Black Swan

And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

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Cardinals 3, Phillies 1: I had this game on in my den with the sound off while my wife watched “Black Swan” in the other room. That made it really creepy, especially when I tweeted about it last night and people kept proposing scenes in which Cliff Lee was the Natalie Portman character and Charlie Manuel was that letchy, Eurotrash director.  Try to get that out of your mind. Anyway, in four years every time he pitches, I see Lee obsessed, getting each and every pitch perfectly right but I never see him lose himself. Ever! All that discipline for what? Perfection? Perfection is not just about control. It’s also about letting go. He should surprise himself so he can surprise the audience. Transcendence! Very few have it in them.  Lee often does. But not last night, as he walked six dudes. Of course, he was getting squeezed by home plate umpire Gerry Davis really bad. Just like Portman got squeezed by the letchy Eurotrash director. Yikes! See what I mean?!

Red Sox 8, Orioles 7: A very Matsuzakian start for Matsuzaka (4.1 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 7 BB) is salvaged by one near-comeback between the sixth inning in which Boston turned a 6-0 deficit into a 6-5 game and then a complete one in the ninth when the Sox scored two on the power of Kevin Gregg walks to Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia and then a game-winning double by Adrian Gonzalez.

Indians 19, Royals 1:  This is one of those games that’s gonna skew the Pythagorean record for both teams for a few weeks. And Vin Mazzaro’s ERA for, like, ever, thanks to him wearing one to the tune of 2.1 IP, 11 H, 14 ER, which is arguably the worst pitching performance in baseball history. Oh, and 76 pitches for Mazzaro too, which is insane. What, did Ned Yost catch poor Vin in bed with his wife or something?  The Royals starter, Kyle Davies, left in the first inning with some sort of shoulder injury, so the stage was set for disaster regardless. All the Royals can do is realize that it only counts as one loss.

Rays 6, Yankees 5:  Alright. Flush the bombers, get the subs in launch mode. We are at DEFCON 1.  You score five runs off David Price in five innings, you figure you’ll get the win. But A.J. gave up six, five of which came in the sixth inning.  Six losses in a row for New York, which is their longest streak in four years.

Rangers 4, White Sox 0: Colby Lewis pitches the shutout while striking out seven. After a little skid in late April, Lewis has put together four straight sharp starts.

Reds 7, Cubs 4: Carlos Zambrano was cruising with a one-hitter until he hit the sixth inning and promptly gave up six runs. In all, the Reds sent 12 batters to the plate. Which, aside from making their scorecards kind of a mess, pleased the hometown crowd.

Braves 3, Astros 2: Chipper Jones’ injury forced Martin Prado to third and put Eric Hinske in at left. Prado had a couple of fabulous defensive plays (and one awful one) and Hinske had three hits, including the tie-breaking single in the seventh. Just like they drew it up, I guess. A three-hit, ten-strikeout performance for Tommy Hanson.

Nationals 4, Pirates 2: Danny Espinosa had a two-run homer in the seventh to break the tie and give the Nats the win. The same Danny Espinosa who was hitting .193. Six straight losses for the Pirates, which makes it one of the few times in recent history when a comparison to the Yankees is apt.

Blue Jays 4, Tigers 2: Detroit finally loses one and Jose Bautista finally doesn’t hit a home run. Man, I don’t know what I can count on in this world anymore.

Marlins 2, Mets 1: A home run — and I mean a moon-shot — by Mike Stanton in the seventh tied it up at 1, the Mets failed to capitalize on a bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the ninth and then Burke Badenhop — really? The relief pitcher? — drove Stanton in on an RBI single in the 11th which proved to be the game-winner. Badenhop picked up the win too.

Rockies 7, Giants 4: The Giants had recently dominated the Rockies, but it was not Tim Lincecum’s night last night, as he walked six and gave up seven runs on nine hits. A three-run homer by Carlos Gonzalez sealed the awfulness for Timmy.

Brewers 2, Dodgers 1: L.A’s offense continues to be terrible. And it isn’t helped by stuff like Carlos Gomez robbing Juan Uribe of a homer with a great catch at the wall.

Mariners 5, Twins 2: Michael Pineda toyed with the Twins in a way that a rookie pitcher should never be allowed to toy with a major league lineup (7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 7K).

Athletics 5, Angels 4: Stellar 10th inning for Fernando Rodney: in the bottom of the inning, Kurt Suzuki drew a one-out walk, moved to second on another walk then took third on a wild pitch. Mark Ellis then hit an infield grounder to a five-man infield that was deep enough in the hole to score Suzuki.

