And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Pirates 6, Cardinals 3: Erik Bedard struck out 11 men in five innings. At one point he fanned seven in a row. Overall, Pirates pitchers struck out 17 Cardinals. Pedro Alvarez went 2 for 4 with a homer. Two weeks ago he was hitting .074. Now he’s at .257 and he’s slugging over .600 on the year.

Marlins 3, Giants 2: The sweep for Miami. Pretty disastrous series for the Giants too, what with losing Sandoval and all. Not that this is anything new: As my friend Wendy Thurm put it yesterday: “2 years in a row, Marlins come to SF in May, Giants roll over dead and their best hitter gets really hurt.”

Rays 4, Mariners 3: The Rays sweep, win their 11th of 12 and now sit at 18-8, the top of the baseball world. The Mariners: a six game losing streak.

Reds 4, Cubs 3: Hit this one up yesterday. Note: Closers who implode but don’t, by virtue of a just-in-time-hook,  give up that one last hit that allows the tying run to score aren’t officially given a blown save.  They need one, so let’s call such outings “Marmols,” shall we?

Phillies 4, Braves 0: I hit this one up yesterday too. Really, I don’t mean to belittle Joe Blanton’s three-hit shutout, but the fact is that you can’t throw an 88-pitch shutout unless you’re (a) Greg Maddux; or (b) you have some help from some mailed-in at bats from the opposition. I’ve been watching the Braves for 27 years. They are NOTORIOUS getaway day sandbaggers. I don’t think they really mean to. It’s just in the team’s friggin’ DNA.

Nationals 2, Diamondbacks 1: Ross Detwiler keeps up his good work, allowing one run over six and a third and sending his ERA down even farther below 2.00. Bryce Harper hit another double, driving in the game-winning run.  The Nats are slowly but surely pulling out of their brief funk and now get a chance to face the Phillies over the weekend and see if they can truly lay a claim on the NL East.

Indians 7, White Sox 5:  Jason Kipnis hit a triple, a homer and drove in four. Justin Masterson gets his first win of the year.

Royals 4, Yankees 3: Danny Duffy pitches well, Mike Moustakas drives in three. Jeter, by the way, went 4 for 5 and is hitting .404 on the year. But really, it’s not like anything in this game matters as much as the Rivera news. Damn.

Blue Jays 5, Angels 0: Like Joe Blanton, Brandon Morrow threw a three-hit shutout. Took him 102 pitches, not 88. I think that means something. Maybe I’m wrong.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

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Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.