Ken Rosenthal has a column up today looking back at the big crazy trade made by Omar Minaya after he took over as Expos GM: Grady Sizemore, Brandom Phillips and Cliff Lee to the Indians for Bartolo Colon.
Underlying that deal, Minaya tells Rosenthal, was the threat of contraction:
“The No. 1 priority was not long-term. Long-term, we were going to be contracted. And if you were going to be contracted, the No. 1 priority was to be as competitive as you can. Every team in baseball was pretty much looking at drafting those players (in a dispersal draft). Before I left the Mets (in early 2002), every team had an exercise, (trying to figure out) what players they were going to get.”
Which was totally baloney. Contraction, while talked about a whole hell of a lot at the time, was not thought likely by anyone who was paying attention. As Rosenthal notes, there was a court order in place requiring the other contraction candidate — the Twins — to continue playing, and no one could identify a clear path to contracting anyone.
People forget it now because we’ve had labor peace for nearly ten years, but the negotiations in the runup to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement were extremely contentious, and it was thought inevitable that another strike or lockout would occur. Contraction was a negotiation tactic in all of that, with the league essentially threatening to eliminate 50 major league jobs unless the union agreed to a salary cap. It didn’t work.
Maybe Minaya just didn’t get this. Maybe he had different orders. Maybe, in his first GM job — given to him by Major League Baseball, not an independent team owner — he felt obligated to act like a wheeler-dealer so that he could eventually land another GM job. I have no idea.
But I do know this: the Expos weren’t going to be contracted, and no one ever truly thought they would be.
Lost in the nifty base running by Dustin Pedroia that won Sunday’s game against the Rays, the Red Sox set a new major league record by striking out 11 batters in a row, per Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe. Starter Eduardo Rodriguez struck out the final six Rays he faced and reliever Heath Hembree struck out five Rays in a row after that. Tom Seaver had the previous consecutive strikeout streak of 10, set on April 22, 1970 against the Padres.
The Red Sox also set a team record with 23 strikeouts in total: 13 by Rodriguez, five by Hembree, one by Matt Barnes, and four by Joe Kelly. Per Abraham, that’s the most strikeouts in a 10-inning game since at least 1913 and the most in a game of any length since 2004.
For Rodriguez, Sunday marked the first double-digit strikeout game of his career. He has pitched quite well since returning to the rotation at the start of the second half. Over 13 starts, the lefty has a 3.10 ERA with a 70/23 K/BB ratio in 72 2/3 innings.
Dodgers second baseman Charlie Culberson delivered a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the 10th inning, clinching the NL West for the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon. What a way to celebrate Vin Scully’s final home game behind the microphone.
The Dodgers were trailing 2-1 in the seventh inning, but shortstop Corey Seager tripled in a run to tie the game. Rockies outfielder David Dahl untied the game in the top of the ninth with a two-out solo home run off of Kenley Jansen. But Seager once again rose to the occasion, blasting a game-tying solo shot in the bottom half of the ninth against Adam Ottavino. That would set the stage for Culberson in the next frame.
Culberson, a former Rockie, came into the afternoon with a .591 OPS and zero home runs in 53 plate appearances. He finished the afternoon 3-for-5 with the homer.
It’s the fourth consecutive season in which the Dodgers have won the NL West. The Cubs have clinched the best record, which means they’ll play the winner of the Wild Card game. The Dodgers will play the Nationals in the NLDS. The Nationals have a 1.5-game lead over the Dodgers for home-field advantage, so both teams are still playing for something of importance in the regular season’s final week.