And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Mets 6, Marlins 1: R.A. Dickey continues his dominant year. He struck out ten and didn’t walk any while tossing a complete game. And we may see more of him soon.

Royals 8, Orioles 2: Manny Machado made his major league debut. Two for four with a triple. Not bad! No one else did anything, however, and the Royals teed off on Wei-Yin Chen. Billy Butler hit a triple for cryin’ out loud. He had a homer too. Though it wasn’t a grand slam, sadly. Which would have been awesome. Probably woulda looked like this.

Diamondbacks 6, Pirates 3: Jason Kubel hit two homers. Lots of folks — myself included — scratched their heads at the signing of Kubel in the offseason, but it’s workin’ out pretty well.

Cardinals 3, Giants 1: Adam Wainwright was on point, allowing one run over seven innings, evening his record to 10-10. Carlos Beltran hit a homer. He leads the NL in RBI. Kinda has to gall the Giants a bit seeing as though he didn’t help them all that much last year. And cost them a pitching prospect.

Rays 7, Blue Jays 1: The fantastic Rays pitching continues. Their staff has allowed one or zero runs in 13 of their last 19 games. If the offense can improve they’ll really have something. Evan Longoria’s return — he had two RBI on three hits last night — is a step in the right direction.

Yankees 4, Tigers 3: Joaquin Benoit gave up back to back homers to Mark Teixeira and Eric Chavez, which turned the game around. Oh, and Joe Girardi went crazy and got ejected arguing a fair/foul call that was reversed on the fly, and that was a lot of fun.

Indians 5, Red Sox 3: Break up the Indians! A winning streak!  Ubaldo Jimenez allowed three runs over six innings and struck out ten. The Red Sox have lost seven of nine. Probably time for someone to give some controversial quote now.

Nationals 5, Astros 0: The Nats basically toyed with Houston. Jordan Zimmermann struck out 11 over six three-hit shutout innings. Michael Morse hit two homers and had a sac fly. I’m wondering how the Astros would do facing nothing but Triple-A teams these days. Would they be a .500 team? Serious question.

Cubs 5, Reds 3: Alfonso Soriano’s two-run homer in the eighth broke the 3-3 tie and ended the Cubs eight game losing streak. It was Soriano’s 20th homer. He’s now done that for 11 straight years.

The Reds and Cubs had a long rain delay and were only in the 6th inning when I hit the hay. I’ll catch up when I wake up.

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.