Pittsburgh Pirates v Chicago Cubs

And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

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Pirates 5, Cubs 0: A rejuvenated A.J. Burnett came into a Wrigley Field with the wind blowing in from center against a Cubs team hours off of a significant selloff and tossed a one-hitter. Oh, and Neil Walker drove in all five Pirates runs.

Rays 8, Athletics 0: James Shields pitched a very relieved “oh man I wasn’t traded at the deadline” kind of game (CG SHO, 3 H, 11K).

Phillies 8, Nationals 0: Cliff Lee pitched a very relieved “oh man I wasn’t traded at the deadline” kind of game too (7 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 7K).  I guess you could say the same about Juan Pierre too, who went 3 for 5. Stephen Strasburg was roughed up (4 IP, 8 H, 6 ER).

Angels 6, Rangers 2: Albert Pujols hit two homers and Mike Trout added one of his own. The Rangers are 7-9 since the break and the Angels are in the process of sending them a message.

Braves 7, Marlins 1: Meanwhile, the Braves have won seventh straight, are 13-5 since the break and move to within two and a half of Washington. This despite weird stuff like starting Kris Medlen for the first time in two years and using Jair Jurrjens out of the pen. Brian McCann continues the hot streak he kicked off just before the break.

Royals 8, Indians 3: I had this game on as background noise in the living room and the kids started watching it. When Derek Lowe was pitching, my daughter Mookie said “he looks older than the other players.” I said “Well, he is. He’s 39. In fact, he’s a month and a half older than I am.” She thought about this for a minute and said “wow, then he is really old.” So of course when she said that I hoped Lowe would reach down for a great performance and teach my rude little girl a lesson. Nope. Got shelled. This after I explained to her that the Royals were no good. The lesson she took away was that 39 is old as dust and one becomes feeble against even the most minor challenges at that age. Can’t decide if I’m more mad at my daughter, Lowe or the state of the universe for all of this.

Giants 4, Mets 1: News Flash: Tim Lincecum did not suck for once. One run allowed over seven innings. His last out: striking out David Wright with the bases loaded in the seventh. Tough loss for rookie Matt Harvey who pitched well but was victimized by some bad defense.

Diamondbacks 8, Dodgers 2: Arizona is making noise, beat the Dodgers again, and is turning what looked like a two-team race may become a three-team race in the NL West. Wade Miley was sharp and he was backed by homers from Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Montero.

Mariners 7, Blue Jays 2: Nobody say anything, but the Mariners have won six in a row. And this is fun:

While Wedge explained his pleasure with Jason Vargas’ strong start, shortstop Brendan Ryan was being doused with ketchup and beer in the shower by his teammates. The team was celebrating Ryan’s three-hit night that pushed his batting average over .200 for the first time since April 21 …

Ketchup?

Cardinals 11, Rockies 6: Matt Holliday drove in four. And continues to be a superstar no one really talks about that much. Just the most ho-hum .320/.404/.543 season I can remember in a while. He’s gonna hit 30 home runs and drive in 110 and most people won’t bat an eye.

Brewers 10, Astros 1: If you’re a Brewers fan, a ten-run explosion is nice. The fact that, after the bullpen came in it didn’t end up 10-8 with runners on the corners with no one out at some point is probably even better.

White Sox 4, Twins 3: Odd to see Francisco Liriano facing the Twins. He didn’t seem to mind, though (6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 8K).

Reds 7, Padres 6: Homer Bailey blew a 6-0 lead to which he was staked, but the bullpen restored order and Brandon Phillips hit a homer in the seventh to break it.

Red Sox 4, Tigers 1: The Tigers loaded the bases with the go-ahead run at the plate in the sixth inning, but then the rains came and action was never resumed. Mother Nature gets the save. Josh Beckett left early with back spasms and was booed by his home fans, so that was classy.  The Tigers have dropped five of six.

Orioles 11, Yankees 5: New York jumped out to a five-run lead in the first and then watched the Orioles score seven runs in the second and 11 unanswered overall. Chris Davis had the go-ahead grand slam. Ugly night for the Bombers.

The deeper implications of the A.J. Ellis trade

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 17:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers heads to the dugout at the end of the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Dodger Stadium on May 17, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The trade of a light-hitting backup catcher is normally about as inconsequential as it gets. The trade of A.J. Ellis by the Dodgers to the Phillies, however, is anything but that. Indeed, it may be the public manifestation of long-simmering, well, maybe “feud” is too strong a word, but a definite butting of heads between the team’s front office and its best player.

