And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Pardon me if I seem discombobulated, but I’m suffering from weekend movie whiplash. On Friday night I saw “The Dark Knight Rises.” Yesterday I saw “Safety Not Guaranteed.” If you can find me two movies out right now that are more dissimilar in terms of tone, themes, budget and every other single other relevant measure, I’d like to know what they are.

Verdicts: “Dark Knight Rises” was really good, though I have to say that it was not as good as “The Dark Knight” due to Heath Ledger deficit disorder, obviously, and because there just weren’t any of those “OMFG BATMAN!” moments. You know what I’m talking about. Fine flick, but just not quite as satisfying as the last one, which is not a terrible surprise given how damn good the last one was.

As for “Safety Not Guaranteed”: one of the cutest movies I’ve seen in a long time. And there was a minor, insignificant point in which a character talks about how she used to be married to a ballplayer who, after being traded to Marlins, began to cheat on her, leading to their divorce. The movie was set in a little town near Seattle. I’m going to assume that it was a Mariners player who was traded to Miami. Anyone with any ideas about who this dog was, please note it in the comments. If it helps, the female character is probably in her mid-to-late 30s, and the player would now be around that age, I reckon.

Anyway, two home runs here in my opinion. Which, given what went down yesterday in baseball, is quite appropriate:

Athletics 5, Yankees 4: New York travels to Oakland and gets swept, with all of the games being decided by one run. But this one has to hurt more than your normal one-run loss given that the Yankees jumped out to a 4-0 lead.

Diamondbacks 8, Astros 2: Jason Kubel hit three homers on Saturday night and hit another one here. Overall he’s had six homers in five games. And boy howdy do the Astros stink. They’re 1-9 since the break.

Orioles 4, Indians 3: Just when I started writing off the O’s in every radio, TV and video outlet that would have me, they go and rip off five straight wins. The lesson, as always, is that I’m an idiot.

Tigers 6, White Sox 4: Just when I started talking up the Tigers as “a sleeping giant” in every radio, TV and video outlet that would have me, they go and rip off 13 of 15 and power their way into first place. The lesson, as always, is that I’m a genius. Oh, and let’s start the day’s theme here: Miguel Cabrera hit two homers to lead the Tigers past Chicago.

Twins 7, Royals 5: Ryan Doumit hit two homers to lead the Twins past Kansas City.

Nationals 9, Braves 2: Ryan Zimmerman hit two homers to lead the Nationals past Atlanta.

Phillies 4, Giants 3: John Mayberry Jr. hit two homers to lead the Phillies past San Francisco. Oh, and Nate Schierholtz hit two homers too, but they were not leadership quality, apparently, or else the Giants would have won, eh?

Thus endeth the two-homer hitters, by the way.

Cardinals 7, Cubs 0: A whuppin’ to be sure. But the Cubs still decided to have fun after the game. Jon Jay went 4 for 4 and drove in two and Lance Lynn tossed six shutout innings to win his 12th.

Pirates 3, Marlins 0: I did not write the Pirates off nearly as definitively as I wrote the Orioles off — I gave them a shot at least — but they have now won five in a row too. Pedro Alvarez his hit four homers in his last six games. Pittsburgh has won 21 of 25 at home.

Padres 3, Rockies 2: Carlos Quentin signed a contract extension and went out and put up an 0 for 4. It happens.

Mariners 2, Rays 1: Blake Beavan outdueld Matt Moore, allowing one run over eight without walking a soul. Idea: they should make pitchers in pitching duels actually duel. Like, Aaron Burr/Alexander Hamilton-style.

Blue Jays 15, Red Sox 7: The Jays beat up Jon Lester for 11 runs on nine hits — four of them homers — in four innings. I was gonna make some Bane/Batman analogy here, but not all of you have seen the movie yet because you’re just not real fans.

Reds 2, Brewers 1: The Pirates may be surging, but the Reds are holding them off just fine, winning eight of 10 on the home stand. Johnny Cueto struck out nine and allowed a run over seven innings, winning his 12th and lowering his ERA to 2.23.

Dodgers 8, Mets 3: Allowing, like, 3+ runs in a single extra inning is a special kind of demoralizing. Four wins in a row for LA, eight of nine dropped since the break for the Mets.

Angels 7, Rangers 4: Dan Haren came back and pitched the Angels to a series win. His return — and the stabilization of the rotation — will have an awful lot to do with the Angels’ prospects down the stretch.

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.