And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Pirates 5, Phillies 4: All of you who predicted that A.J. Burnett was going to rattle off eight straight wins at some point this year, please cut it out because you’re lying. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go piss off a bunch of Yankees fans by suggesting that Brian Cashman should trade for Burnett to shore up the depleted pitching staff.

Rangers 7, Athletics 6: Because you want to play an almost four-hour nine-inning game in steamy hot Arlington, Texas, the ten pitchers these teams trotted out there combined to throw 345 pitches.

Rockies 11, Nationals 10: This one was probably fun for no one either. The Rockies jumped out to a 7-0 lead, totally squandered it when Josh Outman couldn’t live up to his name, then finally pulled it out on a Marco Scutaro RBI single in the 11th. Jim Tracy said after the game “we made it a lot harder on ourselves than we needed to.” That describes most of the 19 years of Colorado Rockies baseball, no?

Padres 7, Astros 3: Kind of a wild one. Andrew Cashner had a no-hitter going into the seventh inning but left that inning poised to be the loser. Then San Diego rallied for six runs in the ninth, capped by an Alexi Amarista grand slam.

Diamondbacks 3, Braves 2: Trevor Bauer made his big league debut, but wasn’t efficient and didn’t figure in the decision. Chris Young hit a ninth inning homer to win it.

Tigers 5, Rays 2: Four straight losses for the Rays. Weird stat line: James Shields allowed 14 hits, but still pitched seven and two-thirds innings. How often do pitchers who get knocked around like that go almost eight?

Angels 9, Blue Jays 7: The Jays loaded the bases against Ernesto Frieri in the ninth, but he slipped out of it. Two run homers each for Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo. We’ve been calling their numbers all year.

White Sox 4, Yankees 3: Any team can have a closer blow a two-run lead in the ninth, but it takes a special team to have three relievers more or less combine to do it. Cody Eppley and Clay Rapada each put a runner on base in the ninth — Rapada thanks to his own throwing error which should have resulted in a double play — and then David Robertson gave up a three-run homer to Dayan Viciedo.

Indians 7, Orioles 2: The Tribe snap a five-game losing streak. How did they do it? Likely some sort of Faustian bargain. How else to explain a Johnny Damon three-run home run off a lefty?

Giants 5, Reds 0: Madison Bumgarner: one-hitter complete game. That’s four straight shutouts for San Francisco pitching. Eventually, I presume, a team will score a run against the Giants. I’m just not sure when.

Mariners 1, Red Sox 0: Wow, another awesome pitching performance out west. Living in the eastern time zone sucks, dudes. I saw the ugly games last night and missed the gems. Felix Hernandez: CG SHO 13K.

Mets 3, Dodgers 2: L.A. is reeling, but hey, at least they ended their 33-inning scoreless streak. David Wright hit a solo homer and RBI double. Fifth straight loss for the Dodgers.

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

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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.