While almost all of the clubhouse drama in Los Angeles has surrounded a talented but aggravating corner outfielder currently toiling in the minors, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times wrote last night that the Ellis trade could very well be seen as the front office’s shot across Clayton Kershaw‘s bow:

Kershaw’s preference of Ellis was the subject of a longstanding tug-of-war between Kershaw and the front office, which wanted Yasmani Grandal behind the plate as much as possible . . . Some players interpreted the trade as a message from the front office.

This isn’t Kershaw’s team. It’s not Corey Seager’s team or Adrian Gonzalez’s, either.

It’s Friedman’s.

The notion that Kershaw likes to pitch to Ellis is pretty well-known, but the idea that it was so strong a preference that it created a dispute as to whether he has final say over a roster spot is news, at least to people who aren’t around the Dodgers all the time. Hernandez is a good columnist and is particularly well-plugged in to the Dodgers after many years of being their beat writer for the Times. He wouldn’t throw the notion of there being something of a power struggle in this regard out there all willy-nilly in order to stir the pot or something. I don’t doubt for a second that something bigger than most of us have seen is going on here.

As for the trade itself: yeah, it’s pretty debatable as to whether it makes any kind of sense. Carlos Ruiz is likely an upgrade over Ellis, but it’s a pretty marginal upgrade when you consider how few plate appearances the Dodgers backup catcher will make for the rest of the year. It’s especially marginal if you assume, as Hernandez and others assume, likely with reason, that the loss of Ellis is going to harm morale. At least in the short term before they get to know Ruiz well (worth noting, though, that he comes pretty highly recommended from Kershaw-caliber aces for all the same reasons Ellis does). I can see a lot of reasons not to make that deal even for an extra hit or two a week that Ruiz may give you over Ellis.

All of which speaks to what we don’t know. What we don’t know about the mind of Andrew Friedman and whether or not there is something more going on here than is immediately apparent. About the relationship between him and Kershaw and, for that matter, him and the rest of the team that would cause him to make a deal that plays as poorly with his own players as this one does. It could be something about Ellis. It could be something about Friedman’s relationship with Kershaw. It could be something totally unrelated to any of that, such as offseason plans and the roster in 2017 (Ruiz has a team option for next year, Ellis is a pending free agent). Unless or until Friedman speaks or a reporter gets someone to shed more light on this, there will continue to be questions.

In the meantime, I’ll grant that there are certainly different rules which apply to superstars than mere mortals, but veto power over a trade and/or playing time for other players isn’t typically one of them. If, as Hernandez suggests, there was a sense that Kershaw and Friedman didn’t see eye-to-eye on that and it wasn’t otherwise being resolved, it makes Friedman’s move somewhat more understandable.

World Baseball Classic pools, venues announced

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - MARCH 10:  Miguel Cabrera #24 of Venezuela gets a hit and drives in a run against Spain during the first round of the World Baseball Classic at Hiram Bithorn Stadium on March 10, 2013 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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Yesterday the folks who run the World Baseball Classic (i.e. the Rand Corporation, in conjunction with the saucer people, under the supervision of the reverse vampires, the Illuminati and the Trilateral Commission) announced the groupings and venues for next springs’s tournament. It breaks down thusly:

  • Pool A will play in Tokyo, featuring Australia, China, Cuba, and Japan;
  • Pool B will play in Seoul, featuring Chinese Taipei, Korea, the Netherlands, and either Brazil, Israel, Great Britain, or Pakistan (final participant to be determined at a qualifying tournament in New York next month);
  • Pool C will play in Miami, featuring Canada, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and the United States;
  • Pool D will play in Guadalajara, featuring Italy, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela.

A winner and a runner-up will advance from each pool following a round-robin competition. That will result in a second round robin made up of Pool A and B — which will be called Pool E, because it HAS to be complicated — and which will be played in Tokyo. Meanwhile, Pool C and D’s representatives will make up Pool F, who will play in San Diego at Petco Park.

The winner of Pool F will then take on the runner-up of Pool E in a semifinal at Dodger Stadium, while the winner of Pool E will face Pool F’s runner-up there as well. The winners of those matches will play in the WBC final, also at Dodger Stadium.

Got it? Good.

Now we wait. And listen to people tell us how much we should care about the World Baseball Classic between now and March.