Padres 8, Diamondbacks 4: If they’re not careful, the Padres hitters are gonna spoil their pitchers what with all of this run support they’ve been giving ’em.  Meanwhile, I’m not gonna say that Armando Galarraga — who got rocked — is worried about his job in the Dbacks’ rotation, but here was his response when asked a question about his purely hypothetical next start:

“What are you talking about the next start?” Galarraga said, glaring at the reporter. “Who you say I am going to be worried about my next start? Are you saying that I am going to lose my job? Are you trying to say that? I am frustrated about this start, not the next one.”

Careful, Armando! You can’t sell books about good sportsmanship and positive attitudes like that!

Marlins acquire starter Dan Straily from the Reds

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 3: Dan Straily #58 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch during the first inning of the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park on September 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
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The Miami Marlins have acquired starting pitcher Dan Straily from the Cincinnati Reds. In exchange, the Reds will receive right-handed pitching prospects Luis Castillo and Austin Brice and outfield prospect Isaiah White.

For the Marlins, they get a solid starter who logged 191.1 innings of 113 ERA+ ball last year. Straily has moved around a lot in his five big league seasons — the Marlins will be his fifth club in six years — but it was something of a breakout year for him in Cincinnati. The only troubling thing: he tied for the league lead in homers allowed. Of course, pitching half of his games in Great American Ballpark didn’t help that, and Miami will be a better place for him.

Castillo is 24. He split last season between high-A and Double-A — far more of it in A-ball — posting a 2.26 ERA over 24 starts. Austin Brice is also 24. He pitched 15 games in relief for the Marlins last year at the big league level with poor results. He seemed to blossom at Triple-A, however, after the Marlins shifted him to the pen. White was a third round pick in the 2015 draft. He played low-A ball as a minor leaguer last year, hitting .214/.306/.301.

A mixed bag of young talent for the Reds, but stockpiling kids and seeing what shakes out is what a team like the Reds should be doing at the moment. For the Marlins: a solid mid-to-back end starter who may just be coming into his own.

Have Hall of Fame Voters actually made the PED thing More complicated?

Sammy Sosa
Associated Press
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The story coming out of this year’s Hall of Fame balloting is that the BBWAA voters are finally easing their antipathy toward players with performance enhancing drug associations.

Jeff Bagwell — the subject of unconfirmed PED rumors — made the Hall! Pudge Rodriguez, who was named in Jose Canseco’s book and who had a . . . curious physical transformation around the time PED testing came online, made it on the first ballot! Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, whose PED use was well-documented, saw their vote totals advance above the 50% mark, making their future elections look more likely!

It’s an interesting development, and one I’m obviously pleased with, but I wonder if the BBWAA’s new approach to PED guys, while far more forgiving than it used to be, has actually become more complicated in practice.

I ask this because I look way, way down the ballot and I still see Sammy Sosa scraping by with around 8% of the vote. I ask this because I still see Gary Sheffield at 13%. I ask this because when Mark McGwire was on the Today’s Game ballot in December, no one really stumped for him at all. I ask this because, even though Bagwell and Mike Piazza got in eventually, they still had to go through a lot of hazing first and I suspect, if they hit the ballot for the first time again tomorrow, the same arguments and delay would occur with respect to their cases.

In light of that, what I suspect has happened has not been a wholesale surrender of the anti-PED voters. Rather, I think it has been a transformation. One in which a moral test — did he use PEDs or not? — has been discarded as a threshold question and a scientific/physiological test — would he have been great even without the PEDs? — has replaced it. In essence, voters are becoming “PED discounters” in the aggregate. Making calculations as to whether a guy was, in their mind, a creation of PEDs or not.

Such an approach explains these new voting patterns as well as those in recent years.

  • Ivan Rodriguez may have been called out by Canseco and may have noticeably shrunk over an offseason, but his calling card was his defense behind the plate and voters, I suspect, have told themselves that such a thing is not PED-aided.
  • Bonds and Clemens may have been PED users, but each of them was undeniably talented and, if you discount for the PED use, hey, they’re still all-time greats.
  • Sammy Sosa’s case rests disproportionately on homers and, as everyone knows, PEDs = instant dingers, so no, he’s not gonna cut it.

And so on.

As I said, I’m glad that the strict moral test — did he use or not? — is losing its hold on Hall voters. But I do not think the “did PEDs make him who he was test?” is a good approach either. Baseball writers are in no better a position to assess the physiological and performance enhancements caused by pharmaceuticals than they are to be judges of character and morality. Given the identities of players confirmed to be PED users, the old eye test implicit in these cases is famously faulty (Neifi Perez, anyone?). The idea that PEDs only affect home run totals — and not, say, the ability for a player to take the abuse of the catcher position for 21 seasons — is crude and ignorant.

I suppose it’s naive to expect voters to completely disregard PEDs in their assessment of players. It’s a bell that cannot be unrung. But while we may, thankfully, be moving away from a moral test with respect to drugs, it’s been displaced by a scientific test that is no more reasonable in practice.