.  And yes, the kids know this. He’s “mom’s boyfriend.”  How was your Sunday?

Phillies 3, Braves 0: Cole Hamels was on point, striking out eight over seven innings, rendering last start’s boo-fest ancient history. The saving grace of the kids being sick is that I was at the urgent care for most of this one. Which I would have been watching and not enjoying too terribly much if they weren’t sick, so thanks streptococcal pharyngitis! To call the Braves’ offense sputtering is an insult to the concept of sputtering. Apart from Friday’s “where the hell did that come from” game against Cliff Lee, Braves hitters couldn’t bust a grape in a fruit fight.

Red Sox 4, Yankees 0: Josh Beckett looked better last night than he had in years. The velocity was up, the command was there and the Yankees didn’t have much of a chance. Open question: homers aside — and they do have a lot of them — is this a Yankees offense with real problems, or did they just catch a good pitcher on the wrong night, recapturing something we all thought he had lost?

White Sox 6, Rays 1: Paul Konerko was rockin’ (two homers) Gavin Floyd was rollin’ (eight, innings no earned runs), and the Rays continue to reel.  Babara Ann.

Brewers 6, Cubs 5: The Brewers are on a roll — they’ve won five of six — and Prince Fielder is on a roll too. He hit a two-run jack in this one and is now is 11 for his last 18 with two home runs and 11 RBIs.  Ryan Braun and Casey McGehee hit two-run shots too, McGehee’s a pinch hit job that brought the Brewers from behind and put them on top to stay.

Angels 3, Blue Jays 1: Anaheim is on a roll too, winners of four of five. Jered Weaver struck out 15 Jays in seven and two-thirds. It was his career high and the most for an Angel pitcher since Chuck Finely struck out 15 Yankees in 1995.  Weaver is 3-0 on the season with a cool 0.87 ERA.

Astros 7, Marlins 1: J.A. Happ pitched some righteous baseball into the eighth inning and was 2 for 3 with a couple of RBI as well.  Someone confirm for me that the Astros announcers said that Happ “helped his own cause.”  Because if they didn’t, they get fined. It’s right there in the guild’s bylaws. No, I’m sorry, I can’t show you the guild’s bylaws.  They’re secret.

Padres 7, Dodgers 2: San Diego salvages one behind Aaron Harang. Ryan Ludwick and Nick Hundley were in the middle of the action offensively, scoring four runs, getting two hits driving in three and walking three times between them.

Indians 6, Mariners 4: And the Tribe sweeps the Mariners, who are doing a great job of validating the preseason doom and gloom. Erik Bedard was shelled for six runs on ten hits in four innings. That’s seven straight for the Erie Warriors.

Athletics 5, Twins 3: Oakland takes two of three in Minnesota, showing some signs of offensive life in the process. The Twins continue to struggle in that department. They’ve only scored 24 runs in their nine games so far this year.

Diamondbacks 10, Reds 8: Arizona came back from a 5-0 deficit. Chris Young hit a big three-run homer and Stephen Drew reached base five times and had three RBIs as the Dbacks take two of three from the Reds.

Rockies 6, Pirates 5: Seth Smith with the always exciting game-winning bases loaded walk in the seventh. The walk came off Mike Crotta, who walked three of the four batters he faced. The other one — Jason Giambi — hit an RBI single.  Nice win, but I love how the AP game story has the Rockies talking about how much they’re proving by winning on the road in the early going this year. As if a series against the Pirates breaks the mold or makes a statement or something.

Rangers 3, Orioles 0:  The Rangers have the best pitching in the AL right now and the second best offense. Other than that, I suppose they’re in good shape.

Royals 9, Tigers 5: I had been thinking before the season that for the Tigers to do anything this year, they needed Rick Porcello to put it together. He’s not putting it together. But hey, he’s consistent! In each of his first two starts he’s given up five runs on nine hits in five innings. Wilson Betemit went 4 for 4 with two doubles and a walk.

Nationals 7, Mets 3:  Chris Young deserved a better fate after allowing one run on one hit in seven innings, but that’s bullpens for ya. D.J. Carrasco gave up the lead in the eighth, Blaine Boyer gave up the game in the eleventh.

Indians sign reliever Tommy Hunter to $2 million deal

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Tommy Hunter throws to the Miami Marlins during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Miami, Friday, May 22, 2015. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
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Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that right-hander Tommy Hunter has agreed to a one-year, $2 million contract with the Indians. It’s a major-league deal, so Hunter gets a spot on the 40-man roster and will be in the Opening Day bullpen if he’s fully recovered from core muscle surgery.

Hunter split last season between the Orioles and Cubs, totaling 60 innings with a 4.18 ERA and 47/14 K/BB ratio. He had a sub-3.00 ERA in both 2013 and 2014, and has generally been a setup-caliber reliever since shifting to the bullpen full time.

He has good control and a mid-90s fastball, but Hunter has never missed many bats despite the big-time velocity and often struggles to keep the ball in the ballpark. He’ll likely fill a middle relief role in Cleveland initially.

“YER OUT!” Jenrry Mejia permanently suspended for a third positive PED test

Jenrry Mejia
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You knew someone would be dumb enough to do this eventually, you just didn’t know who. Now we do: MLB just announced that reliever Jenrry Mejia has been permanently suspended after testing positive for Boldenone. That was his third positive test and under the Joint Drug Agreement that means his career is more or less over.

