And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

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Yankees 8, Rangers 2: I suppose the critical mass of people mocking the Yankees’ pickup of Derek Lowe was just too delicious for God or Loki or Fate or whatever controls our world to pass up, because He/it/whatever decided to play it funny with us and allow Mr. Lowe to toss four scoreless innings in relief against the AL’s best offense. And his sweat is in such high form that it doesn’t look like he missed a single outing. A pro’s pro.

Nationals 14, Giants 2: An annihilation, as the Nats rack up 21 hits. The bottom part of the order did the damage here, with Danny Espinosa and Roger Bernadina each driving in three and Kurt Suzuki driving in four. Only one home run in the game — Espinosa’s. It was just a constant onslaught.

Phillies 4, Marlins 0: Cole Hamels with the seven hit shutout. Man, that’s gonna make him even more expensive in free agency. Oh, wait. Sorry. Was on autopilot there for a minute. I think Hamels made a good move signing that deal and that he belongs in Philly, but I gotta say, him not hitting the market is gonna make this winter a lot more boring.

Padres 4, Braves 1:  Eric Stults and two relievers shut the Braves down. I loved him in “Killing Zoe.”

Blue Jays 3, White Sox 2: Adam Dunn had two homers, including the game-tying yiketty in the ninth, but Carlos Villanueva was otherwise strong. David Cooper won it with an RBI single in the 11th.

Dodgers 5, Pirates 4: The Dodgers have won four of five and are closing in on these Pirates for the wild card and, for that matter, the Giants for the division. I’ve been expecting them to fall off all year and they just haven’t. Shane Victorino homered and drove in three.

Twins 9, Tigers 3: So apart from that one home start a week ago Friday, Anibal Sanchez has not exactly been bringing the noise since he came over from Miami, eh? He was lit up for five runs on 12 hits in five and a third innings, raising his post-trade ERA to 7.97. Ryan Doumit was 3 for 4 with three driven in.

Cubs 7, Astros 1: When the Cubs and Astros get together you can throw out the record book! I mean, you really, really should throw it out, because if the fans got wind of how bad these two teams are, no one would come to the game. Ah, I keed, I keed. here the irresitable force of stink (the Cubs) displaced the immovable object of stank (the Astros) behind seven innings of solid work from Jeff Samardzija, who struck out 11. Anthony Rizzo was 4 for 5.

Rockies 9, Brewers 6: Mike Fiers was a disaster (2 IP, 9 H, 8 ER). The Brewers chipped back slowly after finding themselves down 8-0 but the hole was too great.

Rays 4, Mariners 1: Seven straight for the Rays and ten of 12 overall. This one came behind yet another strong pitching performance, with Alex Cobb allowing one run on four hits over seven. Jose Molina stole a base. His second of the year. That’s something.

Indians 6, Angels 1: Justin Masterson tossed six scoreless and C.J. Wilson drops his fifth straight decision. The Angels are two and a half out in the wild card, eight back of Texas.

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.