And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

32 Comments

Nationals 7, Phillies 4: Heavy matchup. Both literally — Livan Hernandez vs. Joe Blanton — and figuratively as Jayson Werth faced the Phillies for the first time since he signed with the Nats. A signing that the Phillies fans who made the now-customary trek to Washington and decided to boo Werth throughout the game apparently wouldn’t have consummated if they were in Werth’s shoes because loyalty to some abstraction of what a Major League Baseball team is supposed to be is worth far more than the nearly $80 million that Werth would have sacrificed to stay in red pinstripes. Or something. Whatever the case, booing a guy who helped bring home what was only the second championship in the team’s 128 year existence and only left because it was clear that he’d be lowballed if he stayed makes no kind of freakin’ sense.  Oh, and Werth had a double and a home run. Booooo!!!!

Rays 3, Red Sox 2: And the Bosox are now 0-8 vs. non-Yankees teams and are now tied with the Rays for have the worst record in the AL.  When can we stop dropping the “it’s early, so …” before talking about the Red Sox?

Angels 2, Indians 0: Dan Haren put an end to the Indians winning streak with ath-or-i-tah, shutting them out on two one hit (sorry, I keep messin’ up today) and striking out eight. He and Jered Weaver are currently the most lethal one-two punch in baseball.

Braves 5, Marlins 0: Heyward and McCann homer and Tommy Hanson shuts the opposition down. Sort of the Platonic Ideal of a Braves game for fanboys like me.  And a lot of good defense from Alex Gonzalez and Dan Uggla, which is … like, whatever the opposite of the Platonic Ideal is. Platonic Gravy? Platonic Whatever, We’ll Take it?

Tigers 5, Rangers 4: The loss of the game is meaningless compared to the loss of Josh Hamilton, who will be out at least 6-8 weeks with a broken funny bone thanks to his head first slide into home. Well, maybe it was the slide. It’s possible that he broke his arm while throwing his third base coach under the bus when explaining how the play went down after the game.

Astros 11, Cubs 2: The James Russell: Starting Pitcher experiment did not achieve optimal results in its first cycle. Russell was tagged for five runs (four earned) on seven hits in less than two innings before making way for the pen to which he’ll likely be soon returning. After the bleeding stopped for a bit, Jeff Samardzija reminded us that he can’t really pitch and John Grabow got rocked too. For Houston, Angel Sanchez and Hunter Pence went nuts, combining to go 7 for 10 with six RBI.

Twins 4, Royals 3: Pop quiz, hot shot! You’re on the road, tied 3-3 in extra innings. After retiring the first batter in the 10th, you change pitchers. The new guy loads the bases with a walk and two singles, one of which was a freakin’ blast. You have arguably the second best closer in all of baseball in your pen, coming off an off-day. What do you do, hot shot? What do you do?!  Well, if you’re Ned Yost you leave Joakim Soria in the pen, let Robinson Tejada pitch and he gives up one more hit, losing the game. Which is not how I would have handled it, but what the hell do I know? I’m just speculatin’ on a hypothesis here.

White Sox 6, Athletics 5: Two homers and four RBI for Alexi Ramirez, including the game-winning bomb in the bottom of the 10th. This makes up for the error he made in the fifth that led to an Oakland run, I’d say.

Diamondbacks, 13, Cardinals 8: Three run homers from Justin Upton and Juan Miranda led the onslaught. Oh, and did Aaron not tell you yesterday that umpire Bob Davidson’s act was getting tired? Ask Kirk Gibson about that.

Giants 5, Dodgers 4: Check out the leather from Linceucm. Didn’t get the win, though, as Jeremy Affeldt vultured it from him when he allowed a game-tying homer in the seventh but then hung on as the pitcher of record in the bottom of the inning when the Giants took the lead for good. Brian Wilson gets his first save of the year.

Reds 8, Padres 2: Remember how awesome the Padres bullpen was last year? Yeah, well you sort of lose any claim to awesomeness when you give up six runs in the 11th inning. Not that it should have gotten that far. The Padres lost chances to win when they were met with a sick defensive play by Jay Bruce in the ninth and again when they squandered a one-out bases loaded situation in the 10th, again with help from the Cincinnati leather. Well, a Cincinnati misplay-but-recovery on a ball resulting in what at least looked like good leather if you didn’t see the initial misplay.

Mariners 3, Blue Jays 2: Michael Pineda wins his second major league start in impressive fashion, taking a shutout into the eighth inning while striking out seven.

Rockies vs. Mets, Orioles vs. Yankees and Brewers vs. Pirates: POSTPONED:  April is the cruelest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain.

