Arizona Diamondbacks v San Francisco Giants

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Diamondbacks 4, Giants 1: Bye-bye Giants? They drop two of three to the Dbacks and now find themselves down by seven with 22 to play. Sure, Arizona could collapse — anyone can — but the dirty little secret about history’s big collapses is that they were always accompanied by another team surging. Is there anything about this Giants team that suggests to you that they are capable of a surge? Me neither.

Tigers 18, White Sox 2: Bye-bye White Sox. Note the lack of a question mark here. Detroit swept ’em in pretty damn convincing fashion. For Chicago the conversation now turns to what is shaping up to be a very eventful offseason.

Indians 9, Royals 6: Two homers and five driven in for Shelley Duncan made my daughter smile when I told her about it. Not that she knows what an RBI is. I mean, I teach her the important stuff about baseball, not beside-the-point facts.

Brewers 4, Astros 0: Shaun Marcum allowed one hit over seven innings. Ryan Braun drove in three. One on a single, one on a homer and one on a bases-loaded walk.

Marlins 5, Phillies 4: Crazy game. And not just for that video-review that maybe shouldn’t have been (and about which we’ll have a dedicated post later this morning).  The Marlins stranded 23 guys and still won. The Phillies walked the ballpark, many of them intentionally. The game finally ended in the 14th when, after one unintentional walk and two intentional walks by David Herndon, he issued one more unintentional walk to force in the winning run. His actual quote after the game: “stuff happens.”  Boy did it.

Yankees 9, Blue Jays 3: Derek Jeter drove in five runs, tying a career high. He’s hitting .346 with 17 extra-base hits and 34 RBIs in 50 games since he came off the DL in early July. I tell ya, his greatness is yet to be fully appreciated.  Homers from Jeter, A-Rod and Nick Swisher helped finish off the sweep. Jose Bautista hit his 40th.

Rangers 11, Red Sox 4: The Bosox allowed 28 runs while dropping two of three to Texas. In the one game they won they scored 12. This could be a fun playoffs matchup. And by fun I mean “dear God I hope these guys figure out how to pitch in the next month.”

Angels 4, Twins 1: Los Angeles of Anaheim beats Minnesota of Minneapolis, keeping pace 3.5 back of Texas. The Angels are the only team who wouldn’t make the playoffs if the season ended today which has a greater than 10 percent chance of making it overall based on however that playoff possibility factor is calculated. They’re at 10.6 percent.

Padres 7, Rockies 2: Will Venable and Jeremy Hermida each drove in three, helping snap a nine-game losing streak.

Cubs 6, Pirates 3: Randy Wells had his second-straight strong start. After the game people were asking him if he’s found his 2009 form again after a tough 2010. One of the things he said about last year: “There was a lot of stuff off the field that was said and thrown out there that was false.” Which sounds more like something a person on a reality show or some pop star who has been in the tabloids a lot says. But hey, I suppose that’s where we are as a society.

Athletics 8, Mariners 5: Hideki Matsui continues his hot second half hitting, smacking three doubles. He’s batting .343 since the break. The A’s sweep.

Reds 3, Cardinals 2: This is why there was no real reason for the Brewers to freak after getting swept by the Cards last week. To stay in it, St. Louis still had to, you know, beat other teams. The Reds took two of three in this series. Juan Francisco had four hits including the go-ahead single in the 10th. Lance Berkman, looking ahead to the Milwaukee series that kicks off today:

“If we can sweep them again, we can put ourselves at least within the realm of possibility, I guess you could say.”

Well, I guess you could say that. You could say a lot of things.

Mets 6, Nationals 3: From the game story: “[Willie Harris’] pinch-hit single highlighted a four-run sixth inning, spoiling what was likely Hernandez’s final game with Washington.” Seeing as though Livan Hernandez is easily my least favorite player in baseball, please forgive me if I shed no tears over this.

Rays 8, Orioles 1: The battle of the Jeremys. Hellickson has two complete games this year, each of which were four-hitters against the O’s. Shocker. Guthrie took his 17th loss. If he stays in the rotation and the rotation stays on schedule, he would get four more starts this year. C’mon, Jeremy! You can do it!

Braves 4, Dodgers 3: Atlanta salvages one, snapping the Dodgers’ six-game winning streak. Martin Prado drove in the winning run with a single in the bottom of the ninth. Chipper Jones called it “one of our biggest wins of the year.” Maybe he’s right.  I know people who are able to talk in detail about random games from five months ago — or heck, five years ago — but I’m not one of those people. Maybe I read too many box scores or something and they all blend together to me. So I guess this was one of the team’s bigger wins. We’re just at the point of the season when I’ve forgotten a lot of what has happened, so I can’t really say.

Willie Mays gets a cable car named after him

Major League Baseball hall of famer  Willie Mays, who spent the majority of his career as a center fielder with the New York and San Francisco Giants, smiles as President Barack Obama honors the 2012 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants baseball team, Monday, July 29, 2013, during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. The team beat the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 World Series, their second championship since the franchise moved to San Francisco from New York in 1958. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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This is not exactly stunning news, but it’s Willie Mays’ 85th birthday today and any excuse to talk about Willie Mays is a good one. Happy Birthday, Willie!

The pretext is a story in the San Francisco Chronicle about how The Greatest Baseball Player of All Time (my view anyway) is getting an iconic cable car named after him. An icon named after an icon, I guess. The cable car is, appropriately, number 24.

