New York Mets v St. Louis Cardinals

And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Cardinals 6, Mets 5: And now St. Louis is a mere one and a half back. With games against the Mets, Cubs and Astros left. And when guys like David Freese drive in five runs, you’re entering team of destiny territory.

Marlins 4, Braves 0: Javy Vazquez is going to retire, he implies. If so, he’s going out in style. Stifling the Braves and helping them on their way to a near-historic collapse. That’s one he’ll always remember. Two hits for Atlanta. Two. Old Gator sent me an email late last night with pictures of anti-nausea medication and Advil. Please, Gator, next time just send some cyanide.

Orioles 6, Red Sox 4: Just another stunning loss for the Red Sox. Terry Francona after the game: ” “I’m not in a very good mood right now.”  Well, he shouldn’t be.  But at least this will cheer him up …

Yankees 4, Rays 2; Yankees 4, Rays 2: A game so nice they played it twice. Except the second game was way different, with Jorge Posada playing hero with a two-run tie-breaking single in the eighth. The first game clinched a playoff spot for New York, the second the AL East title. The Red Sox catch the hell for their collapse, but the Rays have simply failed to capitalize on it as best they can. As a result, there is now another team who might …

Angels 7, Blue Jays 2: Look who is also two and a half games back of Boston. Peter Bourjos had three hits including a homer and a triple. Vernon Wells hit a homer. Dan Haren had to leave when he was hit by a comebacker, but it was off his non-pitching hand and he should be good to go.

Diamondbacks 8, Pirates 5: Win number 90 for Arizona as they creep one more game closer to the NL West title. Miguel Montero was 3 for 4.

Giants 8, Dodgers 5: Not that the Giants are making it too easy. They aren’t going to catch Arizona, but they keep winning anyway. They’re 3. 5 back of Atlanta.

Cubs 7, Brewers 1: Matt Garza pitched a complete game, struck out 10 and didn’t allow any earned runs. It’s taking the Brewers longer than they thought to clinch this thing, but given that the magic number is at three, I don’t think there’s any reason to sweat here.

Nationals 7, Phillies 5: Five straight losses for the Phillies. Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos each hit two-run home runs. The Nats could theoretically still finish at .500. Much easier when you figure that they have three games against the Braves coming up.

Padres 4, Rockies 0: Colorado is limping to the finish line, losers of seven straight at home. Remember last spring when everyone thought that they were an attractive choice to win the west? Yeah, that was a long time ago.

Reds 2, Astros 0: Bronson Arroyo was one of the worst regular starters in all of baseball this season, but he looked pretty spiffy here. A six-hit shutout in which he only needed 91 pitches. Way to make him work, Astros.

Rangers 3, Athletics 2: Fun with round numbers: Ian Kinsler is the first second baseman in AL history to have 30 home runs, 30 doubles, 100 runs scored and 80 walks in the same season. Lou Whitaker probably would have done it once, but The Man wouldn’t let him. Texas’ magic number is three.

Mariners 5, Twins 4: Eleven straight losses for the Twins. For reasons that aren’t clear to me, I’m going to Cleveland tomorrow evening to watch them play the Indians. They may be the worst team I’ve intentionally watched live ever.

Tigers 6, Royals 3: Max Scherzer and Doug Fister each pitched so that Jim Leyland could arrange his rotation for the playoffs. I remember when my team thought about stuff like the playoffs. Sigh.

White Sox 8, Indians 4: Career win number 160 for Mark Buehrle. The White Sox draw dangerously close to passing Cleveland for second place! Which one day will sound way more impressive than it actually is.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the exception because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.

Report: Yankees sign Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million deal

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Update (12:02 AM EST): Rosenthal adds that Chapman’s contract includes an opt-out clause after three seasons, a full no-trade clause for the first three years of the contract, and a limited no-trade clause for the final two years.

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees have signed closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. Mark Melancon recently set the record for a contract earned by a reliever at $62 million over four years. Chapman blew that out of the water and many are surprised he didn’t fetch more.

Chapman, 28, began the 2016 season with the Yankees but he was traded to the Cubs near the end of July in exchange for four prospects. The Cubs, of course, would go on to win the World Series in large part due to Chapman. The lefty finished the regular season with a 1.55 ERA, 36 saves, and a 90/18 K/BB ratio in 58 innings between the two teams.

Chapman was the best reliever on the free agent market and, because he was traded midseason, he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached to him.

The Yankees don’t seem to be deterred by Chapman’s domestic violence issue from last offseason, resulting in a 30-game suspension to begin the 2016 regular season.