Mejia’s three strikes came in pretty rapid succession. On April 11, 2015 it was announced that Mejía had been suspended for 80 games after testing positive for use of stanozolol. On July 28, 2015 it was announced that Mejia had failed a test for Stanozolol again and Boldenone to boot, giving him a 162-game suspension, which he’d still be serving at the beggining of the season. Now this third test.

Mejia has played five seasons in the big. He started with so much promise, looking like a great prospect coming up. His performance only matched the promise in fits and starts, however, resulting in a 9-14 record with a 3.68 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 162/76 in 183.1 innings, all with the Mets.

Per the rules of the Joint Drug Agreement, Mejia can apply for reinstatement after being banned for two years. But it would obviously require him to spend two years doing a lot of smart things he hasn’t been doing in the past year. And it would also represent a near-unprecedented comeback. It could happen, I suppose, but it’s a far safer bet that his career is over.

I’m going to break it to you: some teams will stink this year. Like every year.

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There’s an AP story out today talking about how — brace yourself — some teams are going to be bad this year. It’s true. There are some teams, such as Atlanta, Philly, Colorado, Cincinnati and probably Milwaukee who seem certain to lose a lot of games.  The article’s author notes that, while a lot of money was spent in free agency this winter, not everyone was spending. He says “for some clubs, 2016 is basically over before it starts when it comes to contending.”

That sort of framing sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it? Isn’t it exactly the sort of thing we heard back in the early 2000s when people were still stumping for salary caps? Boston and New York were outspending everyone, the low money teams couldn’t keep up and, as spring training dawned, the season was over before it even began for half the league at least. There were scads of articles like that written 10-15 years ago. Bud Selig and others even used that exact construction — teams going to spring training already knowing they couldn’t compete — as points of rhetoric in the leadup to the 2002 labor battle with the players. Indeed, here’s the exact language from the 2000 Blue Ribbon economic report that Bud Selig commissioned which, by the way, should be read as a piece of labor propaganda, not as an actually useful or illuminative report:

What has made baseball’s recent seasons disturbing, and what makes its current economic structure untenable in the long run, is that, year after year, too many clubs know in spring training that they have no realistic prospect of reaching postseason play. Too many clubs in low-revenue markets can only expect to compete for postseason berths if ownership is willing to incur staggering operating losses to subsidize a competitive player payroll.

Different circumstances, obviously, but the same general bogeyman: some teams have no chance to compete!

Using that as the concern for whatever ails baseball has never made much sense to me as there will always be teams that are bad. Really, go look at any year’s league standings going back to the 19th century and there will be bad teams. It’s sort of the other side of the coin of good teams. Hard to have one without the other. And it’s probably a good thing to have some good and some and teams. Who wants a total crapshoot every year? What is this, Lake Woebegone, where every team is above .500? God, how boring.

The real issue is not that some teams will be good and some will be bad. It’s why they’ll be good and why they’ll be bad and whether the dynamic which creates good and bad teams is itself positive or negative for the game.

In the 40s and 50s, almost the entire American League knew that it had no chance to compete with the Yankees but they kind of liked that because they were making a lot of money not fielding competitive clubs. That was bad. In the late 1990s maybe some felt the same way too and it was because of no revenue sharing or incompetent management. Not great, and a lot of tweaks were made. Now a small handful of teams can’t compete because they’re doing wholesale rebuilds which some people call “tanking” and others think is not an issue.

As I recently wrote, to the extent people do think “tanking” is a problem, it’s important to (a) put it in perspective; and (b) look at the incentives teams have to tank and talk about whether they should be adjusted. As far as the perspective part goes, I’d say that only having five or six out of 30 teams with no realistic shot is actually pretty good compared to other points in baseball history. There’s a lot more parity now than there used to be. As far as the incentives: look at the dumb draft rules which were imposed to save owners a buck when it came to paying amateurs but which GREATLY increases the importance of picking high and thus losing.

The AP article touches on that, but it’s buried fairly deep down, well after the hand-wringing about teams entering spring training with no chance to win. As spring training progresses, there will likely be a lot of talk of just how bad some of these rebuilding teams will be as well. Most of that analysis will stop at the current state of the team and the hopelessness the fan bases are supposed to be feeling.

As a critically-minded fan, don’t let it stop there. If your team stinks, think about why it does and why it’s pursuing the course it is. Twenty years ago you could probably be safe in saying “well, my team’s GM is dumb and the owner is cheap.” That’s not really the case for most teams now. Now, I think, it’s far more about the incentives in play which make putting a lousy product on the field in the short term preferable to not doing so. Call it tanking, call it whatever you want, but if this is concern for you — and if this is a problem for Major League Baseball — the focus needs to be on the incentives.  Not on the fact that some teams are going to stink. Because teams will always stink. The important question is why.

Marlins sign left-hander Craig Breslow

Craig Breslow
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After spending the past four seasons in the Red Sox’s bullpen left-hander Craig Breslow has signed with the Marlins on a minor-league deal.

Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports that the contract comes with an invitation to spring training and will pay $1.5 million if Breslow makes the Opening Day roster.

Brewslow has struggled in back-to-back seasons, posting a 5.96 ERA in 2014 and a 4.15 ERA last year. At age 35 he’s not a great bet to bounce back in a huge way, but Breslow posted a 1.81 ERA as recently as 2013 and is certainly still capable of being a useful middle reliever.