Next month I’m taking my kids on vacation to California and we’re spending a few days in San Francisco. It’ll be a shame when I tell them we have to cancel half of a day’s plans while I make them wait for one particular cable car to come by so they can take my picture with it, but that’s just what they have to deal with given that I’m their dad.

Carlos Gomez calls out a hit piece-writing columnist

Houston Astros' Carlos Gomez (30) reacts after hitting a double in the second inning of a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
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Yesterday I wrote about a column written by Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle. It was about Astros outfielder Carlos Gomez, who has had a poor start to the year.

The column, as I noted, was a hatchet job, blaming Gomez for the Astros’ problems despite the fact that Gomez is by far from the biggest of the Astros’ problems. It was particularly bad in that it presented an unedited bit of broken English from Gomez which seemed calculated to cast Gomez in a bad light. Many journalists were critical of Smith in this regard, noting that he could’ve used a translator, could have paraphrased or could’ve done some mild correction via brackets, as is often done with quotes from non-native English speakers.

Last night Gomez took to Twitter to call out Smith himself:

It’s possible to write a column about how a player hasn’t lived up to expectations without being an insensitive jackass. It’s possible to do so even in the sharpest of ways. Smith didn’t do that, however, and didn’t make an effort to try, it seems. Gomez is right to take issue with it. And I suspect that Gomez’s teammates and organization take issue with it too. Which likely doesn’t bode well for Smith getting cooperation from others in the Astros family.

Reminder: athletes are not heroes

Zack Greinke
Associated Press
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This is something of a “greatest hits” piece and it’s topic I’ve talked about here before, but I’m reminded of it again because of Facebook’s memories thing which tells me I wrote about it seven years ago today back when I was still doing stuff at my old Shysterball blog at the Hardball Times.

The topic: ballplayers as heroes. The subject of the 2009 post on the matter was Zack Greinke, who was then beginning his breakout year with the Kansas City Royals. A columnist talked about how uplifting Greinke’s story was, what with him having overcome some struggles with anxiety disorder which had caused him to leave the game for a brief period. In early 2009 he was back, baby, and better than ever and many wanted to turn him into something larger than just a ballplayer excelling at his craft.

In the post I wrote about how, while such an impulse was understandable, it was a dangerous one as athletes have been made into heroes for years and years and, so often, they end up disappointing. Because we built them up so high, however, we don’t see such instances as the mere exhibition of human fallibility. We see them as some greater failure or even a betrayal, which is both ridiculous and unfair to these men and women, even if they have failed in certain ways. They have worked hard all of their lives to be good at a particular sport. They did not promise us glory or inspiration, yet we assume that they owe us those things. Their failures, however they are manifested, are matched by our failures at expectation management.

But it’s even more pernicious than that. Because, as I wrote at the time, when we create heroes, we necessarily create the need for villains and we will go out of our way to find those too, justified or otherwise:

“Hero” is too strong and baggage-laden a word anyway. As [Bill] James notes, it places a heavy burden on young men, and these guys are under such scrutiny day-in and day-out that they really don’t need it. What’s more, the term hero it necessarily assumes its opposite — villain — and demands that we search them out too. You know, to restore balance to the universe and everything. Often — as in the case of A-Rod and Gooden and Bonds and all of the others — they’re the same people, just older . . . Hero creation, worship, and subsequently, destruction has long been a part of baseball. But it’s not an essential part, and in my mind not a desirable part.

Seven years later we’re still doing this. As Bill James noted in his “Historical Baseball Abstract,” “When a young player comes to the major leagues and has success right away, writers will almost always write about what a fine young man he is as well as a supreme talent.” Many of them, like Zack Greinke, will prove to continue to be fine older men, just as they were fine young men. Some will not. Would it not be better if we didn’t get so invested in how fine a young man any one of them is? Or, short of that, if we didn’t act so betrayed and victimized if they turn out not to be such a fine young man?

I like to hear a good story about a baseball player who, by all outward appearances, seems like a good person. But I’m content to give such a story a smile and leave it at that. If we require heroism, there are people who do truly heroic things in the world beyond throw baseballs.

Andrew McCutchen apologies to an official scorer he said should be fired

Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) watches from the dugout during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Pittsburgh. Detroit won 7-3.(AP Photo/Don Wright)
Associated Press
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Andrew McCutchen made an error on Wednesday night. He thought he shouldn’t have been charged with one on the play, however, and afterward said “whoever scored that an error should be fired. That’s unbelievable. I did everything I could to catch it.”

It was a dumb comment for two reasons. First, a player “doing everything he can” on a play doesn’t make a misplay not a misplay. The “e” ain’t about effort, man. I realize scoring has gotten somewhat lax in recent years and players are routinely not given errors if it looks like they really, really tried, but there is not an intent element to the crime of making errors on the playing field. If you muff one, you muff one.

It was a dumb comment for another reason, and that’s that it was just not very nice. As we noted when David Ortiz or some others have made publicly disparaging comments about official scorers, it’s the ultimate punching down. These are people who have other jobs, aren’t public figures, don’t get paid a lot and really, really don’t have it in for anyone. Publicly criticizing them is bad enough, publicly demanding their jobs is pretty low.

Thankfully, with a day’s worth of reflection, McCutchen realized that this was the case and apologized. There aren’t public words from McCutchen available, but the club said that he reached out to the scorer and personally apologized. As he should’ve.