And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

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Nationals 5, Braves 4: I suppose you can yell at Dan Uggla for messing up the play with the infield in and a runner on third in the 13th inning which allowed the winning run to score. But perhaps it’s also worth noting that the Braves played perhaps their most important game to date, in a series that, if they don’t win, the division title is basically out of reach, with their best relief pitcher sitting on his butt. But hey, at least Fredi Gonzalez saved Craig Kimbrel for a save situation that never came. Not having him then would have been terrible. Far better to leave everything up to Cristhian Martinez in a situation when a strikeout is absolutely critical, not the guy who strikes out 15.8 batters per nine innings.

Giants 2, Dodgers 1: In another division battle — with a marquee starting pitching matchup — Madison Bumgarner Dominated the Dodgers, striking out ten in eight shutout innings. Clayton Kershaw struck out ten in eight innings too, but Pablo Sandoval got to him twice, with a sacrifice and an RBI single.

Rangers 5, Orioles 1: The Rangers finally get a Ryan Dempster outing that looked like the Cubs version of Ryan Dempster (8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER). All nine Rangers starters got a hit. You don’t win anything for that, but if you do it nine times in one season, everyone in the lineup gets a free t-shirt. Assuming they all got their little cards punched each time.

Rockies 3, Mets 1: R.A. Dickey was solid but for a home run to Tyler Colvin, and then the Rockies scored a run on a passed ball by Kelly Shoppach. Shoppach was so livid about it not being called a wild pitch that he texted the official scorer with Ike Davis’ phone in order to voice his displeasure.

Brewers 9, Cubs 5: Jonathan Lucroy hit two homers and drove in four. Pretty fantastic year for him. He’s hitting .328/.379/.554 with 8 homers in 62 games.

Phillies 12, Reds 5: Not a great outing for Roy Halladay — five runs on ten hits in seven innings — but when the offense goes crazy like this, you don’t need to be great. Homers from Ryan Howard, Erik Kratz and John Mayberry, but really everybody got into the act.

Rays 5, Royals 1: The amazing pitching — and the winning — continue for Tampa Bay. Jeremy Hellickson threw seven innings, allowing one run on six hits. You know how you make up for a “meh” first half? You have your rotation turn into the 1998 Braves in the second half. That’s Tampa Bay this year.

White Sox 9, Yankees 6: New York blew a 3-0 lead, hopped back on top at 6-5 and then blew it again. And their lead over the Rays is now down to four games. DeWayne Wise, Gordon Beckham, Alexi Ramirez and Adam Dunn all went yard against a tater-happy Yankees pen.

Marlins 12, Diamondbacks 3: It was all over when the Fish put a nine-spot on Joe Saunders in the fourth innings. Giancarlo Stanton hit two big homers and drove in four and Jose Reyes and John Buck each had four hits in the Marlins 20-hit attack.

Padres 3, Pirates 1: Edinson Volquez — who has been horrifyingly bad lately — struck out ten in six and two-thirds and Will Venable drove in two.

Mariners 5, Indians 3: Michael Saunders continues his recent hot streak, smacking two homers. He’s eight for his last 16 with three homers. Cleveland has no dropped six in a row.

Twins 7, Athletics 2: The A’s lose their first in five games, the Twins with their first in six. How did it happen, Ron Gardenhire?

“Right from the get-go. We got some runs in there early, had a little bit of a lead and kept getting some base hits and quality at-bats,” Gardenhire said. “And Duens did his thing. It was a nice night. We got to run around the bases a little bit. Some guys had some good nights.”

“Duens?” That’s Brian Duensing’s nickname? Creative, there.

CC Sabathia won’t visit the White House if the Yankees win the World Series

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Over the past couple of days the subject of athlete activism, always present to some degree in American sports, but recently revived by Colin Kaepernick and a few other football players in the form of silent protests during the National Anthem, exploded into a headline dominating news story. Lighting the fuse: President Trump directly inserting himself into the controversy.

He did so during a speech on Friday night and during a series of tweets Saturday and continuing into this morning in which he urged NFL owners to “fire” or suspend players who do not stand for the national anthem. He also attempted to disinvite the NBA champion Golden State Warriors from their traditional White House visit because of their star player Stephen Curry’s public opposition to him, though Curry had already said he wouldn’t go.

As Ashley wrote last night, the silent anthem protests have now come to baseball, with A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell becoming the fist player to kneel during the National Anthem. Before that, at least one baseball executive, Orioles Vice President John P. Angelos, came out strongly on the side of players and against Trump. Joe Maddon said some less-than-enlightened words on the matter. Major League Baseball issued a statement on the matter. It was, not surprisingly, somewhat empty, taking something of a both-sides-have-good-points tack. It’s understandable, I suppose. I suspect Major League Baseball and its owners would prefer to not have to comment on this at all. The league does not do this sort of controversy well.

Ballplayers, however, will likely continue to speak up. The latest: Yankees starter CC Sabathia, who was asked yesterday whether he would visit the White House if the playoff-bound Yankees won the World Series. From the Daily News:

“Never. I just don’t believe in anything that is Trump. So there wouldn’t be any reason for me to go at all. I just think it’s stupid. I just think it’s dumb that he’s addressing players and stuff that he shouldn’t be. But it is what it is, and that’s the country we live in these days . . . I’m proud of the way that everybody has Steph’s back and just athletes in general these days, the way everybody has been stepping up has been great.”

Baseball players, as we’ve noted many times over the years, tend to be a more conservative bunch than football or basketball players. There are a lot more white players and a lot more players from southern, suburban and exurban areas. A significant number of racial-ethnic minority players were not born in the United States, so U.S. politics may not necessarily preoccupy them the way it may players from the United States. As such, political protest like we’ve seen in the NFL and NBA was never going to start in baseball in 2017.

But that does not mean that it was not going to come to baseball. Contrary to what so many fans seem to think, sports do not exist inside some bubble into which the real world does not intrude. Athletes are citizens just like you and me with social, political and personal concerns just like you and me. And, at the moment, a government official is demanding that they lose their jobs because he does not agree with their political views and the manner in which they are expressed. I suspect most of us would get upset by that if it happened to us. Certainly a lot of people I know on the conservative side of the political expression worried about government overreach and freedom of speech. At least before January of this year.

So I am not at all surprised that baseball players like Sabathia are beginning to speak out. He will not be the last. Others will join him. Others, as is their right, will push back and say they disagree with him. If and when people feel inspired to tell them to “stick to sports,” or “stay in their lane,” perhaps they should ask why the President of the United States decided not to do so himself. And ask why he thinks it’s appropriate for athletes to lose their jobs for their political views and why private entities like the NFL should be patriotic institutions rather than businesses which put on sporting events.

 

Bruce Maxwell first MLB player to kneel during National Anthem

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Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell did not stand for the National Anthem on Saturday night. He’s the first MLB player to do so and, like other professional athletes before him, used the moment to send a message — not just to shed light on the lack of racial equality in the United States, but to specifically protest President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire any of their players who elect to protest the anthem by sitting or kneeling.

“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable,” Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, relayed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Friday. He continued:

Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.

While Maxwell didn’t make his own statement to the media, he took to Instagram earlier in the day to express his frustration against the recent opposition to the protests, criticizing the President for endorsing “division of man and rights.”

Despite Trump’s profanity-laced directive to NFL owners on Friday, however, it’s clear the Athletics don’t share his sentiments. “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said in a statement released after Maxwell’s demonstration. “We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Whatever the fallout, kudos to Maxwell for taking a stand. He may be the first to do so in this particular arena, but he likely won’t be the last.