St. Louis Cardinals v Milwaukee Brewers

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Brewers 4, Cardinals 3: Milwaukee makes a statement, sweeping the formerly-first-place Cardinals. Shaun Marcum pitched seven strong innings and the Brewers came back from being down 3-0 after five and a half innings to taking the lead after six. The Brewers are the hottest team this side of Boston, methinks. Speaking of them …

Red Sox 14, Blue Jays 1: Remember those Blue Jays truthers hanging out in the comments section who got on everyone’s case a month or so ago when people were ranking the Sox higher than the Jays even though the Jays had a better record? Yeah, well, truth your way out of a 35-6 three-game series. At home.

Braves 4, Astros 1: Tommy Hanson stuck out 14 guys in seven innings, and Braves pitchers struck out 17 in all. Which is way less shocking than the fact that Dan Uggla went 2 for 3 with a homer, a walk and a couple driven in. That’s six straight wins for the Braves. Houston has lost four straight and eight of nine.

Mariners 7, Tigers 3: Two homers for Mr. Indispensable and the usual ho-hum eight strong innings for Felix Hernandez. Detroit and Seattle split the four-game series.

Diamondbacks 5, Marlins 1: Stephen Drew had a two-run double in the first and that was really all Arizona would end up needing.  That’s ten of eleven in the toilet for Florida.

Mets 7, Pirates 0: Chris Capuano with seven shutout innings, three hits allowed.  Jose Reyes is absolutely on fire. He already had an OPS over 1.000 for June coming in to this game and went 3 for 5 with an RBI and two runs scored.

Yankees 9, Indians 1: Cleveland’s nightmare June continues. That’s two wins and nine losses on the month. This one was close until the fifth when Josh Tomlin imploded and the Yankees put up a five-spot.  Curtis Granderson was 4 for 4 with a couple RBI, A-Rod was 3 for 5 with three driven in.  None of the Yankees runs came on home runs. Which is great, because we’re told that in Yankee-land, home runs are things you don’t too many of.

Twins 6, Rangers 1: Francisco Liriano had a no-hitter going into the eighth. Too bad he didn’t get it, because I’d have to imagine that he’d easily be the worst pitcher to have two no-hitters in a season.  Anyway, they needed those blanks from Liriano at least through the seventh before the Twins broke through for five runs, taking the pressure off.

Phillies 4, Cubs 3: Roy Oswalt had a better start, actually striking out some dudes for once. Ryan Howard drove in three. The Cubs have the same 2-9 record in June that the Indians have.

White Sox 5, Athletics 3: The A’s have a record in June that even the Cubs and Indians can laugh at, and have lost 12 of 13 overall. Adam Dunn with a three-run homer.

Rays 9, Orioles 6: Brian Matusz had nothing out of the gate and only lasted an inning and a third. That left it to Alfredo Simon and the rest of the O’s pen to keep it close, but they … didn’t. Not that the bats didn’t try to help. Back to back homers for Adam Jones and Vlad Guerrero. The Rays were just on base all day, though, and you’re not going to make any headway against ’em when that happens.

Nationals 2, Padres 0: A Petco special, scoreless until the ninth when the Nats strung a couple together. Jordan Zimmermann deserved the win after striking out ten in seven shutout innings, but that’s not how it turned out. Tim Stauffer deserved a better fate too.

Dodgers 10, Rockies 8: An ugly line for Ubaldo Jimenez (5.1 IP, 11 H, 7 R, 2 ER), capped by the James Loney grand slam. Rubby De La Rosa looked strong until he had to leave with a cramp in his arm.

Royals 9, Angels 0: A totally different Vin Mazzaro than we saw the last couple of times out: seven shutout innings. Not epic shutout innings, mind you — he walked five and didn’t strike anyone out — but the Royals defense turned a bunch of double plays behind him, and that will cure a lot of ills.

Giants 4, Reds 2: Three hits and two runs driven in for Aubrey Huff as the Giants come from behind. The most notable thing about this game: watching the views from the blimp and wondering why in the hell I live in Ohio instead of California.

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

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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.