Cleveland Indians v Cincinnati Reds

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Holiday weekends weird me out. Sunday night doesn’t feel like Sunday night so doing the recaps of Sunday games doesn’t feel natural. That’s especially true when Monday is a big honkin’ hardly-anyone-goes-to-work-holiday like today.  Which means it’s a big honkin’ hardly-anyone-reads-the-blog day too.

But there are a few of you out there, I’m sure, who still have to wake up today and would like a forum in which you talk about yesterday’s games, so this is it.  It’s a somewhat abbreviated And That Happened, but it’s better than staring at the wall.  At least I think it is.

Reds 7, Indians 5: The Reds win this one, but Cleveland took five of six in the season series, which means that they now technically own Ohio. At least that’s how I think the terms of the all-Ohio series go. The Cleveland Indians team actually owns, in full, the state of Ohio and all of the real and personal property contained therein, and possess the right to exercise complete and total dominion over it.  At least that’s what Manny Acta told me when he rang my doorbell last night. He then proceeded to sit on the lounge chair in my living room, drink my wine, pet my cat and change all of the recordings on my DVR.  I don’t know that I had the legal right to stop him, so I let him do it.

Mariners 3, Padres 1: San Diego scored two runs in this series. And one of them shouldn’t have even scored thanks to Cameron Maybin’s three-ball walk on Saturday.

Athletics 7, Diamondbacks 2: Scott Sizemore had a homer. That doesn’t happen very often.

Twins 9, Brewers 7: A four-run seventh inning to bring the Twinkies back from behind.

Royals 16, Rockies 8: Melky Cabrera hit two home runs and drove in five, Eric Hosmer hit one homer and drove in four.  If this was the LSAT, you’d then have to answer what the next two players who hit no homers drove in, and then six months from now you’d have a set of scores keeping you from your first choice of law schools, and you’d always wonder what in the hell these little patterny word problems had to do with your legal career.

Rays 8, Cardinals 3: Johnny Damon had three hits and drove in four. Dude is gonna get 3000 hits, isn’t he. And when he does, we’re gonna have a real fun Hall of Fame conversation. My guess is that he won’t make it — and won’t really deserve it — but he’ll be kept out for the wrong reason. Specifically, because he never really had a strong identity with one team. If the bulk of his prime is played on either the Yankees or the Red Sox instead of being split up in a few places, there’s probably a group of people lobbying for him who won’t lobby for him now.  And all the while no one will really grok the fact that, really, he just doesn’t have the credentials.

Mets 3, Yankees 2: The Mets get to Mariano Rivera in the ninth and then Jason Bay comes through with a clutch hit in the 10th. You tell me which of those two things is more improbable.

Blue Jays 7, Phillies 4: Huh. Cliff Lee is mortal. I guess it technically ain’t June anymore, so I’ll chalk it up to that.

Cubs 3, White Sox 1: Rodrigo Lopez had seven shutout innings. Of course, the way things have been going for the Cubs, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they were going to win it.  Aramis Ramirez’s two-run homer took care of the run support, however.

Tigers 6, Giants 3:  The Tigers salvage one against the Giants and then afterwards they fired pitching coach Rick Knapp. This strikes me as a weak move. The Tigers’ defense — which is poor — has an awful lot to do with what’s been going on with the pitching staff. Both Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski are in the last years of their contracts, however, so everyone has to look like they’re trying to do something, right?

Red Sox 2, Astros 1: The Sox scored the go-ahead run in the ninth on a bases loaded walk. Josh Beckett struck out 11 in eight innings.

Orioles 5, Braves 4: Five hits for Nick Markakis and homers from Mark Reynolds and Zach Britton — Zach Britton? — yes, Zach Britton. Who needs the DH?

Pirates 10, Nationals 2: Kevin Correia won his 11th game and Andrew McCutchen had three hits.  In the series, McCutchen had nine hits, six of which went for extra bases.

Angels 3, Dodgers 1: Ervin Santana out-pitches Chad Billingsley. A two-run homer for Russell Branyan who, I gotta be honest, I hadn’t realized signed with the Angels. I wish there was some blog out there I could read that would keep me up-to-date on this kind of crap.

Marlins 6, Rangers 4: Three of the Feesh’s runs come in on errors. So there’s that.

Video: Minor leaguer dives over the wall to rob a home run

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Meanwhile, in Tulsa, Zach Welz of the visiting Arkansas Travelers made a spectacular catch. It was the catch Torii Hunter tried to make on that famous David Ortiz homer in the playoffs a few years back except Welz made it.

Watch as he topples over the wall to come up with the would-be dinger off the bat of Tulsa Drillers first baseman Cody Bellinger:

MLB, MLBPA move to help baseball in Puerto Rico. After hurting baseball in Puerto Rico.