Pete Mackanin doesn’t know if he’ll be back as Phillies manager next year

Getty Images
1 Comment

Back in May the Phillies gave Pete Mackanin a contract extension covering the remainder of 2017, all of 2018 and created a team option for 2019. Yesterday, however, Mackanin said he had no idea if the Phillies were going to bring him back as manager next season:

“I assume I’ll be here, but you never know. You never know what they’re going to do. So you just keep moving on. I just take it a day at a time and manage the way I think I should manage and handle players the way I think I should handle them. That’s all I can do. If it’s not good enough then … fine. I hope it’s good enough. I hope he thinks it’s good enough.”

Maybe that’s just cautious talk, though, as there doesn’t seem to be any signals coming from the Phillies front office that Mackanin is in trouble. If anything things have looked up in the second half of the season with the callups of Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams each of whom have shown that they belong in the bigs. The team is 33-37 since the All-Star break and is certainly a better team now than the one Mackanin started with in April. And it’s not his fault that they don’t have any pitching.

I suspect Mackanin will be back next year, but Mackanin has been around the block enough times to know that nothing is guaranteed for a big league manager. Even one under contract.

How not to enjoy what Aaron Judge is doing

Getty Images
25 Comments

Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge has been one of the biggest and best stories in all of baseball this year. While he held promise entering his rookie season, most experts figured he’d provide some low-average, low-OBP power. That he’d be a guy who, based on his size, could send a pitcher’s mistake 500 feet in the wrong direction, but who would probably be shown to have big holes in his swing once he’d been around the league a little bit.

Judge defied expectations, however, and has put together an amazing rookie season. He broke the rookie home run record yesterday with his 50th blast. He still strikes out a lot but so does everyone. He nonetheless has hit for a great average and has gotten on base at a fantastic clip. He has also showed some uncommon resilience, overcoming a lengthy slump in July and August and returning to the dominant form he showed in the first half while helping a Yankees team not many figured to be a strong contender into the playoffs. Such a great story!

Sadly, however, this sentiment, which appeared from a commenter on my Facebook page yesterday, has become increasingly common:

I’ve seen it in a lot of comments sections and message boards around the Internet too, including our own comment section. From yesterday:

This is not exactly the same thing we’ve seen in the past with other breakout home run hitters such as Jose Bautista a few years back. This is not an accusation that Judge is taking drugs or anything. It’s more of a preemptive and defensive diminishment of excitement. And I find it rather sad.

Yes, I understand that past PED users have made fans wonder whether the players they watch are using something to get an extra edge, but it really does not need to be this way. We’ve had drug testing in baseball for over a decade and, while no drug testing regime is perfect, it just seems bizarre, several years after Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa did their thing — and a few years after Alex Rodriguez and others were caught and disciplined for trying to do more — to assume, out of hand, that great baseball performances are the product of undetected cheating. Yes, it’s possible, but such assumptions should not be the default stance, only to be disproved (somehow) at a later date.

The same goes for the juiced baseball, right? Yes, there is strong evidence that the baseball was changed a couple of years back leading to a home run spike, but aren’t all players using the same baseball? It’s also worth remembering that the season Mark McGwire hit 49 homers — 1987 — is strongly suspected of being a juiced ball year as well. It’s a concern that may be based in fact, but it’s a large concern over a fact thrown out with little regard for context to sketch out a threat that is either remote or without consequence.

The point here is not to argue that Aaron Judge is undeniably clean or that the baseball isn’t different. The former is unknown and the latter is likely false. The point is that it’s super sad and self-defeating to qualify every amazing feat you see with preemptive concern about such things. Years and years of sports writers writing McCarthy-esque “Yes, but is he clean?” articles does not require you, as a fan, to do the same. You can enjoy a cool thing in the moment. If it’s found out later to have been tainted, fine, we have a lot of practice in contextualizing such things and we’ll do so pretty quickly, but what’s the harm in going with it in real time?

I suspect the answer to that is rooted in some desire not to look like a sucker or something. Not to find oneself like many did, in the mid-2000s, being told by sportswriters and politicians that they were dupes for enjoying Sosa and McGwire in 1998. But that’s idiotic, in my view. I enjoyed 1998 and all of the baseball I saw on either side of it, as did most baseball fans. When the PEDs stuff exploded in the 2000s I reassessed it somewhat as far as the magnitude of the accomplishments compared to other eras in history, but it didn’t mean I enjoyed what I had seen any less.

Likewise, I’ve enjoyed the hell out of watching Aaron Judge this year. Why can’t everyone? Why is it so hard? Why have we been conditioned to be skeptical of something that is supposed to be entertaining? When your personal stakes are low like they are with respect to any sporting event or form of entertainment, it’s OK to enjoy things while they’re enjoyable and worry about them being problematic if and when they ever become so. And hey, they may not!

I promise you: if Aaron Judge walks into the postseason awards banquet this winter carrying a briefcase that unexpectedly opens and 200 syringes full of nandrolone fall out, no one is going to say you were dumb for cheering for him yesterday. It will really be OK.