And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Pirates 6, Cardinals 3: For the second straight year the Pirates play a nineteen inning game. This time, unlike the game against the Braves in which they were royally screwed, the Pirates won. Thank you Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen who drove in runs in the 19th, Alvarez with a homer. They had to burn Wandy Rodriguez for a couple of innings in this one even though he was supposed to start today, but a game against the Cardinals is worth way more to Pittsburgh than a game against the Padres. Eight shutout innings from Jaime Garcia ended up not mattering, but they weren’t meaningless either.

Giants 7, Padres 1:  At least I think that’s the right score. I was directed to a scores website I had never seen before that showed the Giants as having one. Let me check the site’s info for a second … MELKY!

Yankees 4, Red Sox 3: Two homers for Ichiro three hits for Jetes and eight strong innings from Hiroki Kuroda. That was the second time this season Ichiro has hit two homers in a game. Not bad for a guy who only has 102 in 12 years. I missed this game, unfortunately, as I spent all evening texting my girlfriend from Adrian Gonzalez’s phone. Which makes about as much sense as anything else I’ve heard this week.

Phillies 8, Brewers 0: Kyle Kendrick threw eight shutout innings, striking out seven. This game had a rain delay. In Milwaukee. Where they have a retractable roof. That makes sense.

Rockies 3, Marlins 2: For the first time on seven games in Coors Field, Giancarlo Stanton didn’t homer. Colorado has won five of seven.

Mariners 5, Twins 1: The M’s sweep the Twins. We’re starting to get to the point of the season where I ask myself if I got the scores of these meaningless games wrong — like, as an accident, not for yuks like I did with the Padres-Giants score — would anyone notice. I’m guessing not.

Diamondbacks 8, Astros 1: Obviously Tony DeFrancesco isn’t the answer. Bring back Larry Dierker!  Aaron Hill homered twice.

Athletics 7, Indians 0: Yesterday was apparently “pitcher throws eight shutout innings day. Jarrod Parker did it too. Another nightmare road trip for Cleveland, as they’re now 1-5 on the current nine-game jaunt out west.

Nationals 5, Mets 2: Gio Gonzalez wins his 16th game, setting a Nats team record. Bryce Harper tripled and homered. He homered on Friday night too — I was there and it was fun — so it looks like maybe he’s heating up, bro.

Rays 8, Angels 3: The Rays sweep the Angels. So: your team has a big payroll after signing Pujols and Wilson in the offseason, you call up the best rookie since, I dunno, Fred Lynn, and you trade for Zack Greinke at the deadline. And yet you find yourself nine games out of first and four and a half out of the wild card, with four teams above you? Yeah, that’s the kind of thing that could get you fired, Mike Scioscia.

Dodgers 5, Braves 0: Chad Billingsley pitched seven shutout innings and is now 6-0 since the break. The Dodgers move into first with that Giants loss. The Braves go to D.C. to face the Nats. Big series for them.

Royals 5, White Sox 2: Jeremy Guthrie flirted with a no-no, but mild controversy intervened. Eh, I’ve seen that kind of play called a hit in the past. It happens.

Reds 5, Cubs 4: The Reds won ugly, because of some bad defense. Dusty Baker actually asked this after the game: “Is there stink on the field?” Well, if it is on the field, that’s gotta be an improvement as far as Dusty is concerned.

Rangers 11, Blue Jays 2: Michael Young drove in five runs with a three-run homer and a two-run double. It was Young’s first homer in 88 games.

Orioles 7, Tigers 5: Everyone’s been saying the Orioles are going to collapse eventually. But what happens if they don’t collapse? Here they found themselves down 5-0 after the first inning yet didn’t pack it in. They may not pack it in all year.

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.