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - JUNE 30:  A Puerto Rican flag flies from a building a day after the speech Puerto Rican Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla gave regarding the government's $72 billion debt on June 30, 2015 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  The Governor said in his speech that the people will have to sacrifice and share in the responsibilities for pulling the island out of debt.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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Yesterday Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Union announced that they will play games in Puerto Rico as part of a plan to develop and support baseball on the island. They likewise pledged $5 million for the creation of development programs in Puerto Rico and plan to stage special events there.

The press release about this made mention of Puerto Rico’s undeniably outstanding baseball tradition. What it did not mention is that, in the view of many, Major League Baseball itself harmed that tradition significantly when it decided to subject Puerto Rican players to the draft in 1990. A move that the MLBPA signed off on too, of course. Indeed, there’s a pretty strong argument that, if it were not for MLB and the MLBPA’s own acts, there would be no need to “develop and support” baseball in Puerto Rico like this at all.

An exploration of this can be read in this 2012 article from The New York Times. The article (and many, many others like it which have been written over the years) notes the sharp decline of Puerto Rico’s professional and amateur baseball leagues and observes that the once steady flow of players making their way from the island to the major leagues being reduced to a trickle.* (see update below) Why?

No one here disputes the diminished stature of baseball in Puerto Rico, and most agree on the culprit: Major League Baseball’s decision, in 1990, to include Puerto Rico, a commonwealth of the United States, in its first-year player draft. This means Puerto Rican players must wait until they have completed high school to sign a professional contract, and then they are going up against players from the United States and Canada in the draft.

Perhaps more important, major league teams have less incentive to cultivate talent in Puerto Rico because those players may end up with another team through the draft.

Sandy Alderson is quoted in that article dismissing the notion that the draft was to blame, but even his dodge is couched in basic economic incentives. He claims that, hey, there is stuff that is more financially lucrative for people to do in Puerto Rico than play baseball now. Well, sure. I’d just like him to explain how radically reducing the amount of money a kid can get from playing baseball due to taking away his right to sign with the highest bidder and by utterly killing the incentives for clubs to invest in developing players doesn’t enter into that calculus. Alderson doesn’t explain that one.

No matter what Major League Baseball might say on the record about all of this now, the fact remains that no one spent the past 26 years building academies in Puerto Rico like they have in Venezuela or the Dominican Republic. No one has an incentive to turn a 12-year-old with promise into a 16-year-old prospect like they do in those countries because there is no longer any way for a teenager to sign for life-changing money like they can elsewhere. The draft has saved Major League Baseball hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses to Puerto Rican players over the past 26 years and it has reduced the number of prospects who may push high-salaried MLBPA members out of work, but has done tremendous damage to the baseball tradition to which Major League Baseball and the MLBPA now pay lip service.

I’m glad that MLB and the MLBPA are doing something about baseball in Puerto Rico. But $5 million over the course of four or five years, which is what this plan involves, a couple of games (if they’re even played), doesn’t even represent a fraction of the damage that the league and the union inflicted when they imposed the draft.

UPDATE: A couple of people who know a hell of a lot about this stuff have pushed back against my post on Twitter:

Marcano has written a book about the excesses and abuses involved in the development of baseball talent in Latin America. He is 100% right about this and, to the extent my writing above made it sound like I was endorsing the model in place in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic on its own terms, I want to be clear that I am not. There is a lot of bad stuff that goes on there and for every kids signing a million dollar bonus, there are hundreds who find themselves at a professional dead end or far, far worse.

That said: Major League Baseball has no problem exploiting that system in those countries and its move to impose the draft in Puerto Rico was not born of some principled stand against those excesses. It was to be a foothold for an international draft which is primarily about cost savings. It would be quite possible to have a system in place that both (a) protects kids from abuses; but (b) provides the sorts of financial incentives to make baseball a worthwhile pursuit for those with the talent to play it.

Also:

Cooper, the managing editor of Baseball America, so he knows of what he speaks, notes that from 1987-1990, before the draft was imposed, 19 Puerto Ricans made their Major League debut. From 2000-03, 23 made their debuts. From 2013-16, 22 made their debuts.

That certainly blows my above comment about “reducing the flow of players to the majors to a trickle” out of the water. That said, Major League Baseball’s move yesterday was not just about the pipeline to the majors. It’s about baseball overall in Puerto Rico. Those numbers reflecting that the top eschelon of talent is still making it to the majors are undeniable, but the Times article from 2012 talks about the erosion of amateur leagues, Puerto Rico’s diminished standing in international tournaments and the reduction in size of the Puerto Rican winter league.

So, OK, I’ll walk back my comments about just how much the imposition of the draft in 1990 damaged baseball in Puerto Rico, but I maintain that it’s hard to argue that it did not do some damage.