New York Mets v Philadelphia Phillies

And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Mets 10, Phillies 5: Cliff Lee was OK in his return, but he was on a pitch count and the bullpen — including reverted-to-longman-work Kyle Kendrick — got shellacked. Again. Ike Davis drove in three.  The Mets so thoroughly own Citizens Bank Park this year that the Phillies are gonna have to launch some awkward take-back-the-park initiative pretty soon. Philly-a-tude! Phillies-o-rama! Phillandia!

Rays 4, Yankees 1: Welcome to what everyone else has had to deal with forever, Yankees fans: shaky bullpen work.  Granted a 1-0 lead isn’t the easiest thing to protect, but David Robertson left little doubt about whether this one was going to be blown, giving up four runs.

Rockies 6, Padres 2: Left-hander Christian Friedrich pitched six solid innings and …. wait.  Sorry, I can’t continue this one. I need to clear something up. [dials the Rockies clubhouse]

Me: Mr Freed-rich …
Christian Friedrich: “Fredrick”
Me: You’re putting me on.
Christian Friedrich: No, it’s pronounced “Fredrick”
Me: Do you also say “Christ-Ean”?
Christian Friedrich: No… “Christian.”
Me: Well, why isn’t it “Christ-Ean Frederick?”?
Christian Friedrich: It isn’t; it’s “Christian Frederick.”
Me: I see.
Christian Friedrich: You must be Craig.
Me: No, it’s pronounced “Cray-ag.”
Christian Friedrich: But they told me it was “Craig.”
Me: Well, they were wrong then, weren’t they?

Pirates 4, Nationals 2: Erik Bedard left with an injury after one inning but the Pirates didn’t miss a beat: five guys combined to pitch eight innings of two-run ball and Andrew McCutchen went 4 for 4.  Bryce Harper went 0 for 4, but he did catch a Pedro Alvarez fly near the wall and then turned around with the ball in his glove and taunted Pirates fans with it, and that’s pretty effin’ solid.  As a tremendous fan of Ric Flair and Tully Blanchard, I can’t tell you how happy I am to have a heel in Major League Baseball right now.

Reds 2, Brewers 1: Hit this one up yesterday. Zack Greinke’s bad luck and lack of support has to remind him of his days back in Kansas City.

Blue Jays 5, Athletics 2: Adam Lind was moved down to eighth in the order. Must not have liked it because he hit a homer. Brandon Morrow struck out ten.

Cubs 1, Braves 0: A two hour and five minute game on getaway day. I have no idea if this is common for the Cubs, but I am shocked — shocked! — that the Braves went down quietly while a plane waited for them at the airport.

White Sox 8, Indians 1: Jake Peavy (7 IP, 7 H, 1 ER) and Adam Dunn (1 for 3, HR, BB, 2RBI) continue to carry this team.

Angels 6, Twins 2: Mike Trout had a couple of doubles and a couple of RBI. Albert Pujols singled in a couple of runs. I’ve been telling people for a while that I’ll feel way better about Pujols being back on track if he starts to simply hit a bit — singles count — as opposed to us watching the home run totals as if they mean everything.

Royals 4, Red Sox 3: Two of the Royals runs were unearned thanks to a Marlon Byrd error. Bruce Chen gave up three runs while pitching into the seventh. Adrian Gonzalez had a bases-clearing double.  The Sox have lost seven of eight. Those games were against Oakland, Baltimore and Kansas City. Which, sure, they’re all playing decent ball, but no, they were not supposed to be abusing the Boston Red Sox.

Marlins 5, Astros 3: I fell asleep before this one ended and I set ATH to post this morning before I woke up. In the meantime, Old Gator supplied a pithy recap that will suit our purposes just fine:

The Feesh took down the Astros 5-3 in extra eenings last night, playing beyond Craig’s bedtime when he wore himself out trying to button the rear hatch on his Pooh pajamas after having already put them on … Josh Johnson peetched seven pretty solid innings, thank Buddha, giving up just two runs and looking, if not like the dominant monster he was early last season, at least a lot less like the batting practice machine he has been in most of his starts. Probably Slobbering Ozzie had noticed something about his motion, and Josh discovered the flaw while he was trying to figure out what Ozzie had said to him in the first place. Omar Infante got Ryan Webb back the two runs he gave away for him the night before with a walkoff seengle in the twelfth.

The Astros have assuredly not been the doormats everyone expected them to be, at least not in the early going, and it’s a shame these hungry kids will have that degenerate, post-classical phenomenon known as designatedhitterball in their futures, this just as they’re getting good at real baseball. Perhaps playing well enough to surprise everyone is their bucket list.

Dodgers 6, Giants 2: Lincecum looked good for three innings and then hit a wall in the fourth, giving up a bases-clearing triple to Tony Gwynn Jr. In other news, I don’t care if he plays 15 years, I will still have trouble getting my mind around the fact that Tony Gwynn’s son is playing major league baseball. I never have this trouble with other kids of major leaguers, but for some reason it just doesn’t match up for me with Gwynn, who no matter his age, shape or infirmity, I am convinced stopped playing baseball only a year or two ago.

Cardinals 7, Diamondbacks 2: Arizona is skidding, St. Louis is surging. Close until the ninth when Matt Holliday drove in two with a double and Allen Craig hit a two-run bomb.

Mariners 2, Tigers 1:  John Jaso drove in the go-ahead late after Jason Vargas allowed one run over eight innings. Detroit is a .500 team on May 10th. No one saw that coming.

Rangers vs. Orioles: POSTPONED: Pfft. As if Josh Hamilton isn’t powerful enough to have just stopped the rain with his bat and his determination. Weak sauce, Hamilton.

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.