And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

43 Comments

I’m back after a week’s vacation. I wrote up a long sappy version of it last week, but here’s the short version: San Diego for five days, during which I took Mookie and Carlo to their first ever major league game to see the Rangers vs. the Padres last Monday night. It was a doubly troubling game.

First the Padres — who we decided to root for that night — lost, which was a bummer. Worse: Jason Marquis pitched really well, which has fooled Carlo into thinking Jason Marquis is a superstar. Really, he has not shut up about Jason Marquis for a week. Those two things aside it was a great game. Both of the kids made it through all nine innings, cheered when appropriate, yelled at umpires when appropriate and ate the living crap out of ballpark food.

Back in Ohio late last week, I spent the weekend in Cincinnati with the girlfriend and road-tripping-from-New York- friend Katie for Friday and Saturday’s Reds-Twins games. The games themselves were mixed bags, but the trip was an outrageous success because we got Sean Casey Bobbleheads, fried Kool-Aid and hot dogs with carrots, cucumber, cilantro, and sriracha sauce. All of those things are, in reality, way better than the descriptions sound.

In any event, the trip is over. I greatly appreciate all of you doing the reader contribution And That Happends last week, but as of now democracy has been suspended and we shall revert back to our usual benevolent dictatorship as far as recaps go. Unless you don’t want this stuff anymore and would prefer that we just post scores, in which case I’ll just start sleeping in more. Anyway:

Athletics 4, Giants 3: Two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the home team down 2-1 and up steps Derek Norris to slam a three-run walkoff blast. It was his first ever homer, too, so most of them are going to be a letdown after this. We should call such things “Stone Roses home runs” or “M. Night Shyamalan home runs” or something.

Padres 2, Mariners 0: The Pads found out that bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds died of cancer before the game. Then four pitchers went out and combined for a shutout. That’s a freaking tribute.

Rays 3, Phillies 2: Rays 7, Phillies 3: Cole Hamels shut the Rays out for seven innings in the first game, was lifted for Antonio Bastardo in the eighth and Bastardo walked two dudes and then gave up a homer to Carlos Pena. After the game Charlie Manuel was asked about putting in Bastardo and responded by, more or less, saying they really don’t have anyone better. And he’s right. In the nightcap Brooks Conrad hit two two-run doubles. Cliff Lee was beaten up and still has no wins. Right around the time the second game was ending, I saw this on Twitter, which is about perfect:

Yankees 6, Mets 5: On vacation and only paying vague attention to what was going on in baseball, and even I got the sense that the R.A.   Dickey vs. the Yankees hype had gotten too big. Yes, he’s having a fantastic year, but it was silly to assume he’d be able to keep up the earned-run-free streak going forever. The Yankees got to him for five last night, though the Mets fought back to get him off the hook for the loss. Robinson Cano’s eighth inning homer broke the 5-5 tie and ended up winning it for the Yankees.

Astros 7, Indians 1: Derek Lowe’s reversion to late-period Derek Lowedom continues apace, with the Indians’ starter losing again. His ERA for June: 6.44. Chris Johnson went 3 for 4 with three RBI and a homer. The Astros take the series.

Tigers 3, Pirates 2: A complete game for Justin Verlander, who gave up only five hits, though one of them was a two-run homer. After the game he said he “didn’t feel particularly great.” Guys who struggle just to make it through five innings probably love hearing that sort of thing.

Angels 5, Dodgers 3: The Angels have won 13 of 18 from the Dodgers. They’re getting so bored with this “rivalry” that they’re letting punchless dudes like Peter Bourjos hit two-run homers.

Cardinals 11, Royals 8: St. Louis scored 30 runs on 41 hits in this three game series. It was the biggest beating Missouri has seen since the Centralia Massacre. Oooh … sorry. Too soon?

Marlins 9, Blue Jays 0: The Feesh end a six-game skid. Mark Buehrle’s win makes him the winningest pitcher in interleague history. Which, based on the way some of you feel about interleague play, is sort of like being the top Edsel salesman of 1959.

Twins 4, Reds 3: Figures the one game of this series that I didn’t see in person was the most exciting. Josh Willingham hit a two-run homer off Aroldis Chapman in the top of the ninth to bring the Twins back from a 3-2 deficit. Chapman is in a major funk, going 0-4 with three blown saves and an 11.37 ERA in his last seven games. This slide started at almost the exact time the heat started to die down regarding his encounters with the bunco squad. To get back to relief ace form, Chapman clearly must start some new scams and grifts.

White Sox 1, Brewers 0: Eduardo Escobar pinch-hit for Brent Lillibridge in the tenth inning, got the walkoff hit and then Lillibridge got traded to Boston. Then on the way to Boston Lillibridge was bumped from his flight and while waiting for the next one, some dude snaked his seat at the gate. But it wasn’t all bad: this kid cried his eyes out when he learned that Lillibridge was traded away. Really.

Orioles 2, Nationals 1: The O’s are in an offensive funk, but Matt Wieters’ two-run homer was all they needed. Baltimore took two of three from the Nats.

Red Sox 9, Braves 4: Cody Ross hit two homers and drove in five. Kevin Youkilis’ last game with the Red Sox ended with a triple in the seventh and a standing ovation when he was lifted for a pinch runner. The Braves have lost nine of 13.

Diamondbacks 5, Cubs 1: The Snakes sweep the Cubs behind Wade Miley’s eight innings of one-run ball. Justin Upton drove in three.

Rangers 4, Rockies 2: Matt Harrison got the win and pitched five scoreless, but he had to leave early due to tightness in his lower back.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
20 Comments

On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.