And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Tigers 10, Indians 8: I was at this game, and I gotta tell ya, until the 9th inning it was one of the more lame, butt-dragging tie games you’ll ever see. Omar Infante and Austin Jackson kept hitting, but apart from that the highlight until then was Joe West getting all ejecty for no good reason. But then a runner on third, no-out situation in the bottom of the ninth led to no runs for Detroit and the Indians’ three-run tenth inning rally was trumped by the Tigers’ five-run tenth inning rally, capped with a Miguel Cabrera walkoff homer. That sent the Tribe to their ninth straight loss and ended what had to have been one of the more dispiriting weekends that team has had in some time. With the exception of a couple of moments late in this one, the Indians spent the entire three-game series applying postage to the 2012 season and preparing to drop it at the nearest mailbox.

Pirates 6, Reds 2: The Pirates salvage one behind A.J. Burnett’s 14th win. Actual Clint Hurdle quote following the game: “I’ve never had an ace before.”  I wonder if anyone asked Burnett if he’d ever been one.

Orioles 1, Rays 0: How do you find yourself in second place in the AL East despite having -57 run differential? You win 10 consecutive one-run games while getting blown out whenever you lose. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2012 Baltimore Orioles!

Dodgers 7, Cubs 6: Hanley Ramirez knocked in the game winner in the bottom of the ninth to help L. sweep Chicago. Nice bounceback for the Dodgers after getting themselves swept by Arizona earlier in the week. And a nice way to keep pace after the Giants …

Giants 8, Rockies 3: … swept the Rockies. Actually this was less of a sweep and more of a shop-vac kind of job. Except it was the Rockies doing the sucking. Like, all weekend along. Tim Lincecum won two in a row for the first time since April.

Padres 7, Mets 3: After his first outing, Terry Collins compared Matt Harvey to Justin Verlander and Stephen Strasburg. After Harvey gave up five runs on eight hits in five innings to one of the leagues least impressive offenses, I’m thinking that Collins needs to think of some different comps.

Nationals 4, Marlins 1: Meanwhile, the real Stephen Strasburg threw six shutout innings against Miami. He also singled in two runs. He was kinda like a one man force eh, like Charlton Heston in Omega Man. Did ya see it, it was beauty, eh.

Royals 7, Rangers 6: In the tenth inning, Alberto Gonzalez made an error on one play and Mike Olt made one on the next, giving the Royals the game. I’m guessing that, come playoff time, those balls will be hit to Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre.

White Sox 4, Angels 2: A.J. Pierzynski homered in his fifth consecutive game. The White Sox have won nine of 12 and still have a 1.5 game lead over the Tigers who have taken four straight. Chicago was my top candidate for a second half letdown, but so far it hasn’t happened.

Cardinals 3, Brewers 0: Der Sweep. Kyle Lohse and three relievers combine for the shutout.

Blue Jays 6, Athletics 5: Two RBI a piece for Edwin Encarnacion and Yunel Escobar and Rajai Davis scored from second base on a sacrifice bunt, which is kind of nifty. The Jays split the series.

Phillies 5, Diamondbacks 4: Ryan Howard has been slumping like crazy, but he singled in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth to seal the comeback win. Cue the Phillies people calling him underrated again.

Red Sox 6, Twins 4: The good news: the Red Sox averted the sweep by the Twins. The bad news: they were in a position to where they had to avert a sweep by the Twins. Adrian Gonzalez hit a two run homer. Carl Crawford had three hits and a leaping catch. The drawing board, for one game at least, was validated.

Braves 6, Astros 1: Chipper Jones continues to impress in his final season. He was 2 for 4 with an RBI double and scored the winning run on a wild pitch. This is a lot of fun now, but it’s gonna be kind of a bummer when Satan comes back and claims Jones’ soul in exchange for the four months of good health and 1990s-era production he was granted.

Yankees 6, Mariners 2: Until I read the game story it had not dawned on me that Freddy Garcia and Raul Ibanez each played for the 1999 Seattle Mariners. And that Ichiro was Garcia’s teammate in 2001. And now these three gray-hairs are all part of a 2012 Yankees team that has just as good a chance as anyone to win it all. And that’s before you shuffle-in Seattle-era A-Rod. There’s gotta be some sort of “Mariners of a dozen or so years ago are the new inefficiency” theory afoot here.

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.